The Origins of Carmel
“As the Lord God of Israel lives, before Whose Presence I stand...” These words of the First Book of Kings brings us face to face with the origins of the Carmelite vocation. Over 800 years ago the first Carmelites lived as hermits on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. Generations of Carmelites have found their call to a life of solitude and contemplation in the prophet Elijah, who had a burning zeal for the Glory of God on the heights of Mount Carmel. By 1206 St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, gave them a rule of life which is still the basic Rule of Carmel today. Carmelites have always lived under the patronage of the Virgin Mother of God, the Queen and Beauty of Mount Carmel.
After the Crusades, Moslem persecution forced the Carmelites to migrate to Europe. With the passage of time, the original inspiration and ideals faded and the Rule of Life was altered. In the 16th century, when St. Teresa of Avila entered the order, she determined to restore the original zeal and primitive form of the Carmelite vocation. Her ardent desire “to please the Lord in some way,” led to a lifelong pursuit of following the Gospel counsels as perfectly as she could. St. Teresa founded 17 Carmels in her lifetime and has been named a Doctor of the Church. Together with others, she succeeded in restoring the Carmelite order to its fullness.
The Carmelite way of life has raised up a host of canonized Saints and Blesseds. Undoubtedly the most well-known is the 19th century French nun, St. Therese of Lisieux. Her zeal for souls and the worldwide impact of her “Little Way” of loving God is proof of the enormous power of the hidden, contemplative life of Carmel. Today, St. Therese is the Patron Saint of France, and Patroness of Missions.
“In her purpose of bringing back the Order to its original fervor, your
Holy Mother (Teresa of Avila) had one aim: to work for the Lord’s service
and the honor of His Glorious Mother...”
John Paul II