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It all started in Mount Carmel

Tradition indicates that the order was founded in 1185, but that is based on the story of a pilgrim in the Holy Land, the interpretation of which remains questionable. The oldest (and most reliable) written accounts of the presence of Latin hermits on Mount Carmel date back to 1220 and another text from 1263 (See Steinmann 1963, p. 24). During the Third Crusade, a group of hermits - while other accounts say a group of tired crusaders - led by Berthold of Calabria began to inhabit the caves of Mount Carmel following the prophet Elijah. This first monastery was located in the east–west facing valley located 3.5 km (2.2 mi) south of the current monastery, and east of the "Haifa Sde Yehoshua Cemetery". Tradition has established that it was Brocard, second prior general of the order, who asked the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Albert, to provide the group of hermits with a written rule of life. This rule, dated 1209, is centered on prayer and defined the way of life of hermits. The first act of the Order of Brothers of The Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel was to dedicate a chapel to the Virgin Mary under the title of Mary, Star of the Sea (in Latin: Stella Maris). At the end of the first crusade led by Louis IX of France in the Holy Land in 1254 (the Seventh Crusade), Louis brought six Carmelites back to France who joined with those who since 1238 had started to seek and found houses all over Europe.

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European Hermits


In Europe, the hermits of Carmel encountered many difficulties. Their eremitic life did not adapt well to their new settlements, they were scattered in different nations, and they found themselves in "competition" with other mendicant orders. According to tradition, the prior general of the Carmelites, Simon Stock, worried about the very difficult situation of the order, which was still threatened with dissolution by the Catholic Church, intensely prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary to aid the order. In 1251, Our Lady of Mount Carmel appeared to him accompanied by a multitude of angels and holding in her hand the Scapular of the Order. In his vision, Mary said:

"Receive, my dear son, this scapular of your Order, as the distinctive sign of the mark of the privilege that I have obtained for you and the children of Carmel; it is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in perils and the pledge of peace and special protection until the end of the centuries. Whoever dies in this garment will be preserved from eternal fires."

Following this vision, and the spread of the Scapular, the Order of Carmel endured and spread rapidly.


St. Teresa of Avila

Also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish Carmelite nun and prominent Spanish mystic and religious reformer.Active during the Counter-Reformation, Teresa became the central figure of a movement of spiritual and monastic renewal, reforming the Carmelite Orders of both women and men. The movement was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic John of the Cross, with whom she established the Discalced Carmelites. A formal papal decree adopting the split from the old order was issued in 1580.Her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus, The Interior Castle, and The Way of Perfection, are prominent works on Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practice. In her autobiography, written as a defense of her ecstatic mystical experiences, she discerns four stages in the ascent of the soul to God: mental prayer and meditation; the prayer of quiet; absorption-in-God; ecstatic consciousness.Forty years after her death, in 1622, Teresa was canonized by Pope Gregory XV. On 27 September 1970 Pope Paul VI proclaimed Teresa the first female Doctor of the Church in recognition of her centuries-long spiritual legacy to Catholicism.


St. John of the Cross

Was a Spanish Catholic priest, mystic, and a Carmelite friar of converso origin. He is a major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Spain, and he is one of the thirty-seven Doctors of the Church.John of the Cross is known for his writings. He was mentored by and corresponded with the older Carmelite, Teresa of Ávila. Both his poetry and his studies on the development of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and among the greatest works of all Spanish literature. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI, and is also known as the "mystical doctor".


St. Thérèse of Lisieux

also known as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus et de la Sainte Face), was a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun who is widely venerated in modern times. She is popularly known in English as the Little Flower of Jesus, or simply the Little Flower, and in French as la petite Thérèse (little Thérèse). Thérèse has been a highly influential model of sanctity for Catholics and for others because of the simplicity and practicality of her approach to the spiritual life. She is one of the most popular saints in the history of the church.Pope Pius X called her "the greatest saint of modern times". Thérèse felt an early call to religious life and, after overcoming various obstacles, in 1888, at the early age of 15, she became a nun and joined two of her older sisters in the cloistered Carmelite community of Lisieux, Normandy (yet another sister, Céline, also later joined the order). After nine years as a Carmelite religious, having fulfilled various offices such as sacristan and assistant to the novice mistress, in her last eighteen months in Carmel she fell into a night of faith, in which she is said to have felt Jesus was absent and been tormented by doubts that God existed. Thérèse died at the age of 24 from tuberculosis. Her feast day in the General Roman Calendar was 3 October from 1927 until it was moved in 1969 to 1 October. Thérèse is well known throughout the world, with the Basilica of Lisieux being the second most popular place of pilgrimage in France after Lourdes.


Other Carmelite Saints

For a Carmelite, prayer is guided by the teachings and experience of Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross, as well as the saints who have followed in their steps, such as Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Teresa of the Andes, Mariam Baouardy, Blessed Father Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus and martyrs such as Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Père Jacques and the sixteen Martyrs of Compiegne. Fraternity, service, and contemplation are essential values for all Carmelites.

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