By Fr. Alexander Ezechukwu, OCD
Look in Wikipedia, or in an encyclopedia and you can find the founder of any religious order in the Church.
But the Carmelites are unique, in that we are one of the few communities not founded by a single person, but to a group of men – hermits – seeking to live a life of Christian holiness.
I don’t imagine that these men started out by saying, “Let’s found a worldwide religious order of men’s and women’s communities dedicated to the contemplative life.”
But I’m thinking that the Holy Spirit guided our order in this way over the years.
The original hermits lived on Mount Carmel – a mountainous ridge in Israel-Palestine – around the year 1200. They lived by the fountain or well of the prophet Elijah, nine centuries before the time of Christ.
The Carmelite Constitutions say that some of the 13th century hermits, “following the example of Elijah, a holy man and a lover of solitude, adopted a solitary life-style on Mount Carmel….”
Some time later, the hermits asked the patriarch of Jerusalem, St. Albert, to give them a formula for living which expressed their own eremetical ideals and reflected the spirit of the “so-called pilgrimage to the Holy Land” and of the early community of Jerusalem.
Our Constitutions state that,
“Moved by their love of the Holy Land, these hermits consecrated themselves in this Land to the One who had paid for it by the shedding of his blood, in order that they might serve him, clothed in the habit of religious poverty, persevering in holy penance and forming a fraternal community.”
Reform and the Discalced Carmelites
Centuries later, in the 1500’s, a new “branch” of the order was begun by St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) and St. John of the Cross. These saints were both Carmelites, and sought to bring their fellow monastic brothers and sisters back to the original Carmelite spirit.
Today we have both the traditional Carmelites, with the initials O.Carm., and the Discalced Carmelites, with O.C.D. There are men’s and women’s branches.
According to our Constitutions, the family of the Carmelite Order also includes affiliated religious congregations, the Third Orders Secular, secular institutes, those who wear the Carmelite scapular, and various movements that seek inspiration and support from its spirituality, as well as any man or woman who is drawn to the values of Carmel.
Learn More About Becoming a Carmelite Friar
Today, Discalced Carmelite friars serve God through a contemplative life that reaches out in service to others.
Would you like to learn about becoming a Carmelite friar? I’m not too busy for you. I’m open to talking with you by phone or email. Sometimes it’s just good to get your questions answered!
Contact me, Fr. Alex, Carmelite Encounter Director, at +44 (0)7477 673932, email@example.com
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