The Origin of the Carmelite Order
Carmel is a mountain that rises majestically and tall in Palestine, out of the Mediterranean Sea. It was home to the Prophet Elijah, the Father and Leader of the Order of Carmel, until such time he was bidden by Yahweh to speak in His name to the kings and the people of Israel.
While in Mount Carmel, the Prophet Elijah led a life of silence, solitude and contemplative prayer, and this way of life became the origin of the eremitical tradition of the Order. The first lay hermits who eventually peopled the mountain became known as “imitators of the holy and solitary Elijah.”
The first church in Carmel was dedicated to the Mother of God, and very early documents of the Order show that the hermits were known as the “Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.” Between 1206 and 1214, and at the request of a community of hermits, Blessed Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, crafted the Rule of Carmelites, probably the shortest Rule in the history of religious Orders. The Holy Rule formalized an already living tradition, which centered on contemplative prayer, solitude and silence, simplicity of life, and obedience to a superior.
In 1291, the Saracens invaded Jerusalem, climbed Mount Carmel, and mercilessly massacred the Brothers there, as they chanted the Salve Regina. The hermits were forced to move westward towards Europe where they adopted a mendicant way of life and eventually opened the way to university studies and the priesthood. In Europe, St. Simon Stock, a General of the Order, received from the Blessed Virgin the gift of the Scapular and the reassuring promises connected with it.
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The successive wars and conflicts and the Black Plague in Europe affected the directions of the Order and necessitated many dispensations, giving rise to the Mitigated Rule of 1432. Major efforts to renew the life and spirit of the Order and to return to the Primitive Rule failed.
In the 16th century, Teresa de Ahumada entered the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain. Her mystical experiences precipitated her move to reform the Order in 1562, with the help of St. John of the Cross. She founded a new branch of the Order of Carmel: The Discalced Carmelite Friars and Nuns, whose way of life was based on the Primitive Rule, adding to it the impact of her own charisms, and gave her spiritual family, as a precious heritage, her spirit and her doctrine on prayer.
It is to this religious family that the Carmelite Nuns of Cebu belong.