"I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of Hosts."
Elijah, First Kings 19:10
July 16 is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who serves as the Mother and Patroness of the Carmelite Order, while the prophet Elijah serves as the Spiritual Father. Stella Maris Monastery ("Star of the Sea") on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel serves as the primary Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Through prayer, solitude, and the study of Scripture, the Carmelites are dedicated to the love and worship of God who created all things.
The history of Our Lady of Mount Carmel actually began as early as the ninth century BC with Elijah, who lived a monastic life on Mount Carmel near Haifa in northern Israel by the Mediterranean Sea, and prayed to God to bring the rains to Israel after a three-year drought (I Kings 18:42-45). The prophet's life and actions are described in First Kings 17-19. Elijah met Elisha and threw his cloak over him as a sign of succession (I Kings 19:19). Elijah was taken into heaven on a flaming chariot (2 Kings 2:11) and Elisha succeeded him as Prophet to the Divided Kingdom of Israel as described in Second Kings in the Bible.
Following the admonition of Jesus Christ to the rich young man to "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mark 10:21), some Crusaders, pilgrims, and hermits chose to live a life of prayer and solitude as Elijah on Mount Carmel, and so began the origin of the Carmelite Order. Between the years 1206 to 1214, they petitioned Albert the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem for a Rule of Life. The St. Albert Rule of Life was approved by Pope Honorius III in 1226. The Monastic Community completed a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and were first called the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.
Hostility subsequent to the Third Crusade led the Community to disburse throughout Europe, including Aylesford, England. Our Lady of Mount Carmel appeared to Simon Stock, the Prior of the English Carmelites, on July 16, 1251, and gave him the Brown Scapular. She promised that "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."
In keeping with the general reform of the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) began a reform of the Carmelites by founding the Convent of St. Joseph in Avila, Spain in 1562, the beginning of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. Collaboration with St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) led to the Discalced Carmelite Friars in 1568 in Duruelo, Spain. Another famous Carmelite was the Little Flower, St. Thérèse (1873-1897) of Lisieux, France. All three Carmelites have been named Doctors of the Catholic Church.
It was not until the nineteenth century (1836) that the Stella Maris Monastery was rebuilt on its original site, overlying the cave of Elijah on Mount Carmel. The French Carmelite nuns also opened a convent further up the slopes of Mount Carmel in 1892. Carmelite Spirituality has spread all over the world, with Communities in 70 nations including the USA!
1 Stella Maris Monastery of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel - https://www.carmelholylanddco.org
2 New American Bible, Revised Edition. Catholic Book Publishing, Totowa, New Jersey, 2011.
3 Our Lady of Mercy Lay Carmelite Community, Fremont, California - https://olmlaycarmelites.org
4 Janice T. Connell. Meetings with Mary: Visions of the Blessed Mother. Ballantine Books, Random House, 1995.
5 Our Lady of Confidence Carmelite Monastery, Savannah, Georgia.
6 St. John of the Cross. Dichos de luz y amor - Sayings of Light and Love. Trans: K Kavanaugh & O Rodriguez. Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington, DC, 672, 1979.
7 St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Story of A Soul. Charlotte, North Carolina: St. Benedict Press, 2010.