A while back I posted about Third Orders. One such order is the Carmelites.
Well, actually, there are two flavors of Carmelite: The Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, which you might call the “original Carmelites” and the Discalced Carmelites, which technically means the “Carmelites who don’t wear shoes”, although now a days they generally do wear shoes.
Well, actually, the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance are more properly known as the Ordo Fratrum Beatissimæ Virginis Mariæ de Monte Carmelo, but I suppose we don’t need to get that picky, do we?
The Carmelites are an order whose history is a bit difficult to trace. The Franciscans were founded by St. Francis of Assisi. The Dominicans were founded by St. Dominic. The Carmelites were founded by…well…some guys who individually started living on Mount Carmel and who…somehow…sometime…maybe in the 1200s?…eventually developed into an order. It really is that vague.
The Discalced Carmelites were founded by St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross (both Carmelites) in the 1500s. They were both Carmelites who felt that the original Carmelites had strayed too far form their roots (whatever those were…) and had become somewhat lax as a consequence.
In case you’re wondering, both types of Carmelites get along just fine these day. Both orders have Priests, Nuns, monks and lay members. Their spirituality is very similar.
So, what is Carmelite spirituality all about?
As I said, they don’t really have a founder (that we know of) but they take the prophet Elijah (which is why they called Mt. Carmel home – 1 Kings 18:16-45. You can look it up if you don’t recall the event) and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Their goal is basically intimacy with God, and all of the actions they take spring from prayer, especially mental prayer and the levels beyond it.
Mental prayer and the levels beyond it…that’s a whole other post!
There have been quite a few Carmelite saints throughout the centuries. A few of the better known are:
St. George Preca
St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi
St. Teresa of Jesus
St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
St. Therese of the Child Jesus (The Little Flower)
St. John of the Cross