Who We Are
The Carmelites, a Religious Order of the Catholic Church was founded in the early 1200s. The Order today includes men and women religious and lay people.
The first Carmelites were originally hermit settlers on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. Here, they built a chapel in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A Rule of life was written for the hermits by St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, between 1206 and 1214.
Due to increasing tensions in the Holy Land, the Carmelites were forced to leave, and many travelled to Europe. They held a special meeting called a General Chapter in 1247, following approval from Pope Innocent IV, they were formally recognised as a religious order of the Church. They became part of the medicant (begging) movement, similar to the Franciscans and Dominicans.
Carmelites are called to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ, living the vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. The Carmelite Rule offers a way of life, rooted in the Word of God and nourished by the Eucharist. It encourages prayer and an openness to God’s presence in our lives, helping us to see the world through God’s eyes. It inspires us to seek, recognise, love, and serve God in those around us.
We are inspired and guided by the example of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elijah the Prophet of Carmel.
The Carmelite Way
Prayer is the way in which we relate to God. It helps us to become more open to God, who sustains and gradually transforms us.
We seek God not in isolation, but as a community. Community is God’s gift to us because relationships and human interactions are essential to our growth.
Our service flows from our prayer and community living. Although varied, our ministry is directed towards building the kingdom of God: living among and collaborating with others; providing hospitality and working for justice and peace.
Contemplation holds together our prayer, community, and service. Contemplation is the inner journey, where God transforms us, leading us towards unity in love. Authentic contemplation allows us to live community more deeply, to better understand and discern the needs of those we accompany, and to give ourselves in total trust to God, whose presence we discover in all things.
The wider Carmelite family
The Carmelites began not as a religious order, but with a small number of mostly lay people who came together and formed community on Mount Carmel. Over the centuries many people have felt called to Carmel: some as friars, nuns, or sisters; others within the context of married family life, and others as single people either living alone or in small informal communities.
There are many and varied expressions of Lay Carmel in Britain today, people who follow the Carmelite way in the ordinary circumstances of everyday life. These include the Carmelite Third Order (Secular), Carmelite Spirituality Groups, The Leaven Secular Institute, and the Brown Scapular Confraternity. Some of these groups are formally organised, whilst others are more loosely connected to the Order. These groups enrich the life of Carmel, bringing growth and diversity.