The Order of Carmel traced its history back to the 13th century.  It drew its inspiration from the contemplative and prophetic zeal of St. Elijah and the sisterly love and protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The first members consecrated their lives to God, calling themselves the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  From its birth in Mount Carmel, the Order bore witness to the great souls that lived in its sap and enriched it with their contributions.  Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross were the most prominent, whose lives redefined Carmel and gave it a new branch, the Order of the Discalced Carmelites (OCD).



Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in northern Israel in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726, it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and often championed the mystery of her Immaculate Conception. Saint Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” Saint John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel, and helping him escape from prison. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus believed that Mary cured her from illness. On her First Communion day, Thérèse dedicated her life to Mary. During the last days of her life she frequently spoke of Mary.


Saint Elijah was a prophet of the kingdom of Israel at a time when the Israelites were unsteady with their religious convictions and began worshipping false gods. King Ahab of Israel had married a daughter of the king of Sidon, and she promoted the adoration of Baal among the Israelites, coercing many to abandon their beliefs. Elijah was troubled over their weak resolve and worked hard to persuade the Israelites to turn their hearts back toward the one true God, the God of Abraham. Elijah warned King Ahab of a drought, which transpired and thrust the Israelites into a time of great distress and famine. However, God protected Elijah by directing him to a stream and having ravens deliver food to him each day. Sadly, even after 3 years of national suffering, Ahab and Jezebel still clung fiercely to the empty worship of Baal. Elijah then challenged a contest between the God of Israel and Baal upon Mount Carmel. 400 Baal prophets pathetically tried to prompt their “god” to bring fire down upon a sacrifice bull but were unable to. Elijah then astonishingly had his water-drenched holocaust immediately obliterated with fire from heaven upon calling out to the true God of the universe. Jezebel was infuriated and threatened Elijah’s life, forcing him into hiding, to Mount Horeb (same as Mount Sinai). While hiding in a cave, God spoke to him through a soft whispering sound, giving him guidance and assuring the prophet that all would be okay. Elijah later met up with Elisha, who left his family and began to accompany the prophet. One day, as the two men were walking along, Elijah miraculously split open the Jordan River. When they crossed to the other side, a chariot of flames suddenly appeared and swept Elijah up to heaven, whereupon the amazed Elisha took Elijah’s place as prophet. About nine centuries later, St. Luke’s Gospel called John the Baptist as one “in the spirit and power of Elijah.”


Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social, and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent.

The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer. As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man’s world of her time. She was “her own woman,” entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer; a holy woman, a womanly woman.

In 1970, the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: Doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.


"Community is the context for discipleship. The Christian faith is not intended to be lived in isolation; we were made for a relationship with God and for relationships with each other. We belong not merely to a local church, but to a people."

John is a saint because his life was a heroic effort to live up to his name: “of the Cross.” The folly of the cross came to full realization in time. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34b) is the story of John’s life. The Paschal Mystery—through death to life—strongly marks John as reformer, mystic-poet, and theologian-priest.

Ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25, John met Teresa of Avila and like her, vowed himself to the primitive Rule of the Carmelites. As partner with Teresa and in his own right, John engaged in the work of reform, and came to experience the price of reform: increasing opposition, misunderstanding, persecution, imprisonment. He came to know the cross acutely—to experience the dying of Jesus—as he sat month after month in his dark, damp, narrow cell with only his God.


St. Therese of Lisieux, better known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus was born Marie Francoise Therese Martin. She felt an early call to religious life, and overcoming various obstacles, became a Nun at the Carmelite Community of Lisieux, Normandy. Living a hidden, simple life of prayer, and through sickness and dark nights of doubt and fear, she remained faithful to God, rooted in His merciful love. After a long struggle with tuberculosis, she died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. Her last words were the story of her life: "My God, I love You!"

She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925. The world came to know Therese through her autobiography, "Story of a Soul". "What matters in life," she wrote, "is not great deeds, but great love." She believed that just as a child becomes enamored with what is before her, we should also have a childlike focus and totally attentive love. She loved flowers and saw herself as the "little flower of Jesus," who gave glory to God by just being her beautiful little self among all the other flowers in God's garden. Because of this beautiful analogy, the title "little flower" remained with St. Therese. "My mission - to make God loved - will begin after my death," she said. "I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses." Roses have been described and experienced as Saint Therese's signature. Countless millions have been touched by her intercession and imitate her "little way."


Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) Virgin and Martyr Edith Stein, born in 1891 in Breslau, Poland, was the youngest child of a large Jewish family. She was an outstanding student and was well versed in philosophy with a particular interest in phenomenology. Eventually she became interested in the Catholic Faith, and in 1922, she was baptized at the Cathedral Church in Cologne, Germany. Because of her Jewish heritage, she was martyred by the Nazis on August of 1942.

"We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein, an outstanding daughter of Israel and at the same time a daughter of the Carmelite Order, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a personality who united within her rich life a dramatic synthesis of our century. It was the synthesis of a history full of deep wounds that are still hurting ... and also the synthesis of the full truth about man. All this came together in a single heart that remained restless and unfulfilled until it finally found rest in God."

These were the words of Pope John Paul II when he beatified Edith Stein in Cologne on 1 May 1987.


Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD (French: Élisabeth de la Trinité), born Élisabeth Catez (18 July 1880 – 9 November 1906), was a French Discalced Carmelite, a mystic, and a spiritual writer.

She was known for the depth of her spiritual growth as a Carmelite as well as bleak periods in which her religious calling was perceived to be unsure according to those around her; she however was acknowledged for her persistence in pursuing the will of God and in devoting herself to the charism of the Carmelites.

Elizabeth was a gifted pianist and had strong feelings for the Carmelite charism. Of that experience as a professed religious she wrote in a letter: "I can't find words to express my happiness. Here there is no longer anything but God. He is All; He suffices and we live by Him alone" (Letter 91).

Pope John Paul II celebrated her beatification in Paris on 25 November 1984; Pope Francis approved her canonization on 3 March 2016. The date was decided at a gathering of cardinals on 20 June 2016 and she was canonized as a saint on 16 October 2016.


Francisco Palau was one of the prominent sons of the
Discalced Carmelites. He joined the Order of the Discalced
Carmelites in Barcelona when the Church in Spain was being

He was so profoundly convinced of his vocation that he
declared, “To live in Carmel, I needed only one thing, that is,
vocation.” He imbibed the prophetic and contemplative zeal
of the great saints of Carmel and enriched it with his own
experience of the Church. His deep experience of the
Mystery of the Church clarified the meaning of his paternity
and gave definitive direction to his work as Founder. His
profound love affair with the Church gave birth to another
branch: the Carmelite Missionaries.

The year 1860 marked the beginning of a new life that sprang out of a strong and
sturdy branch of Carmel.