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Beginnings

The order of Carmel traces its origin to the Holy Land, to Mount Carmel, which rises above the city of Haifa, Israel, facing the Mediterranean Sea. On that mountainside in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, some hermits of European background began to live lives of solitude and prayer, after the example of the prophet, Elijah. By the first decade of the thirteenth century, they had formed themselves into a colony and desired to adopt a common way of life. Under the leadership of a man known to us only as "B", they asked Albert, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, in whose jurisdiction Mount Carmel lay, to draw up for them a rule of life.

Albert provided the hermits with their rule sometime between 1206 and 1214, thus establishing the community, which became the Carmelite Order. The group had a special devotion to Our Lady, dedicating their oratory to her and placing themselves under her protection. In time they became known as "the Brothers of St. Mary of Mount Carmel."

At the heart of the Carmelite Rule is the person of Christ: "To live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ" was the hermits' entire desire and purpose. The Rule of Carmel is unique in its brevity and simplicity. The centrality of solitary prayer is clear: "Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord's law day and night . . . unless attending to some other duty." (Rule, #8) Rather than laying down many precepts and laws, the Rule is notable for its practicality and common sense, shown in such phrases as, "if it can be done without difficulty", and, "necessity overrides every law."

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