Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"No sooner had I finished the Autobiography of Saint Thérèse than I searched out and read with my customary enthusiasm everything I could find about the religious order of Carmel.

The name of Carmel, I discovered, meant literally 'garden' or 'beautiful hill'; its mystical meaning - 'sacrifice' - was far more significant

I learned that Carmel was a small mountain, one of a chain of high hills that ran across Palestine, and that it was to Mount Carmel that the prophet Elias retired, to seek God in solitude, and to pray for his people. And this, nine hundred years before Christ was born. This same Elias was actually, according to the Carmelite tradition, the founder of the religious order to which Saint Thérèse of Lisieux belonged. I never dreamed  it possible that a religious order in the Catholic Church could trace its origin to a date before the coming of Christ. The beautifully impressive statue of Saint Elias, the prophet, that stands in the Vatican alongside the saintly founders of other religious orders is inscribed Elias, Founder of the Order of Mount Carmel.

Carmel was called the Order of Mary, and the early members of the society were called the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel; they were charged with the 'blessed duty of honoring her, and spreading devotion to her.'"

-- My Beloved: the Story of a Carmelite Nun by Mother Catherine Thomas, ocd

** Painting behind the altar of the chapel at the Discalced Carmelite Nun's Monastery in Haifa, Israel. Haifa is in the slopes of Mount Carmel.

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