At the time of the Twelfth Century Crusades in the Holy Land, men desired to follow Christ in his homeland by living lives of prayerful solitude and silence. One such group settled on Mount Carmel, a place filled with the spirit of the Old Testament prophet, Elijah. Sometime between 1206 and 1214, St. Albert, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, set down a way of life for these hermits in the form of a Rule for following Christ and serving Him faithfully with a pure heart and good conscience. This Rule of Saint Albert still guides Carmelites today.
Whenever there was a spiritual need, the Carmelites reached out in unique fashion as contemplatives in action. They engaged in preaching, teaching, and spiritual direction. Others served as missionaries, as university teachers, or in pastoral care. Some became famous for their holiness and service: St. Albert of Sicily was a noted preacher; Saint Nuno Alvarez was a great leader and is honored as the George Washington of Portugal; St. Andrew Corsini was a renowned peacemaker between warring city-states; St. Peter Thomas founded a great University; Blessed Baptist of Mantua was a brilliant humanist writer; St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila were great mystical doctors and masters of the spiritual life; St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, became a doctor of the Church for her spirituality and Patroness of the Missions. Today, Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Dutch Carmelite martyred in Dachau for defending the freedom of the press against Nazis, is an example to us as well as St. Edith Stein, co-patroness of Europe.
The life and work of Carmel continues to flourish after eight centuries. Like his medieval counterparts, the Carmelite today is a contemplative in action, caring for and serving his fellow Christians. Carmelites seek to walk in the light of Christ and to help those whom God sends into their lives to see that same light.
To follow Jesus Christ as Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel called together by the Holy Spirit, to live as Elijah in the presence of God, to serve the needs of the Church and each other in love, this is the life purpose of the Carmelites who minister today throughout the world.