Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
The Discalced Carmelites, or the Discalced Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, are members of a Catholic religious order that follows on from the tradition of the Old Testament prophets and the early Christian hermits. The name of the Order is taken from the biblical Mount Carmel in Palestine, where the first brothers established themselves during the time of the crusades so as to live a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. They took their inspiration from the Old Testament prophet Elijah and the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, to whom their first church, and later the whole Carmelite Order, was dedicated.
Around the year 1209 the brothers received their Rule from St. Albert, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Soon they had to leave Palestine because of attacks by Moslems. In Europe they took the form of a mendicant order like the Franciscans and Dominicans. They were invited to Prague by Charles IV in 1347.
The reformed branch of the Discalced Carmelites came into being in Spain in the 16th century thanks to St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. It quickly spread to the Czech lands. The Order is characterised by its emphasis on prayer and fraternal life. The brothers also devote themselves to manual work and group or individual spiritual care. In Prague they look after the pilgrimage church of the Infant Jesus of Prague.
The Order is divided into provinces and is active throughout the world. Some 4000 Discalced Carmelite brothers live in a total of 400 monasteries and around 13,000 sisters in 700 convents. In the Czech lands Discalced Carmelite sisters are to be found in the Hradčany district of Prague and in Dačice. Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus, the patron saint of missions, is one of our sisters…
The Old Testament prophet Elijah and his disciple the prophet Elisha are the historical figures at the beginning of the spiritual tradition which has been connected with Mount Carmel in the Holy Land for more than three thousand years now. The name of the Order itself includes the Virgin Mary as the one to whom the entire order is dedicated. As Nazareth, the place where the Holy Family lived, is only about thirty kilometres from Carmel, it is likely that the child Jesus, his mother Mary and Saint Joseph knew the Jewish holy places on Mount Carmel and may sometimes have gone there on pilgrimage.
Our holy mother Teresa of Jesus, also known as Teresa of Avila, the reformer of the Order in Spain in the 16th century, was inspired by God to found the Discalced or Teresian Carmel (in contrast to the original branch of the Order, which is sometimes called the Calced Carmel). Other major saints are St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of the Child Jesus and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (civilian name Edith Stein).
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