Origins of The Carmelite Order
The first Carmelites were a group of Crusaders who, after their military service was completed, remained in the Holy Land, pledging "allegiance to Jesus Christ" as their one true Lord. They lived as a community of hermits near the Wadi Carith on Mt. Carmel, a place associated with the prophet Elijah. They constructed a chapel on the site, dedicating it to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Hence, they came to be known as the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel, or "Carmelites."
These hermits received a rule of life from St. Albert of Jerusalem, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, who exhorted them to ponder unceasingly the law of the Lord in the Scriptures, to lead a life of unceasing prayer in silence and solitude in accordance with the Gospel admonition to watch and pray. The first Carmelites sought also to "put on the armor of God," as they lived an intense life of faith, hope and charity.
They lived in a spirit of evangelical self-denial and a generous commitment to work, after the example of Paul the Apostle. They came together daily for the celebration of the sacred liturgy, and strove to enter into a genuine sharing of life, having at heart the good of the community and the salvation of souls, and holding all things in common under the guidance of a superior placed at the service of his brothers.
From Mt. Carmel, the Carmelite hermits migrated to various places in Europe and were granted "mendicant" status, like the Franciscans and Dominicans, by which they received permission to beg alms in the name of the Church, in order to sustain their lives of service to the Church. The Church, in turn, endorsed the Carmelite Order and entrusted the Carmelites with apostolic ministry, especially the preaching of the word of God and the promotion of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, while at the same time urging them to remain true to their spirit of contemplative prayer.
The Carmelite Order eventually grew to include monasteries of contemplative nuns, as well as laity associated with the Order.