History of the Order
Who We Are
A community of Carmelite Cloistered Sisters in the Catholic Archdiocese of Ernakulum- Angamaly, we belong to the world-wide Discalced Carmelite Order, Called to follow Christ in intimate friendship and love; ours is a contemplative life of prayer at the service of the Church. It is the first Carmelite Monastery in the Syro Malabar Church.
History of the Order
Hermits on Mount Carmel
The Order of Carmelites has its origins on Mount Carmel, in Palestine, where, as we read in the II Book of Kings, the great prophet Elijah defended the true faith in the God of Israel, when he won the challenge against the priests of Baal. It was also on Mount Carmel that the same prophet, praying in solitude, saw the small cloud which brought life-giving rain after the long drought. From time immemorial, this mountain has been considered the lush garden of Palestine and symbol of fertility and beauty. Indeed, "Karmel" means "garden".
The Carmelite Order belongs in a special way to Mary, the one who, in her simplicity, was totally open and receptive to God's word and pondered it in her heart. She is our Mother, our model and our sister in our search for God.
In the late twelth or early thirteenth century a group of men - some, pilgrims from Europe, others, possibly former crusaders - settled on the slopes of Mount Carmel near the Spring of Elijah. Calling themselves the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, they tried to live, in the spirit of the prophet Elijah, a life of solitude and prayer.
They lived in caves in a secluded area called the Wadi Ain Es-Siah, seeking God in prayer, fasting and silence, coming together for the daily celebration of the Eucharist and a weekly meeting. Standing always before the Living God on behalf of His people, and totally dedicated to His worship and glory, these hermits had heard the call of Jesus Christ to leave everything and to follow him.
The Rule of the first Carmelites, given in 1209 by St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, is permeated with the flavor of Eastern monasticism. Biblical and evangelical, it is brief and unrealistic. All converges towards the contemplation of God. With its insistence on continual prayer, obedience to a superior, solitude and simplicity in every phase of life, its exhortation to manual work and its prescription for silence, perpetual abstinence and fasting, this first Rule has been called the "Primitive Rule" which is also known as a "Rule of Mysticism".
Friars in Europe
From the 1230's the situation in the Holy Land became more precarious for Westerners. Some of the hermits sought refuge in Europe. They made foundations and began to adapt their life to this new setting. In 1247, Pope Innocent IV approved the way of life written by Albert of Jerusalem as the Carmelite Rule modifying it to suit their new situation. This is the Rule which all Carmelites observe to this day.
By the end of the 13th century, however, these first Carmelites were forced from their solitude by marauding Saracens, and returned to their previous homelands in Europe, seeking to continue their life of prayer. The change in conditions in Europe forced them to abandon their hermit lifestyle in favor of a mendicant or apostolic one. They no longer lived in small hermitages away from people but moved gradually into the cities, teaching, preaching and administering the sacraments. The once simple hermits became involved in active ministries much like the Dominicans and Franciscans. So the Order began to spread throughout Europe.
St. Simon Stock and Scapular
Tradition has it that Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, an early Prior General, and gave him the Brown Scapular as a sign of her protection. The scapular is an important part of our Carmelite Habit. By wearing it we proclaim that we belong to Mary, that we wish to be clothed with her virtues and mirror in our lives the beauty of her holiness. A smaller version of the Scapular has become popular with lay people.
The feminine branch of the Carmelites starts...
In 1452 the horizons of the Order were broadened when the reforming Prior General, Blessed John Soreth, obtained permission from the Pope for the establishment of convents of Carmelite nuns and for the Order to accept laity as members of the Third Order. So, after 250 years the Carmelite Order began to welcome women members. These nuns soon spread throughout Europe, and it was into the Carmel of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, that St. Teresa of Jesus, Our Holy Mother, entered in 1534.
At that time the monastery was unable to support its 180 nuns, and Teresa, with her attractive personality, was often asked to spend time socializing with the many wealthy people of the city who provided some financial assistance for the community. For 20 years she struggled to give herself totally to God who was drawing her into a deeper life of prayer. Eventually, before an image of Jesus wounded and suffering, she received the grace she needed to live for him alone. Finding it extremely difficult to live her vocation fully at the Incarnation, she believed God was calling her to begin a small community where she might more easily live in poverty, solitude, silence and prayer, in the spirit of those first hermits on Mt. Carmel.
Reformation of Carmel by holy mother and New foundations
With a few sisters from the Incarnation and four young women from poor families Teresa founded the first monastery of what came to be known as the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. (Discalced - literally, without shoes - sharing the poverty of the poor to follow the poor Christ.) She named the monastery St Joseph's. The sisters lived a cloistered life, free to give themselves to a life of intimate prayer for the sake of the Church.
Teresa continued to receive many graces in prayer and was asked by her sisters and her confessors to write about prayer. In her writings, which are both profound and practical, she shares her own personal experiences, her ecstasies, her difficulties, her frustrations and her failings. In 1970 she was named the first woman Doctor of the Church.
Five years after the foundation of St. Joseph's Teresa met a young Carmelite Priest, who was thinking of leaving the Order to join the stricter Order of Carthusians. Teresa convinced him to become the first Discalced Carmelite Friar. John of the Cross was a man of deep prayer, whose mystical writings complement those of Teresa, and are a source of inspiration throughout the Christian and non-Christian world to this day. The Discalced Carmelite Friars, sharing in the same spirit, help the nuns to live their common vocation and themselves serve the Church through prayer and active ministry.
As people heard about Teresa's new way of life, she was called upon to leave her cherished solitude to make foundations all over Spain. Journeys in covered wagons were long, hazardous, and tiring. By the time of her death in 1582 there were 17 Discalced Monasteries of Nuns in Spain.
**********************In between can we put a MAP of the all Carmelites in India.
What is the "seal of Carmel"
The motto or legend consists of the words of Elijah taken from the First Book of the Kings, 19:10: With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts. In Latin the phrase reads: Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum. These words express the whole life of the prophet Elijah and the very spirit that moved him.
The sword symbolises the power and zeal of Elijah. In the Scriptures Elijah appears again and again as God's Prophet, speaking out boldly against abuses and reminding the Israelites of their special calling to live as God's people
In the center of the shield rises the Holy mountain of Carmel; the cradle of the order.
Three stars In this shield, which represents the three epochs in the history of carmel. The first as if placed in a grotto of the mountain signifies the prophetic era which extends from the time of Elijah who founded the order in a cave to the coming of St. John the Baptist. The second and the third starts rising over the mountain, signify respectively the Greek and the Latin. Eras, when the order spread through out the east and west; that the time of St. john the Baptist to the Birthhold, the first latin general; and to the Birthhold to the end of the world.
The Cross of the Summit of Mountain was added in the 16th century as the distinctive sign of the discalced Carmelites and they also adopted for their crest.
Above the seal and through the banner is an arm and hand which holds a sword.The sword symbolises the power and zeal of Elijah. For Carmelites Elijah is the solitary prophet who nurtured his thirst for the one and only God and lived forever in His presence. Elijah is the biblical inspiration of the Carmelite life and, like him, Carmelites seek both to continually carry, in their minds and hearts, the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God"(Carmelite Rule)and to live constantly with a loving, contemplative awareness of His presence.
The Crown of Gold represents the Kingdom of God. He is the Sovereign Lord of Carmel. Carmelites indeed endeavor to serve God faithfully with "a pure heart and a steadfast conscience" (Carmelite Rule).They see their vocation as a calling to unswerving allegiance to their Lord and King, Jesus Christ. In their service to this King they take their inspiration from the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose patronage they enjoy, and Sts. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, the great reformers of Carmel.
The halo of twelve stars above the crown represents the prerogative of every Carmelite's laud, the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom St. John saw in an apocalyptic vision as: "a woman clothed with the sun... on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1). In the coat of arms of the Discalced Carmelites these stars also signify the twelve points of the rule, which are: obedience, chastity, poverty, reconciliation, mental prayer, divine office, chapter, abstinence from meat, manual labor, silence, humility, and supererogation.