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Who are the Carmelites?

The Carmelites— more formally known as The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel— is a religious order of the Catholic Church in the medicant tradition. Formally founded before 1214 AD, the Order today includes men and women, clerics, cloistered women, hermits, religious, and lay people in many parts of the world. The members, in dialogue with the Spirit in the Word of God, listen for the call of the Church today. They work to be attentive to the cry of the poor and powerless, constantly renewing their tradition and spirituality in today’s world. For centuries Carmelites have faced the challenge to live faithfully the tradition of contemplation and mysticism in every epoch of history.

The Carmelite life offers the possibility of a personal spirituality and interior liberation. It calls for a commitment to Jesus, his person and message. Using Gospel values, they seek to create a new heaven, a new earth, and so become the new creation. It requires one must be freed from one’s own inner idols. Without inner conversion, one cannot assist others in their own journey.

The Carmelite Order (abbreviation O.Carm.) is structured like the other Mendicant Orders, and is a religious institute of Pontifical Rite. Its organisation is typical of the Mendicants: a single body dependent on a Prior General and at the base of which are the local communities gathered into Provinces, General Commissariats, General Delegations, communities under the jurisdiction of the Prior General, aggregated eremetical communities “Pleno iure” to the Order and affiliated communities. These are then grouped according to geographical or linguistic criteria. It is composed of friars who profess the three solemn vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, and who share a common purpose: to live the consecrated life according to the spirit of the Order. Each friar is appointed to a local, provincial and general community (depending on the activity he is currently undertaking).

The Provincial Chapter, held every three years, gathers that Province’s representatives to elect their Prior Provincial and his Council and to make decisions regarding the most important questions facing the Province.

The General Chapter, held every six years, elects the Prior General and his Council, and discusses the most important issues that the Order faces. The Prior General with the members of the General Council reside in Rome in the community of the Curia. The Prior General leaves Rome only on the occasion of visits to the Provinces and communities of the Order and of the Carmelite Family.