Hermits on Mount Carmel
The beginnings of a communal way of life
The first Carmelites came as pilgrims to Mount Carmel to live a life of prayer and penance. They may have been Crusaders who wanted to live out their lives in Palestine. They adopted a solitary life-style on Mount Carmel near a spring called Elijah's Fountain. These early hermits were mostly laity (that is, they were not monks or canons) who lived an unofficial religious life of Gospel poverty, penance and prayer as a way of following Christ. They sought to return the church from pomp, wealth and power to apostolic simplicity and holiness. They were given a way of life which we follow to this day.
Between 1206 and 1214, St. Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, brought the hermits on Mount Carmel together, at their request, into community. He wrote them a letter, a formula for living, which expressed their own intention and reflected the spirit of the pilgrimage to the Holy Land and of the early community of Jerusalem. He asked them to provide the structures of a life in communion, to elect one of the brothers as prior and to build a chapel so that the Eucharist could be celebrated daily.