The word "Carmel" means "garden". The Carmelite Order has its roots on Mount Carmel in Palestine. The great prophet Elijah defended the true faith when he fought zealously on this mountain and eventually defeated the priests of Baal. Elijah prayed earnestly in solitude on Mount Carmel, and thus, through events recorded in the Bible associated with him at this location, Elijah has become known as the founder of monastic life.
The spirit of Carmel is two-fold: the historical bond with the prophet Elijah, and love and loyalty to Mary, the great Mother of God. From Elijah, all Carmelites strive to fulfill his zeal by making Jesus Christ and His Word known throughout the world and to witness to Jesus ALIVE among His people. Carmelites recognize that it is only with Mary that we can truly "walk in the steps of Jesus" and be totally committed to him. Mary's whole maternal nature is to lead us to her Son - all Carmelites are her daughters!
The original group of hermits who followed in the footsteps of Father Elijah found a need to organize a "rule of life" for their chosen lifestyle. The "rule" was eventually accepted by the Popes of the time and the group was transformed into an order of religious known as "CARMELITES."
In the 15th and 16th centuries, abuses crept into the Carmelite foundations. Saint Teresa of Avila, doctor of the Church, and renowned reformer, set out to put a stop to such relaxation of the original spirit and rule. With the assistance of St. John of the Cross, she sought to bring Carmel back to its pure condition of prayer, silence, and solitude. Her particular reform movement became known as the "Discalced Carmelites" and became distinguished from the Carmelite Order as it was known at that time. Today... we still have these two components: the Order of Carmel, and the Discalced Carmelites who have fervently adhered to the reforms of St. Mother Teresa of Avila.