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The Carmelites

Carmelites are members of an international Catholic order of friars with a continuous spiritual tradition spanning eight centu-ries and cultures of both East and West.

The Order originated aound the 1190s in a group of hermits living by the “spring of Elijahon Mount Carmel in Crusader Palestine. Between 1206 and 1214 they obtained a rule of life from Saint Albert of Vercelli, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and some decades later began founding houses in Europe. By 1247 they had joined the thriving mendicant or friar movement, adding preaching and pastoral care to their contemplative tradition. Their patron, the Virgin Mary, and their place of origin, give them their official name, Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel; in England they were popularly called White Friars. Today more than 50,000 friars, nuns, sisters and lay Carmelites around the world continue in the same spiritual lineage.

In the course of the centuries the Order has produced only a few great theologians but many great mystics and spiritual writers, and the Carmelite school of spirituality is one of the most significant Christian spiritual traditions. Its greatest representatives are the 16th-century mystical writers Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross. It continues to the present in modern teachers such as Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, recently declared a Doctor of the Church, and the World War II martyrs Saint Edith Stein and Blessed Titus Brandsma, as well as in many contemporary authors and scholars.

The Carmelite friars arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1881, and settled at Gawler outside Adelaide, expanding the following year to the Melbourne parish of Sandridge (which stretched from Port Melbourne to St Kilda). They devoted themselves to preaching and parish ministry, and later to educational and other tasks. Among other things they developed a library, principally for their own use. It now comprises over 30,000 volumes and is open to all interested users. Over the years, it has become a collection unique in Australia.