Carmelites provide a silent witness
The spiritual roots of Carmel go back to the holy prophet Elijah, who prayed and interceded for God's people on Mount Carmel.
In actuality, however, the order came into being in the 12th century when some hermits desired to live a life of prayer and silence in imitation of the great prophet, in a constant quest for God. In the 16th century, the order was renewed and given new vigor by St. Teresa of Avila, the great virgin-doctor, who brought new luster to this garden of our Lady (the name carmel means garden.) Her spirit continues to thrive in the church, bringing a hidden fruitfulness by a life of prayer, poverty, silence, solitude and penance.
Although the vocation of Carmel is for the entire church, its principal focus is for priests.
Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, spoke beautifully of this vocation in an exhortation addressed to the Discalced Carmelite Nuns. He says, "Your monsteries are spread throughout the world like oases of prayer and of special consecration to God in the silence of the cloister. Give testimony to the beauty and missionary fruitfulness of your hidden life with Christ in God. Show the value of the prayer of intercession and of silent immolation around the Eucharist ... in order to be as St. Therese of Lisieux so ardently desired -- Love in the heart of the Mystical Body."
The newest document on cloistered contemplative life in the Church, Verbi sponsa, described it as a special way of living and expressing the Paschal Mystery and of witnessing to this Mystery in a prophetic way.