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Catholic Dictionary

Find accurate definitions of over 5,000 Catholic terms and phrases (including abbreviations). Based on Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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The Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, founded in Palestine by St. Berthold (d. 1195) about 1154. It claims continuity with hermits on Mount Carmel from ancient times, and even to the prophet Elijah. The original rule, set down in 1209 by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Albert of Vercelli (1149-1214), was very severe, prescribing absolute poverty, total abstinence from meat, and solitude. After the Crusades, the Englishman St. Simon Stock (d. 1265) reorganized the Carmelites as mendicant friars. The laxity of the sixteenth century brought reforms among the women under St. Theresa of Avila (1515-82) and the men under St. John of the Cross (1542-91). This created the two independent branches of the order, the Calced, or Shod, Carmelites (of the Old Observance) and the Discalced, or Unshod, following the Teresian Reform. The main purpose of the order is contemplation, missionary work, and theology. Carmelite nuns devote themselves to prayer, especially of intercession for priests, and to a life of hidden sacrifice. The canonization of St. Thérèsa de Lisieux (1873-97) in 1925, and her designation as patroness of the missions, have done much to make the Carmelites' ideal known and imitated throughout the Catholic world.

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