Where in the World is Carmel?

Photography © by Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles

An interesting question in more ways than one! And one that requires some thought. Just to clear up any confusion right at the beginning, Carmel doesn’t mean the delicious, sweet, sticky candy. That is caramel, with a different spelling and three syllables! The word Carmel is of Hebrew origin and means a “garden, orchard, or park.”

So, would we be in Carmel every time we visit a garden, orchard, or park?

Another interesting question.

Actually, when our Catholic Church refers to Carmel, the reference is Mount Carmel, the twelve-mile coastal mountain range running along the western coast of Israel. The Carmelite Order traces its roots back to this beautiful, verdant region of Israel. The range is about five miles wide and eighteen hundred feet high at its highest point. Much of the holy land is dry, scorching hot, uninhabitable and unsustainable, but the mountainside is covered with luxuriant vegetation, including oak, pine, olive, and laurel trees. The Carmelites use the word “Carmel” in conjunction with this area of Israel. But that still doesn’t answer the question “Where in the World is Carmel?”

Why not?

The Carmelite answer to the question is a spiritual answer. The idea of a human being’s soul being an enclosed garden is the Carmelite application of this question. God Himself dwells within us. Scripture says “The Kingdom of God is within you?’ (Luke 17:21). “You are the temple of the living God” (1 Corinthians 6:16), and Christ declares: “If any one loves Me, he will keep my word. And My father will love him; and We will come to him and will make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Carmel, then means an enclosed garden (the soul) in which God Himself dwells. This is a HUGE concept to think and pray about. St. Teresa of Jesus once had a vision so beautiful that she prostrated. She learned that what she saw was a human soul in this state of grace. One of the favorite prayers of our Mother Luisita was “My God within me, I adore You.’”

Mount Carmel has many caves. The prophet Elijah and the “Sons of the Prophet” retired to their caves to pray, yes, to contemplate the Living God. A Carmelite Monastery, Stella Maris, stands there today where monks continue this sublime vocation.

Not all of us can take off to a cave or to a Carmelite monastery to pray deeply. Nor do we have to. We can enter within ourselves, into our deepest center, our soul, our enclosed garden and pray.

“Where in the World is Carmel?”

O soul in the state of grace, the answer is easy: wherever you are for He dwells within you.

Sister Timothy Marie, O.C.D.

To learn more about the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, read their biography below and visit their website.

We encourage you to support the work of the sisters with your prayers and through donations and planned giving. Click here to learn more..

If you hear God calling you to the religious life, I encourage you to visit their vocations page. – Deacon Mike

Or for more information, please contact:
Sister Elizabeth Therese, O.C.D., Vocation Directress
920 East Alhambra Road
Alhambra, California 91801

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About the Author

Promoting a Deeper Spiritual Life Among Families through Healthcare, Education and Retreats

The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles strive to give striking witness as a vibrant, thriving community of dedicated women with an all-consuming mission. It is our God-given mission, a mission of the heart, a mission of loving service to the poor, the sick, the needy and the uneducated. Our loving service overflows from each sister’s profound life of prayer. We strive to reflect His life and hope and His promise to all that light has come into our world and darkness has not overcome it.

A look at the history of our community, with its motherhouse in Alhambra, California, reveals how its life-giving presence has come about. During the beginning decades of the 1900s just as the epic Mexican revolution was subsiding, a ruthless religious persecution was gaining momentum in Mexico. This horrible persecution accompanied the birth and humble beginnings of our community, a legacy that Mother Luisita, our foundress, and her two companions brought with them as religious refugees entering the Unites States in 1927.

Those seeds planted by Mother Luisita, now a candidate for sainthood, have taken deep root in the United States since those early days. People and places have changed throughout the years, yet the heart of our mission remains. As an autonomous religious institute since 1983 we continue to carry out our loving service in our healthcare facilities, retreat houses and schools which remain to this day centers of life and hope. Today we are moving forward together “Educating for Life with the Mind and Heart of Christ” in schools, being “At the Service of the Family for Life” through health and eldercare and “Fostering a Deeper Spiritual Life” through individual and group retreats. At the heart of our vocation is a passionate mission of loving service which facilitates our life-giving encounter with the living God.

The heritage of the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is rooted in the spirituality of Carmel, the Gospels, the Church, with our particular charism derived from our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In His merciful goodness, God has graced our Institute with the Carmelite charism which has its roots in a long history and living tradition. The spirituality of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross is rooted in this tradition. Carmel means enclosed garden in which God Himself dwells. The divine indwelling in the soul is the foundation of Teresa's doctrine. Thus our vocation is a grace by which contemplation and action are blended to become an apostolic service to the Church.

Our ideal finds a living expression in the life and charism of our beloved Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa of the Most Blessed Sacrament, whose spirit we faithfully preserve and foster.

Our life is characterized by: - A life of prayer and union with God - A deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist - Devotion to our Blessed Mother - Steadfast fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church - Praying for priests - Commitment to works of the apostolate in ecclesial service

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