Having not contributed for some time (and feeling a little guilty about not
so doing), perhaps, as a Carmelite friar, I might offer a few remarks.
On the circumstances of our own Order's emergence, we were founded, it's
true, as a group of hermits on Mount Carmel but initially we were not a
religious order, simply a group of lay hermits living in community under a
"way of life" given by Albert Vercelli, patriarch of Jerusalem. There seem
to have been no intentions of becoming either monks or friars at this
stage. As the Order developed and began to make foundations in Europe,
then it sought and got, with some modifications, the "way of life" approved
as a formal Rule in 1247. Only from this date were we formally constituted
as a religious order.
As far as being friars, there seems to have been no conscious choice made
about becoming mendicants, except in so far as our rule obliged us to hold
all things in common (fairly normal for a religious order). One of the
modifications in 1247 was that we were allowed to have asses, mules and a
certain amount of poultry. (A mitigation which has now been extended to
allow people like myself to 'possess' a room full of books and a nice
After 1247, the early Carmelites in Europe seem to have 'drifted' into
being classified as mendicants, possibly because that was the form all new
orders were adopting and the Carmelites followed the trend. Certainly by
the Second Council of Lyons in 1274, the Carmelites are firmly listed among
the mendicant orders and only escaped the general suppression by the skin
of their teeth. Certainly, we joined in the inter-order battles on the
side of the mendicants and, by the fifteenth century, even having an
English provincial locked up in the Castel Sant'Angelo for three years for
arguing that Christ himself was a mendicant.
Andrew Jotischy is right in pointing to a prior general, Nicholas, arguing
in 1270 that we had gone astray from our eremitical traditions but one
should be careful about reading too much into a single surviving text.
From their actions, most Carmelites seems to think that the Order's future
lay in the towns and cities (that was where all the foundations were made).
Anyway, Carmelites have been agonizing over their eremitical origins ever
since - just as the Franciscans have been pre-occupied by poverty.
Richard Copsey, O.Carm.
Via Sforza Pallavicini 10
tel: (396) 6868686
e-mail: [log in to unmask]