Carmel of the Holy Child Jesus – Bethlehem
The Order of Carmel
The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel does not have a single founder but was founded by a group of hermits living close to the “Spring of Elijah” on Mount Carmel, with two roots of their spirituality: the Prophet Elijah and the Virgin Mary. At the beginning of the 13th century the hermits received a rule of life, which was written by Saint Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
But at the end of the century they had to leave because the Saracens had invaded the country. Then they spread across Europe founding monasteries of friars and later also of nuns.
In the 16th century, in Spain, Divine Providence chose two Carmelites, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, to initiate a reform which grew and formed a new branch (and later a new Order) called Discalced or Teresian Carmelites.
Seeking to balance between eremitical and fraternal life, the Carmelite friars and nuns want to be, by their prayer and by all they are, “love in the heart of the Church” as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus wanted to be.
At present there are about 800 monasteries of Nuns and 500 of Friars throughout the world.
In the Holy Land there are Carmelite Nuns in Bethlehem, Haifa (Mount Carmel), Jerusalem and Nazareth, and Carmelite Friars in Haifa and Jerusalem.
If you would like more information about the Carmelite Order, please contact,
Or the website of the Order of Carmel: www.ocd.pcn.net
Or the following for Carmel in the Holy Land: www.carmesdechaux.com
On 20 August 1875, ten nuns left their monastery in Pau (France) to found a Carmel in Bethlehem. One of them, Marie of Jesus Crucified (Mariam Baouardy), was really the soul of the little group.
A benefactor of the community, Berthe Dartigaux, accompanied them on this journey, and later, in May 1879, she returned to live with the community.
It was Mariam who, led by the Lord, indicated the place of the future monastery, on top of the hill of David, which is in front of the hill of the Nativity.
The foundation stone was laid 24 March 1876. While the monastery was being built, the community lived in a temporary house near the Basilica of the Nativity. The monastic life in the new monastery was inaugurated on 21 November 1876 but some work continued and Mariam died before it was finished, on 26 August 1878.
The building of the chapel was started in 1888 and the solemn blessing was on 9 November 1892. The chapel is dedicated to Saint Joseph; the themes of the windows show it.
Mariam wanted the altar placed on “the grotto of David” where Tradition places the anointing of King David by Samuel.
Carmelite Nuns in Bethlehem
First and foremost, Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus, and Mariam wanted to dedicate this monastery especially to contemplation and veneration of this mystery of the Incarnation, poverty and childhood of Jesus. That is the spiritual message of the One who is par excellence the Son and who wishes to draw us all into Himself so that we may become what we are: beloved children of the Father.
Born in Bethlehem, it was really in “the cradle of his father David” that Jesus came to share our humanity.
By building the monastery in the form of a tower on the top of “David’s Hill”, Mariam wished to venerate and contemplate David, and with him the whole biblical history of which Jesus became a part.
The Moabite Mountains in the distance remind us of the story of Ruth and Naomi, Mount Nebo and Moses, the Valley of Jordan and Dead-Sea, Jericho, the Prophet Elijah who went to Mount Horeb, and Jerusalem so near…
All these biblical and evangelical reminiscences are like a seed sown in the earth, a history of salvation, because that is the place where God bound Himself to humanity forever.
To be Carmelite nuns here means to take into our prayer this entire heritage, so that it may bear fruit in this country where Hope has been sown even in the heart of all tears.
And to be Carmelite nuns here is also to enter into this mystery of the poverty and the spiritual childhood of the Son, and to become in Him “the home of peace and joy”.
In this town where the sound of bells is mixed with the chants of muezzins, near Rachel’s tomb, at the gates of Jerusalem, how can we not gather all that ever more strongly in our prayer as an offering to the One who is the Prince of Peace?
In 1876, going to Nazareth to prepare the foundation of a Carmelite monastery, Mariam indicated the place where the Lord had broken bread with the disciples of Emmaus.
She had bought it through Berthe Dartigaux for the Carmel of Bethlehem.
Later excavations were made there. Emmaus is a biblical site full of history from the period of the Maccabees. In the 3rd Century it was a quite important town called Emmaus Nicopolis, which became later an Episcopal See.
Many things were discovered from the Byzantine period (4th-7th Centuries), especially two churches one above the other, and a cruciform baptistery, which testify that at that time this was a very important place of pilgrimage.
After the Arabic conquest Emmaus was a village called Amwas.
Jesus, an infant lying in a manger on the night of Bethlehem – “house of bread” –, Jesus risen, opening the Scriptures for his disoriented, disappointed disciples: in His Eucharist Jesus joined us and invites us to live His life, to radiate Him for all peoples, at the heart of every night.
Timetable of our day
This timetable reflects the balance between eremitical and fraternal life, which is proper to Carmel.
The normal horarium is:
6 a.m.: silent prayer, 7 a.m: Lauds, Mass, Terce (Prayer before noon)
12 noon: Sext (Midday Prayer), Lunch, Recreation, None (Afternoon Prayer)
5 p.m.: Vespers; 5.30 p.m.: silent prayer; 6.30 p.m.: Office of Readings
7 p.m.: Supper; Recreation; 8.30 p.m.: Compline (Night Prayer)
All sisters are responsible for their own work and one hour of spiritual reading daily.