Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Carmelite order

Perhaps because I went to Little Flower High School, named in honor of St Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897) herself a carmelite nun, the exchange between Bloom and the carmelite nun interested me. In his gloss of the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Gifford states that it celebrates the founding of the Carmelite order in Syria in 1156. However, he doesn't mention, and I didn't know, that the original order consisted only of men, while the second order, of nuns, was not founded until 1452. The expanded history of the Carmelites can be found at the Catholic Encyclopedia site However, there is a much shorter version on the Carmelite Nuns in Great Britain's website.
According to this site, "Until the 15th century the Order consisted only of friars, priests and lay brothers, although there were several groups of pious women living according to the Carmelite spirit. The Second Order, of nuns, was founded in 1452 by Blessed John Soreth, Prior General of the Order who also founded the Secular Order of Carmel for lay people." All this can be found at In addition, despite its long history of priests and friars, the order is most known for its nuns, especially its two major saints, the Little Flower and St. Teresa of Avila. In the 16th century, St. Teresa of Avila reformed the order of women from a mendicant order to a contemplative one--cloistered. So, I question whether Bloom would have talked to the nun face to face since the rules of the cloister would have prohibited it. He most likely would have spoken to her through a wooden grate (which wouldn't allow him much of a glimpse of her face) and it most likely would have been with the Prioress and not a young nun.


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