What is Carmel?
On Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, near the present-day Haifa, one can still see caves where hermits once lived in accordance with the spiritual tradition founded by the Prophet Elijah.
In the 13th century, the hermit brethren came together under a common rule as the "Brothers of the Virgin Mary." The Carmel was born.
In sixteenth-century Spain, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross reformed the Carmel radically, simplifying its way of life, emphasizing contemplative prayer, solitary work in a strictly enclosed setting and a life of brotherhood, to create small "islands" to pray for the world's salvation. The Lisieux Carmel was founded in 1838. When Thérèse Martin entered in 1888, it had 26 sisters (average age 47). They spent six and a half hours praying in the nuns' choir every day (including two hours of communal prayer), worked to earn a meager living and had two hours' daily recreation.
There was severe fasting. All the sisters rose at 5:45 a.m., even in winter, and went to bed around 11 p.m.
There are more than 800 Carmelite convents in the world, including 110 in France.