Carmelite tradition traces the origin of the order to a community of hermits on Mount Carmel that succeeded the schools of the prophets in ancient Israel, although there are no certain records of hermits on this mountain before the 1190s. By this date a group of men had gathered at the well of Elijah on Mount Carmel. These men, who had gone to Palestine from Europe either as pilgrims or as crusaders, chose Mount Carmel in part because it was the traditional home of Elijah. The foundation was believed to have been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The conventual buildings were destroyed several times, but a monastery of Discalced Carmelite friars was built close to the original site under the auspices of Fr. Julius of the Saviour and duly consecrated on 12 June 1836.
The charism, or spiritual focus, of the Carmelite Order is contemplative prayer. The Order is considered by the Church to be under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary and thus has a strong Marian devotion.
A Marian devotion is a gift (total or partial) of oneself, or one’s activities to the Virgin Mary. It is a willingness and desire to dedicate oneself to, or venerate her; either in terms of prayers or in terms of a set of pious acts. Such prayers or acts may be accompanied by specific requests for Mary’s intercession to God.
A wide range of Marian devotions exist, ranging from multi-day prayers such as Novenas among Catholics, the veneration of icons in the Eastern Christianity or activities which do not involve any prayers, such as the wearing of scapulars or even maintaining a Mary garden.
A Mary Garden is a small sacred garden enclosing a statute or shrine of the Virgin Mary, who is known to many Christians as the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady, or the Mother of God. In Christian tradition, Mary is the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, also known as Jesus Christ. Mary gardens are most common to those Christian denominations which hold the Virgin Mary in special esteem, particularly Roman Catholics and Anglicans.
The practice originated among monasteries and convents in medieval Europe. The first such garden open to the public in the United States was founded in 1932 at St. Joseph’s Church, Woods Hole, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
The statute of Mary, sometimes holding the Infant Christ, is central to the garden. Select flowers, shrubs, and trees associated with the legends around Mary are planted in the garden. Such plants may include laurel trees, strawberries, ladyslippers, lilies of the valley, peonies, violets, irises and roses, all of which are identified as symbolic and significant in the story of Mary as recounted in the Bible and other Christian stories. Gardens may have benches and a facility for lighting votive candles.