The Carmelite Nuns: Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)
Perhaps a traveler can visit with special permission, though it isn’t a general practice to let noncarmelite hermits within the wall of the convent.
Little is written about this humble and private convent. It is made of simple stone and sits near the center of Nazareth toward the east. It is fittingly on Carmelite Street. It is not ornate and has only the bare essentials for the nuns to survive, as is the practice of Carmelites.
The gift God has given the Carmelite Order is that of long periods of meditative prayer. They draw them name from the hermits who gathered on Mount Carmel, near the well of Elijah toward the end of the 1300s and beginning of the 1400s. This order, unlike others, does not have a known founder. It seems to have spontaneously started out of the first hermits’ desire to follow Jesus Christ together with a pure heart. They asked the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, Saint Albert, to write them a rule of life to follow. This document laid down certain guidelines based on the previous ascetic life of the hermits. Saint Albert completed this document between 1206 and 1214.
The Carmelites found their way to Nazareth when a young Palestinian Melkite Carmelite nun, Mariam Baouardy (later to become Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified), followed God’s call to found a Bethlehem Carmelite Order in 1867. In 1867, she left her home at Pau Carmel in France to found it. Shortly after she and the other nuns arrived in Bethlehem, Mariam Baouardy approached Mgr Bracco, Patriarch of Jerusalem, asking to build a Carmelite Convent in Nazareth. She felt as if Jesus Christ was telling her to travel to his hometown to pray to him night and day.
In 1877, Bracco asked permission from his own elders to purchase a small bit of land in Nazareth. Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified and other nuns from her order set off on the long trek to Nazareth, through Haifa, and began to pray and live ascetically as they founded the Nazareth Carmelite Nuns Convent. She enjoyed seeing her native, Syria, as she traveled. About a year later, she suffered a fall and gangrene set in. Her life ended on August 26, 1878. Faithfully, her fellow Carmelite Nuns completed the Carmelite Nuns Convent in Nazareth and carried on their cloistered, hermit-like devotion to meditation and Jesus Christ.