by Fr John Bernard Keegan, ODC SINCE its origins in the early thirteenth century, the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has had close associations with the North of England. Sir William Vescy, Lord of Alnwick, was one of the noblemen who brought back from the Crusades some of the hermits then living on Mount Cannel and settled them on his own estates. For some years these men had been following an eremitical rule granted to them between 1200 and 1214 by St Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, resident at that time in Acre. Under pressure from the Saracens they had begun to migrate to the West, and in 1242 several of them who were Europeans arrived in England and settled principally at Aylesford in Kent and at Hulne, near Alnwick, in Northumberland.
The priory at Hulne did not achieve the importance of that al Aylesford, at which the first General Chapter of the Carmelites was held in 1247, but it bad the attraction of a site very similar to that which the friars had left on Mount Carmel and more suitable for the observance of their eremitical rule.
It was in existence until the Reformation when, between 1538 and 1539, the 38 Carmelite houses in England were dissolved, and its impressive remains can still be seen on the estate of the present Duke of Northumberland. It is a far cry from Hulne Priory in the sixteenth century to Tip Top at Ushaw in the twentieth, yet that is where the Carmelites have returned after Carmelites have returned after
• an absence from these parts of more than 400 years. Naturally there have been many changes in that time, even within the Order itself,
Soon after the dissolution of the English houses, St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross initiated a reform which before the end of the century had split the Order into two. Those who returned with them to the observance of the primitive rule became known as Discalced Carmelites — going barefooted, then as now, being a sign of a desire for greater austerity and simplicity while those who continued to observe a mitigated rule were known as the Calced, In the course of time both Orders returned to England, and in 1949 the Calced Carmelites regained the ancient foundation at Aylesford, which is now a flourishing centre of pilgrimage. The Discalced were brought back by Cardinal Wiseman, who expressly asked Fr -Hermann Cohen, a distinguished Jewish convert and pupil of Liszt, to establish a community in his diocese. This he did in Kensington, where a fine church now exists and, true to the spirit of its founder, maintains a high standard of church music.
In 1927 Anglo-Irish province of the Discalced Carmelites was established, but until recently vocations to the Order in England were very few indeed, The situation began to improve when, in 1971, the House of Studies, which had been opened at Oxford ten years previously, because a novitiate for this country, Since then, several novices have made their simple profession, and the problem of educating them for the priesthood had to be faced, Two things seemed abundantly clear: that they should he educated in an established seminary, and that it should he in England.
In consequence of this, application was made to Ushaw, and was immediately received with great warmth and sympathy. The
President, Loftus, very kindly offered us Tip Top (which, was then unoccupied) as a monastery, and St Joseph's Chapel for our private use. When this proposal was put before the Northern Bishops they welcomed it unanimously, recognising the need for us to maintain our religious life and to preserve our identity as Discalced Carmelites within the larger community of the seminary.
So it was that on September 23, 1974, the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel returned to the North of England, and I, to my great joy. found myself back at Ushaw after an absence of almost 40 years.
It is now a year since we came to Ushaw and settled into our quarters on Tip Top, with their magnificent view out over the Durham hills. We were then ten in number — eight students and two priests — and we came with ;some apprehension, because considerable doubt had been expressed about the possibility of preserving our identity as Carmelites in the larger context of a major seminary.
Personally, from my previous knowledge of Ushaw and its President and staff, I did not share these doubts, but it was a new venture and we were all anxious that it should succeed. Looking hack now, after the completion of our first year, we no longer have cause for doubts or anxiety, but only for gratitude that the experiment has been so successful.