The first hermits on Mt. Carmel looked to the withdrawal into the desert of the prophet Elijah as their ideal of life. The desert is a rugged place of awesome simplicity, solitude and beauty. It is the right place for an encounter with God. Elijah stood before the living God on behalf of his people. It was the figure of Elijah that had attracted the first hermits to Mt. Carmel. The early Carmelites studied Elijah’s way of life. They imitated him.
They prayed to him, addressing him as their “leader and father”. They came to be regarded as true followers of Elijah, true sons of the great prophet. In this spiritual sense Elijah is called the “founder” of the Carmelite Order and the words of Elijah, “I am zealous for the Lord God of Hosts” (I kgs. 19: 14) will later be inscribed on the Carmelite crest. Thus, the way of life of the Carmelite Order is termed “the prophetic vocation”.
The prophetic vocation means, primarily, living in the presence of God and bearing witness to him. It is a combination of a life of union with God and a life of apostolic activity.