Community of Bethlehem
« But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah,
From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler
in Israel. »
On August 20, 1875, ten Carmelites left their monastery in Pau (France) to begin the founding of a Carmel in Bethlehem. Among them, Sr Marie of Jesus Crucified, “the little Arab”, is the soul of this group. The benefactress Berthe Dartigaux accompanies them during the trip.
It is Mariam, guided by the Lord, who designates the location of the future Carmel, on the hill of David, facing that of the Nativity.
The first stone was laid on March 24, 1876, and convent life was inaugurated on November 21, 1876 while some work continued. Mariam died before their completion, on August 26, 1878.
In memory of “the house of David”, the monastery is built in the round, like “the tower of David”.
Facing the Nativity, it “honors the poverty and smallness of the Child Jesus in the Crib”, a specific trait of our community which through this mystery experiences the action of God Himself.
Mariam had a very strong devotion to the Holy Spirit, which she lived deeply and which she transmitted to all those around her. The monastery is in a Palestinian Arab environment.
« They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage. »
Bethlehem is first and foremost the birthplace of Jesus, and Mariam wanted our Carmel to be dedicated especially to contemplate and honor the mystery of the Incarnation and the poverty and childhood of Jesus.
The spiritual message of the One who is above all the Son wants to draw everyone to himself to become what we are: beloved sons and daughters of the Father. To live here as Carmelites is to welcome in prayer this heritage so that it can bear all its fruit on this earth, sown with hope at the very heart of all its lacerations. It is also to enter into this mystery of the poverty and spiritual childhood of the Son to become in him “the home of peace and joy” for all men of good will.
In this blessed city of Bethlehem where the ringing of bells blends with the chants from the muezzins; with the mountains of Moab far away, the story of Ruth and Naomi, Mount Nebo and Moses; the depression of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, Jericho, the prophet Elijah on the way to Horeb, Jerusalem close at hand… all these biblical and evangelical remembrances are like a seed cast into the ground, a history of salvation because here God bound himself forever to our humanity.
And how can we not unite with the full strength of our prayer all these destinies to offer them to the One who is the Prince of Peace so that he reigns in all hearts, our community becoming thus like an echo of “Glory to God on the highest and on earth peace to men of good will” as sung by the angels on the first night of Christmas.
Currently our Community is made up of 14 sisters from different countries: Land of France, Madagascar, Ecuador, Vietnam, Bethlehem, the Philippines, and Poland. The International Community reflects the situation of the Church in the Holy Land: its richness and harmony in diversity, as well as the fact of not being numerous.