The Monastery of the Carmelite Fathers
Mount Carmel, 1919 – 1931
excerpts from Father Elias Friedman’s transcription of a memoir by Francis Lamb O.C.D.
in the archives of the monastery
Francis Stuart Lamb was born, 3rd July 1867, into a family connected to the British aristocracy, in particular, to the family of Lord Melbourne, Prime Minister of England under Queen Victoria. Professed in the Anglo-Irish Province of the OCD, 14th October 1886, he was ordained priest, 31st January 1892. After terms as Prior at Wincanton and Gerard’s Cross, he was appointed Vicar Provincial of his province, 15th June 1915. On the 16th December 1918, he received patents as Vicar of Mount Carmel and Vicar Provincial of the Palestine Province of the Order, «ad instar». He arrived in Haifa, 30th January 1919. On the 4th of September 1919, he was named Vicar of the Carmelite Nuns in Haifa, then in Zaourah (Bat-Galim). A year later he offered the General his resignation because his confrères wanted a Superior who could speak Italian; but the General (Luke), refused to accept it. On 19th March 1934, he left for Rome to attend the canonization of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In 1935, Fr. Lamb handed over the Vicariate to Fr Edmund O’Callaghan and went to live in Cairo, 1935-1938. From 1938, he resided in the new OCD foundation in Jerusalem. Together with other religious, he was the object of a death-warrant issued against him by Abu Muhamad, leader of the Northern District of the Arab Palestine Revolt (dated 24 Rabi’a al-Thani, 1358 of the Hegira: mid-June 1939). On the 31stof August 1945, Fr. Lamb became conventual again on Mount Carmel. While in residence at El Muhraqah [the Carmelite monastery at the place of Elijah’s sacrifice], he took ill and was rushed back to [Stella Maris] monastery, where he passed away, 27th April 1950, aged 83, after some months of illness.
One day, at the end of the month of October, or the beginning of November 1918, I received a telegram from the Fr. General of the Order, Clement, saying: «Come to Rome. You must go to Mount Carmel for a few months». I replied: «Will come as soon as passport can be obtained».
Over and over again I applied for the necessary passport and permission to go to Rome and from there to Mount Carmel, Palestine. I received many promises that permission would be granted, but nothing more.
Losing all hope, I applied to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, who promised to do all in his power to help me.
Another telegram came from Rome, saying: «When are you coming?» My reply was: «As soon as the passport can be arranged».
After a still further delay, I appealed again to the Cardinal, who, on seeing me, said: «Hav’nt you gone, yet?»
His Eminence, there and then, telephoned to the Hon. M. Long, Member of Parliament. All doors flew open and I was sent for by the Foreign Office. The Foreign Minister endorsed my passport, the Italian authorities were advised and on December the 8th 1918, I left London and by 11 o’clock that night, I found myself wandering around, lost, so to speak, in the darkened streets of the great city of Paris…
I received a hearty welcome at the General’s House, but Fr. General expressed his disappointment when he learned that I did not know a word of Italian. He had received a mistaken impression because I had replied to two letters in Italian — translated for me by a friend. The next day, Fr. General sent for me and suggested, that, since this was my first visit to Rome, he would ask Fr. Florence, my future companion to Mount Carmel, to show me St. Peter’s and all the other beautiful churches and buildings in the Eternal City. Fr. Florence very kindly went out of his way to show me all that there was to be seen: the Vatican museum, the Colosseum, the Catacombs, the Prison of St. Peter, besides many beautiful works of art by the great masters.
After Chrismas, Fr. General called me to his room and asked me whom he should nominate as Vicar Provincial of the Anglo-Irish province, a post I wished to resign while I was on Mount Carmel. I recommended Fr. Ambrose, but the Fathers in England pressed for my return, only to receive the answer from the General: «Not for the present». He forthwith gave me a patent as Vicar of Mount Carmel with the power of Provincial «ad instar». He then graciously took me to meet His Holiness, Pope Benedict XV, in a private audience, introducing me as the new Vicar of Mount Carmel. I kissed the feet of His Holiness, who was standing at his desk, and received his special blessing.
Read more of the history of the reconstruction and restoration of the Carmelite shrines on Mount Carmel following the First World War as recorded in Father Francis Lamb’s memoirs here.