The spirituality and the charism
The Vocation to Holiness
- God wanted to make known, the inner reality of the Trinity and this revelation was made by involving humanity in a dialogue woven of love and mercy.God has made known to us his will for communion, calling men and women to share in his life. This plan is being fulfilled through the Holy Spirit in Christ who is the final and supreme Word of the Father and beyond whom God has nothing more to reveal. In Jesus Christ, born of Mary, the invisible God speaks to all people as a friend and dwells amongst them to bring them into communion with God and with one another with a view to the unity of the human race in the kingdom. Through the sacrament of Baptism, human beings are brought into divine life becoming, in the Holy Spirit, adopted children of the Father and brothers and sisters of Christ. They are enabled to be a part of that great assembly of brothers and sisters that is the Church, the people of God, ‘sacrament – sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of the unity of the whole human race.’’
- Therefore, all the faithful, of whatever state, are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love: from this holiness a more human lifestyle is fostered, even in earthly society.The counsels that Jesus proposed to his disciples in the Gospel, favour in a special way a path of holiness and transformation of the world in accordance with the spirit of the Beatitudes. These counsels are lived in various stable forms of life raised up by the Holy Spirit and regulated by the Church.
- In the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, the same Spirit has frequently raised up a variety of gifts and charisms, such as those of the various religious families. They offer their members the advantages of a greater stability in following a teaching backed by the lived experience of holy people. In this way the members of these families reach evangelical perfection through communion in the service of Christ and in a freedom strengthened by obedience.
- Some lay people have a particular call to participate in the charisms of religious families which are a common patrimony of the people of God and which become for them too a source of energy and a school for life. The Church approves and encourages lay people in this and invites them to strive to make their own the particular characteristics of the spirituality of these families.
The Carmelite Secular Third Order
- The Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel has its origins at the end of the 12thcentury and beginning of the 13th century in a group of men who were attracted by the evangelical call of the Holy Places. In a life of penance and prayer, they consecrated themselves to the one who had shed his blood. They settled on Mount Carmel, near the spring of Elijah. They requested and received a ‘Form of Life’ from Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, (1206-14) which made them into a single community of hermits gathered around a chapel dedicated to Mary. After confirmation of this document by Honorius III (1226) and Gregory IX (1229), Innocent IV in 1247 completed the process of foundation. By some changes to their ‘Form of Life’, he placed them among the ranks of the new orders of Apostolic Fraternity (Mendicants) and called on them to unite contemplative life with a concern for the salvation of their neighbour.
- Once settled in Europe, the friars welcomed lay people into their houses and also considered them Carmelites in a certain sense. These lay people were ‘oblates’ or ‘donati’ in that they gave their goods to the houses that henceforth supported them. The majority, being women, needed their own houses and they were called ‘mantellate’ because they wore a habit similar to that of the friars.
- Over the course of time, these lay people were organized into groups of like-minded men and women with similar obligations to those of the friars. The first juridical, ecclesiastical approval came with the bull ‘Cum nulla’ issued by Pope Nicholas V on 7 October 1452. This Bull laid the foundations – with various phases of development – for the Second and Third Orders. The Bull authorised superiors of the Order to organize various groups of women and to specify their lifestyles. The permission granted in ‘Cum nulla’ was made explicit in another bull ‘Dum attenta’ of Sixtus IX on 28 November 1476. These two pontifical documents are at the root of the current structure of the Carmelite Family.
- The bull ‘Cum nulla’ recognized the existence of distinct groups with solemn or simple vows. Gradually some of these women, who could also live outside the convent, identified themselves as a Third Group in the Carmelite Family and thus began to be called ‘Tertiaries’. In 1476 Pope Sixtus IV allowed the Carmelite Order to organize its various lay groups along the same lines as the third orders of other mendicants.
- About the same time, confraternities sprang up and asked to enjoy the privileges of the Scapular. The Prior General, Theodore Straccio (1632-1642), attempted to clarify the situation by establishing a Third Order of the ‘continent’in which brothers and sisters made vows of obedience and chastity according to their state. All the other lay people joined one of the various Scapular confraternities.
- Already in the 19thand 20th centuries, there was an attempt to encourage the ‘secular’ aspect of the Tertiaries’ life. This culminated in the approval of their Rule after the Second Vatican Council. Today, therefore, Tertiaries are called to a task which is proper to them, that is, to illuminate and rightly value all temporal realities in such a way that these things are brought to fulfilment according to Christ’s values. In this way they offer praise to the Creator, the Redeemer and Sanctifier in a world so secularised that it seems to live and act as if God no longer existed. Lay Carmelites are expected to co-operate in the new evangelisation that permeates the entire Church. For this reason, they try to overcome in themselves the division between the Gospel and life. They are called to make every effort in their many daily activities in the family, at work and in society to re-establish a unity of life which finds in the Gospel inspiration and strength for its full realisation.Bonds with Carmel
- The members of the Third Order recognize in the Prior General a spiritual father, head and bond of unity. They receive from the Order direction and encouragement to promote, to stimulate and to favour the achievement of the aims of the Third Order.At the same time, the lay Carmelites are left a wide measure of autonomy in taking initiatives and running individual groups according to their own statutes. The lay people themselves are to elect their own leaders, assisted spiritually by a priest, who may or may not be a Carmelite, or by a Carmelite brother or a sister.
- The fundamental bond between the Tertiary and Carmel is profession. This commitment is made explicit in some form of promise, or otherwise in keeping with our ancient custom, by the profession of vows of obedience and chastity according to the obligations of one’s state. In this way, the Tertiary is consecrated more deeply to God and is able to offer more intensive worship. By means of profession, the Tertiaries seek to strengthen their baptismal promises to love God more than anything else and to renounce Satan and all temptation. The uniqueness of this profession is to be found in the means that are chosen to reach full conformity with Christ. Indeed, Carmelites learn to appear before Christ empty-handed, by placing all their love in Christ Jesus, who becomes personally their holiness, their justice, their love and their crown.Jesus’ message – to love God with all one’s being and one’s neighbour as one’s self – demands from the Tertiary a constant affirmation of the primacy of God, the categorical refusal to serve two masters and the pre-eminence of love for others which fights against all forms of egoism and self-centredness.
- The spirit of the evangelical counsels, common to all Christians, becomes for the Tertiaries a plan for life which touches the areas of power, of sensuality and of material goods. The vows are an ever greater demand not to serve false idols, but to attain that freedom of loving God and neighbour which is above all forms of egoism. Holiness lies in the fulfilment of this double command to love.
- By their profession, Tertiaries take on the responsibility of living the Gospel radically according to their state in life. They are free to make their profession with vows, or without vows by simply undertaking to live out this Rule. Tertiaries who make vows are called to obedience to the Order’s superiors and to the Chaplain in all things that are asked of them by virtue of the Rule for their spiritual well-being. By the vow of chastity, they undertake to live this virtue according to their state in life.
- Tertiaries recognize in Carmelites who are consecrated in the religious life, valid spiritual guides. They are accompanied by them on the road to becoming contemplative and active in a world which is ever more complex and demanding while at the same time searching desperately for spiritual values. So lay people must be accompanied in their living of the Carmelite charism in spirit and in truth, open to the Holy Spirit’s works and moving towards a full participation and communion in the Carmelite charism and spirituality. This will lead to a new charismatic interpretation of their lay nature and to a fully co-responsible share in the task of evangelisation and in the ministry specific to Carmel. In this way Carmelite Tertiaries become fully members of the Carmelite family.
- Carmelite friars and sisters who are consecrated in the religious life recognize the spiritual advantages and enrichment which enhance the whole family of Carmel from the lay faithful who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, answer a particular call from God and freely and decisively promise to live the Gospel according to the spirit of Carmel. As past experience shows, their participation can in fact bring fruitful insights to some aspects of the charism, renewing its interpretation and giving rise to new apostolic movements, through ‘the invaluable contribution of their “being in the world” and their specific service.’The Specific Call of the Lay Carmelite
- Spiritual life, or life in the Spirit, has its origin in the Father’s initiative who through the Son and in the Spirit gives to each man and woman their life and their holiness. God calls each one to live in a mysterious relationship of communion with the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. The Father searches out individuals, draws them to himself and towards his Son;the Spirit urges them to be attentive, to listen to the voice of God, to welcome the Word and to open themselves to the divine transforming action. The Lay Carmelites’ search for God, their submission to the Lordship of Christ is a response, elicited by the Spirit, to the dialogue between friends which God sets up in the Word made flesh. The Tertiaries’ ascent begins with their act of faith which impels them to accept Jesus and the Easter event as the meaning of their existence. It also makes them want to look to him for guidance and have him, and not themselves, as the centre of their lives. Rooted in this way in the love of the merciful God, Lay Carmelites prepare themselves for the ascent of Mount Carmel whose summit is Jesus Christ.
- The ascent of the mountain by lay people implies in the first place following Jesus Christ with all one’s being, serving him faithfully ‘pure in heart and stout in conscience’.The spirit of Jesus should permeate their being to such a degree that they can repeat with St. Paul, ‘it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.’ In this way all their actions take place with ‘the Lord’s word for accompaniment.’’
- Gradually Jesus must become the most important person in the lay Carmelites’ existence. This means having a personal, warm, affectionate and constant relationship with Jesus. This bond is nourished by the Eucharist, the liturgy in general, by Holy Scripture and by various forms of prayer. All these encourage the Tertiaries to recognize Jesus in their neighbour and in daily events; it propels them to give witness along the highways and bye-ways of the world to the decisive nature of his presence.
- The Father’s call to follow Christ through the life-giving Spirit is realised in fully belonging to the Church. Through the sacrament of Baptism, which makes each person a member of the mystical Body of Christ, Tertaries receive their call to holiness. Their greatest dignity consists in enjoying the divine life and love of God which is poured into their hearts by the Spirit.So together with others, according to the call and gifts of each one, they can contribute to that great work of building up the one Body of Christ.
- Human nature, weak and limited in its poverty, lets itself be guided by divine action and embraces a deepening life of conversion. By involving the person at every level of their life, conversion brings a radical re-alignment towards a gradual change. Guided by the Spirit, Tertiaries seek to overcome obstacles and to avoid all that might draw them away from the path to the summit. Indeed, admitting their possible limitations or reluctance, they undertake without hesitating or wavering a gradual path towards those chosen ideals of change and transformation.
- Ascending the mountain implies a desert experience in which the living flame of God’s love transforms and detaches the lay Carmelite from everything; even their image of God is purified and transformed. By putting on Christ, they begin to shine like his living image, being a new creation in him.
- This gradual transformation enables Tertiaries to be more discerning of the signs of the times and the presence of God in history. It also strengthens in them a sense of community as well as in a serious commitment to the transformation of the world.Sharing in Jesus’ Mission
- Through baptism, lay Carmelites are sharers in the mission of Christ which they continue in the Church, becoming as it were ‘another humanity’for him which is transformed into ‘praise of his glory.’ Lay people are recognised as having ‘their own absolutely necessary participation in this mission.’’
- By reason of their baptismal priesthood and the charisms that they have received, lay Carmelites are called to build up the ecclesial community by a ‘ fully conscious, and active participation’ in its liturgical life.They are to commit themselves to extending such celebration into daily life itself. This means that the fruits of their encounter with God are seen in all the activities, prayers, apostolic initiatives, married and family life, daily work and spiritual and physical rest, especially in the trials of life – if borne with patience and – as Carmel’s saints teach us – if accepted with thanks.
- Through sharing in the prophetic office of Christ and the Church, Tertiaries undertake, in all walks of life,to assimilate the Gospel through faith and to proclaim it by their works. This commitment includes not hesitating to denounce evil courageously. Tertiaries are also called to take part in the Church’s sense of faith, which cannot err as regards its belief, and in the grace of the Word.
- Through belonging to Christ, Lord and King of the Universe, Tertiaries share in his royal office through which they are called to the service of God’s kingdom and to its spread throughout history. Christ’s kingship implies, above all, a spiritual combat to defeat the tyranny of sin in ourselves.Through the gift of ourselves, we undertake to serve, in justice and charity, Jesus himself, who is present in all his brothers and sisters, especially in the little ones and those on the fringes of society. This means restoring creation to its original goodness. In ordering creation for the true good of humanity, an activity which is supported by the life of grace, Tertiaries share in the exercise of that power by which the Risen Christ draws all things to himself.Secularity
- ‘All Carmelites are in the world in some way, but the vocation of lay people is precisely to transform the secular world.’So Tertiaries, in as much as they are committed lay people, have this secular characteristic by which they are called to treat the things of the world correctly and to order them according to God’s will. Their life, lived in the world in the midst of the people, is dedicated to the cares and tasks of the world, in the ordinary ups and downs of family and of society. Tertiaries are invited by God to contribute to the holiness of the world: they are to have the spirit of the gospel in their work and to be guided by Carmelite spirituality. It is their calling to illuminate and order the world’s activities so that these may be carried out according to Christ’s intention and be a source of praise to the glory of the creator.
- There should be no conflict between temporal well-being and the realisation of God’s kingdom, given that the natural and the spiritual orders both come from God. But there is a danger of misusing temporal goods. Hence the pursuit of the ideal of directing scientific and technological discoveries to the improvement of human life in both material and spiritual terms.Sharing in the Charism of the Order
30.The Carmelite Order is present in the Church in the friars, the enclosed nuns, the active sisters and the lay people who all share, to varying degrees, the charism and spirituality of the Order. Lay people can share in the same call and same mission of Carmel. The Order recognises their vocation, welcomes them and organises them in a way appropriate to them. It communicates to them the richness of the Carmelite spirituality and tradition, and enables them to share in all the spiritual benefits and good works carried out by all members of the Carmelite family. For lay people, the fullest form of belonging is by profession in the Third Order of Carmel. In this way, they share in a way proper to lay people the charism of the Order. Carmel favours the membership of couples, of families and of young people who wish to know and to live Carmelite spirituality including also new ways of doing so. It offers the Third Order as an established and recognized form of membership which is open to receiving new life blood through these initiatives. The Carmelite charism, proven over the centuries in various cultures and traditions, offers a sure way to reach holiness and a high standard of ordinary Christian living.
- Following the path opened by the Second Vatican Council, Carmel has clarified its own charism in a concise way in various recent documents using the following terms:‘to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ, in a contemplative attitude which fashions and supports our life of prayer, fraternity and service. .’ We recognize in the Virgin Mary and the Prophet Elijah inspiring and exemplary models of this faith experience. They are sure guides along a difficult trail which brings us to ‘the peak of the mountain, Christ the Lord.’The Contemplative Dimension of Life
- Lay Carmelites too are called to live in the presence of the living and true God who in Christ has come to live among us. They look for every possibility and occasion to reach divine intimacy. Letting themselves be guided by the action of the Holy Spirit, lay Carmelites are open to a transformation of mind and heart, of their vision and of their actions. Their whole person and whole existence awaken to a recognition of the caring and merciful action of God in the life of each one. Lay Carmelites discover that they are brothers and sisters, called to share a common path towards the fullness of holiness and to bring to all the news that we are children of the one God, brothers and sisters in Jesus. They become enthusiastic about the great works God performs and for which is required their commitment and contribution.
- ‘In Carmel, humanity, taken up as it is with so many concerns, needs to be reminded that absolute priority must be given to the search “for the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Mt 6:33).’So in the family, in the workplace, in the professions, in social or Church responsibilities, in the deeds of everyday life and in relationships with others, lay Carmelites look for hidden signs of God. They recognize these and cultivate the seed of salvation according to the spirit of the Beatitudes. They achieve this through a humble and constant exercise of those virtues of honesty, justice, sincerity, courtesy, and strength of spirit without which there cannot be a truly human and Christian life.Mary and Elijah: Presence, Inspiration and Guide
- Like Mary, first among the humble and the poor of the Lord, lay Carmelites discover that they are called to sing of the wonders that the Lord has performed in their lives.With her, the image and first flowering of the Church, they learn to measure the often tortuous ups and downs of daily life against the Word of God. They learn from her to welcome the Word, to be open to it and to embrace it fully. Mary, in whom the Word was made flesh, inspires lay Carmelites to be faithful to their mission, to actions which are animated by charity and by a spirit of service and to practical co-operation in the work of salvation. Together with Mary, they travel along the paths of history, alert to authentic human needs, ready always to share with the Lord the sacrifice of the Cross and to experience with him the peace of new life. Mary is a singular and eminent member of the Church. In her own way she has shared increasingly in the unique mediation between God and humanity, made real in Jesus Christ, and which today the Church carries and mediates in history. Lay Carmelites let themselves be accompanied by Mary in gradually taking on responsibility for co-operation in salvation and for the communication of grace given in the Church. In Carmel, this was traditionally seen in terms of the motherly love of Mary for Carmel. Carmelites are aware of being loved by such a great and tender mother and cannot but love her in return. Hence comes the idea of losing oneself in God, in the maternal warmth of the Blessed Virgin.
- Lay Carmelites also share the zeal of the prophet Elijah for the Lord and his law. They are ready to defend the rights of those who are downtrodden. They learn from the prophet to leave everything to go into the desert in order to be purified, made ready for their meeting with the Lord and to welcome his word. They feel impelled, like the prophet, to support true religion against false idols. Together with Elijah, lay Carmelites learn to feel the presence of the Lord which comes to humanity with strength and gentleness. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Strengthened by this transforming and life-giving experience, lay Carmelites are able to face the realities of the world, confident that God holds the destiny of each one and the whole of history itself.A Life of Prayer
- Lay Carmelites live a life of intense prayer, focused on a personal dialogue with the Lord, the true friend of humanity. As St. Teresa of Jesus says, ‘Prayer … is nothing more than an intimate and frequent dialogue of friendship with the one whom we know loves us.’Personal and community, liturgical and informal prayer – these all make up the fabric of a personal relationship with the Triune God who inspires the whole being of the lay Carmelite. In prayer, the ‘essence is not in much thinking, but in much loving.’More then than an exercise, it is an attitude which implies the recognition of God’s hand, the openness to accept gratuitous love as gift – a real gift, and not just something acknowledged out of habit. It implies a deeper awareness that God’s action pervades the whole of one’s life, as witnessed to by St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus. ‘Prayer is life, it is not an oasis in the desert of life’, claimed Blessed Titus Brandsma. John Paul II confirms that in Carmel ‘prayer becomes life and life flourishes in prayer.’
- Sacramental life, centred on the Eucharist, is the source of the spiritual life. Lay Carmelites are called to a deep sharing in the sacraments. Every day, if possible, they should approach the sacrifice of the altar and the banquet of life in which the Church finds all her richness, ‘that is, Christ himself, our Pasch and the living bread.’They should regularly receive forgiveness for their sins and the grace to continue the journey. If they are married, they should live their own call to matrimonial holiness energetically and resourcefully.
- The Liturgy of the Hours represents a reminder during the day of the grace that wells up from the Eucharist and nourishes an authentic encounter with God. According to their circumstances, lay Carmelites should celebrate, at least, Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. Place and circumstances will indicate other possible forms of liturgical prayer. Inspired by Mary, lay Carmelites also desire to make present the saving work of Jesus in space and in time through the celebration of the divine mysteries. Mary invites us to celebrate the liturgy with her own outlook and attitude: putting God’s word into practice, meditating on it with love, praising God with enthusiasm and giving thanks with joy. It means serving God and neighbour with a generosity which includes giving one’s life for them, praying to the Lord with confidence and perseverance, and waiting watchfully for the coming of the Lord.
- The scope of spiritual life is not limited to the liturgy. Although all Christians are called to common prayer, they are also asked to go into their rooms and pray to their Father in secret.Indeed, according to Christ’s teaching, reiterated by the Apostle Paul, Christians are to pray unceasingly. Lay Carmelites, according to the constant tradition of Carmel, very diligently cultivate prayer in all its forms. Great importance is to be given to a prayerful listening to God’s word: lectio divina involves and transforms the believer’s entire existence. Other forms which have found a place in the Carmelite tradition are mental prayer, the practice of the presence of God, aspirative prayer, silent prayer, as well as other devotional practices.
- Lay Carmelites hold in great honour the holy Scapular, symbol of Mary’s motherly love who has taken the initiative in holding her Carmelite sisters and brothers in her heart. She inspires them to imitate her eminent virtues: universal charity, love of prayer, humility, purity and modesty.Those who wear the Scapular, are called to be interiorly clothed with Christ and to show in their lives his saving presence for the Church and for humanity. The scapular reminds us of Mary’s protection which is given throughout the course of life, particularly in the moment of passage to the full enjoyment of glory. It also reminds us that Marian devotion, more than a collection of pious practices, is a real habit, that is, a permanent orientation of Christian conduct.’
- Gathered by Mary, like the disciples, in the upper room, lay Carmelites come together to praise the Lord in the mysteries of his life and that of his mother: the devout practice of the Rosary can become an inexhaustible source of genuine spirituality which nourishes daily life.The Family life of Carmel
- Lay Carmelites are sustained by grace and guided by the Spirit who encourages them to live the Christian life concretely by following the tried and tested ways of Carmel. They recognize that they are the sisters and brothers of whoever is called to share in the Carmelite charism. ‘Lay Carmelites can create community in various ways: in their own families, where the domestic church is to be found; in their local parish, where they worship God with their fellow parishioners and take a full part in the community activities; in their lay Carmelite community in which they find support for the spiritual journey; in their workplace and where they live.’
- The communal life of lay Carmelites must shine with simplicity and authenticity. Every group must be a family in which everyone feels at home, welcomed, known, appreciated, encouraged on the path they are following and possibly even corrected with charity and kindness. Lay Carmelites commit themselves to co-operating with other members of the Carmelite family and with the whole Church so that it may realise its calling to be missionary in every circumstance and situation.
- The family life of Carmel is also reflected in dealings with the outside world. Every lay Carmelite is like a spark of love thrown into the forest of life: they must be able to enflame anyone who approaches them. Family life, the workplace, professional and Church areas where lay Carmelites are found will all receive from them some warmth from their contemplative hearts which can see the image of God in others. The lay Carmelite community becomes a centre for life which is authentically human because it is authentically Christian. From the experience of recognizing each other as brothers and sisters comes the need to involve others in that fascinating human and divine undertaking which is the construction of God’s Kingdom.
- In a world which is ever more united by multiple and complex bonds, lay Carmelites can be witnesses to an authentic universality because they know how to give value to the richness and potential of each person. They are conscious of being part of an international family, they support opportunities for meetings that may give rise to sharing between members of the Order.Service
- The purpose of the Church is to spread the kingdom of Christ on earth so that all may share in that salvation brought about by the Cross.‘Like all Carmelites, the lay Carmelite is called to some form of service which is an integral part of the charism given to the Order by God.’ St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus discovered this dimension of her Carmelite identity when, reading the sacred scriptures, she found that she was ‘love in the heart of the Church’. For many Tertiaries this may well be their main contribution to the building of the Kingdom. Since it is the proper calling of lay people to live in the world and in the midst of secular affairs, they are called upon by God to carry out this mission of the Church so that there is a Christian yeast in the temporal activities which they are deeply engaged in. The faithful cannot renounce their participation in ‘public life’, in the many and various social, economic, legislative, administrative and cultural ventures which are meant to promote the common good institutionally.
- Saint Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi reminds us that one cannot quench one’s thirst for contemplating Christ without making progress in satisfying his thirst for souls who are to be redeemed through a union of prayer and apostolate. Lay Carmelites, ready to witness to their faith by their works, receive the strength to draw people to God who may become the praise of God’s glory.In times of loss and change, they can give many people reliable direction. So too the prophet Elijah was caught up in a world in the process of great change and which led many people to abandon the true God. They thought that they were self-sufficient. Elijah was sustained by his certainty that God was stronger than any crisis or any danger. So lay Carmelites live in a world which is ever more uncertain in the face of fundamental questions, and in an era which has presented new problems for faith, morals and society. They strive to create opportunities for proclaiming Christ, offering again that ever new message that he is the Lord of life, and of history, that he is a sure point of reference for all.
- The desert experience which was so determining in the life of the Prophet, becomes an obligatory phase for lay Carmelites who are called to be purified in the desert of life in order to meet the Lord authentically.Lay Carmelites must travel along this road, in the desert of interior mortification. This is so that they may listen to the Lord who speaks to their heart in new and surprising ways of the world, and also in signs which are sometimes hard to interpret, or in the silent and barely perceptible voice of the Spirit. They come back enthused after this encounter and realise that they are to be tireless in giving life to the setting in which they are called to work. Inspired by this encounter, they can proclaim it as the only answer to the ever present temptation to deny God or to be proudly self-sufficient. Sustained by the Spirit, Tertiaries do not let themselves be disappointed by apparent failure, by meagre results, by indifference or by the success of those who live contrary to the gospel.
- Lay Carmelites understand and show in their lives that temporal activities and material work are themselves a sharing in the ever creative and transforming work of the Father.This is a real service offered to humanity and its authentic promotion.Witnesses in a world which neither fully appreciates, nor totally rejects that intimate and living relationship with God in daily life, lay Carmelites know and share with empathy the expectations and deepest aspirations of the world because they are called to be ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’. They proclaim the knowledge of salvation to the people.
- The Third Order of Carmel (TOC), or the Secular Carmelite Order (SCO) is an international public association of laity erected by Apostolic privilege with the purpose of working towards Christian perfection and of dedicating themselves to the apostolate. It does this at the very least by offering prayer and sacrifice for the needs of the Church and by taking its place in the world according to the Carmelite charism. It sets out to do this by living the Gospel in the spirit of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel under the supreme direction of the Order itself.
- The Carmelite Order considers itself enriched by the faithful who, inspired by the Holy Spirit and answering a specific call from God, freely and definitively promise to conduct their lives according to the norms of the Gospel in the spirit of Carmel. The Third Order of Carmel, like other lay Carmelite groups, has its own influence on the structure and on the spirit of the whole family of Carmel. The Order undertakes to help lay Carmelites to reach the objective they have set themselves: to heal and to develop human society with the leaven of the Gospel.
- The Third Order of Carmel, or Carmelite Secular Order, together with other communities who are inspired by the Carmelite Rule, by its traditions and by values expressed in Carmelite spirituality, are a constituent part of the Carmelite Family in the Church.
- As spiritual father, head and bond of unity of the whole Carmelite Family, it is the task of the Prior General of the Order of Carmel to ensure in an effective way the spiritual good of the Third Order, to promote its growth and vitality by means of a General Delegate for Lay Carmelites.Family Life in Carmel
- The Third Order of Carmel is divided into communities, called by various names viz. groups, associations, chapters etc. These are run by lay people according to the norms of this present Rule and the statutes of each community, under the supreme direction of the superiors of the Order or their delegates.
- According to an old tradition, some members of the Third Order are called to live in communities which are governed by particular statutes.
- Communities are erected canonically by the Prior General of the Order, with the consent of his Council, with the previous written consent of the Prior Provincial and that of the Diocesan Bishop. However, the consent given by the Diocesan Bishop for the erection of a house of the Order is valid also for the erection of a Third Order community attached to the same house or church.Spiritual Care
- In order to encourage an ever growing involvement of lay Carmelites in the Order and in the Church, the General Council,and particularly the Priors Provincial, in person or through a delegate, are to take spiritual care of the Third Order, according to each province’s statutes.They are to help particularly the individual communities of the Third Order within the framework of their jurisdiction so that these may be permeated with the genuine spirit of Carmel. They are to ensure that in their activities the members of the Third Order remain faithful to the Order’s principles and directives. They are also to take care that individual communities help in the activities of existing apostolates in the dioceses where they operate, working under the direction of the Ordinary of the place, and with other associations of the faithful in the diocese which have the same aims.
- The local Chaplains are normally priests of the Order. When this is not possible, the service of Chaplain may be entrusted to a brother or a sister from a community of the Order, or to other priests, preferably members of the Third Order who are able to carry out this task in a Carmelite spirit. The Chaplains are appointed for a limited period of five years, renewable,by the Prior General or Prior Provincial after having consulted the principal officers of each community. If a non Carmelite priest is involved, then the approval of his Ordinary is necessary.Government
- The supreme governing body is the General Assembly of the association or community made up of all its members. The relevant statutes will lay down the competence and procedures of the Assembly.
- Every community or group is directed by a Council. This Council is made up of the Chaplain, a moderator (or leader) and two or more councillors (but not more than four) according to the number of members of the community and according to the provisions of the local statutes. The Formator is also part of the Council.
- It is the Council’s and, especially the Moderator’s task, with the help of the Chaplain, to do everything possible to promote the community’s interests. This is so that the members of the community can respond in the best possible way to their calling to be lay people engaged in the construction of Christ’s kingdom, in themselves and in the world, according to the spirit and charism of Carmel to which they have been called by the Spirit, who distributes gifts as he wills.This task is to be carried out in a spirit of evangelical service, avoiding all forms of autocratic power.The Establishment of the Officials
- The members of the Council, except the Chaplain, are elected by the General Assembly of the community for a three year period. The Moderator must be confirmed by the Prior General or the Prior Provincial.
- The elections of members of the Council are presided over by the Chaplain and they are to be conducted in accordance with the statutes, respecting the norms of the common law of the Church.
- The Council, for its part, appoints the Secretary, the Treasurer and other office holders according to the needs and the size of the community. The local statutes will determine the functions of the various major office holders, as well as their tasks and responsibilities. If the statutes so provide, the Secretary and the Treasurer are members of the Council.
- In special circumstances, if grave reasons so require, the ecclesiastical authority, that is, the Prior General or Prior Provincial, can nominate a Commissary who in his name is to direct the community for a time.
- Moderators may be removed for a just cause by whomever confirmed them in office, after, however, having heard the Moderator in question and the officials of the community, according to the statutes. The Chaplain may also be removed for a grave reason, according to canons 192 to 195 by the one who appointed him, observing the same conditions.Administration of Goods
- Both the Carmelite Third Order as such, and the individual communities of Tertiaries which are canonically constituted, acquire through the decree of erection a juridical personality according to canon law. They also receive, as required, their mission for the purposes that they have set themselves in the name of the Church.
- The Third Order of Carmel as such and its individual communities in as much as they are public juridical persons are subjects that are capable of acquiring, retaining, administering and alienating temporal goods according to the norms of canon law.All their goods are ecclesiastical goods, and their use is governed by the common law of the Church, as well as statutes which in harmony with the law, determine the way goods are administered.
- The statutes of individual communities set out who is to administer its goods. This person can carry out all acts of ordinary administration. For the execution of acts of extraordinary administration there must be:
a) the authorisation of the Prior General with the consent of his Council as well as
b) the permission of the Holy See for those acts whose value is more than the sum fixed by the Holy See or if goods are of artistic or historical value, or have been donatedex voto.
- The patrimony of the Third Order and its individual communities is made up of all the fixed and liquid assets however acquired. In particular, it includes the contributions to individual members and from benefactors, as well as income from activities, gifts, legacies and bequests by any right.Extinction and Suppression
- Individual communities may be suppressed for a grave reason by the Prior General with the consent of his council, having first consulted the Prior Provincial and the principal officers of the community in question. Local statutes are to set out the procedure for extinction, otherwise the norms of common law prevail.It is always necessary to consult the competent authorities of the Order before embarking on such a procedure.
- In the case of suppression or disappearance of a Third Order community, the goods and rights of patrimony, and in the same measure, the obligations of the suppressed or former community, pass to the next highest juridical person, or if there is not such, to the Prior Provincial of the Order in whose jurisdiction the community was located. If the community was outside any province of the Order, the patrimonial goods and rights pass to the Order itself.The Law Proper to the Third Order and
- The communities of Tertiaries are governed by this Rule, as approved by the Holy See. Nevertheless, it is advisable that at national, provincial and local level, there be specific statutes which contain provisions proper to the place to which they refer. These statutes must be approved by the competent authority of the Order,that is, the Prior General or the Prior Provincial with the consent of their respective councils, as set out in the statutes.
- Mutual co-operation and unity between the various communities will be fostered by setting up councils at various levels: national, regional and international. These councils must be governed by their own statutes and approved by the competent authority in the Order.
- The competent authority for authentic interpretation of this Rule is the Holy See. The Prior General of the Order, with the consent of his Council, can give a practical interpretation on occasion when necessary.II. Membership and Formation
- Those who meet the following conditions may be members of the Third Order: those who profess the Catholic faith, live in communion with the Church, have good moral conduct,accept this Rule and who desire to live and act in the spirit of Carmel. Diocesan clerics may be members of the Third Order for all effects and purposes and can take a full part in all its activities, although without lay characteristics insofar as this would be incompatible with their clerical state.
- Those who seek admission to the Third Order are assigned to a community by its Chaplain, or by the Prior Provincial on whom it depends, or by the Prior General or his delegate, with the consent of the relative councils and having regard for article 82 of this Rule.
- Those who live far from any community and can not take part in its life for specific reasons, they can be admitted to the Third Order without being enrolled in a particular community. They are to live according to the Third Order Rule under the direction of superiors, or their own confessor, with due respect for the norms regarding admission and profession. Nonetheless, frequent contact is recommended with the Chaplain of the nearest community. Special statutes are to provide for the initial and ongoing formation of these candidates.
- Candidates for the Carmelite Third Order must be practising Catholics, be at least 18 years old, unless the local statutes provide otherwise, and they must present a letter of recommendation from their parish priest or another priest who knows them. There is no reason why they should not belong to another third order or to other associations,unless the local statutes provide otherwise.Formation
- After an adequate period of discernment, as set out in the statutes, candidates are admitted to a period of spiritual formation in accordance with these statutes.
- This period of initial formation is to last at least a year, during which time the candidates are to study and to live the Rule of the Third Order. They are to get to know Carmelite spirituality and history, as well as the major figures of the Order. All this is to be done under the guidance of the one in charge of formation. With the whole council, the formator bears the responsibility for assuring sufficient instruction, if necessary having recourse to other qualified people and the most appropriate means.
- At the end of the period of preparation, the Council may admit those who feel especially moved by the Spirit to bind themselves more closely to God through vows or promises. In the spirit of their baptism the bonds will call them to a fuller practice of the Gospel, following the provisions of the Rule. For admission to vows or promises the procedure in n. 77 is to be followed.Profession
- 83. Profession is to be made following the proper ritual of the Third Order.
a) First profession is made for a period of three years during which time the brothers or sisters will live fully the life of the community, continuing the formation process, and deepening various aspects of Carmelite life.
b) At the end of three years, having discerned and obtained the approval of the local council, the candidate can make final or perpetual profession.
c) It is recommended that every year, on the occasion of the Solemn Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, that members of the Third Order renew their profession either communally or individually.
- The visible sign of joining the Third Order can be through the giving of the traditional habit or the scapular. Local statutes will determine the procedure.
- Every community must have a register of members where names, dates of profession and other information deemed useful are to be noted.
- Members of Third Order communities who are destined for Holy Orders may, where the statutes so provide, be incardinated through ordination to the diaconate in the Carmelite Order after their definitive incorporation in the Third Order.From that moment, they depend on the Prior General as their Ordinary, apart from the obligations that come from their membership of the Third Order community. In this case, relations between the clerical Tertiary and the Carmelite order must be fixed by the local statutes of the group and agreed by the Prior General in a special accord.
- Each community is to set up a programme of ongoing formation.Apostolate
- Members of the Carmelite Third Order are called to the apostolate in various forms: from prayer to a commitment to shared responsibility in various ecclesial activities, including the offering of one’s suffering in union with Christ.
- The local statutes set out the forms of apostolic activities. In practice these can be whatever modern life requires. Through action together lay Carmelites increase the perfection of their lives. Some might be engaged in the promotion of the Christian message, others in carrying out apostolic works of evangelisation, of mercy and of charity, always with the aim of animating the temporal order with the Christian spirit.Any sort of work or professional activity exercised by the individual or by the community can be a way of answering the call to the apostolate.Rights and Obligations
- All members of the Carmelite Third Order have the same rights and the same obligations as set out in the provincial or local statutes.
- Third Order Carmelites should meet periodically, according to the frequency and way laid down by the statutes so that they may form community in the midst of which Christ dwells. They are to encourage one another in assimilating the charism of the Order to which they belong so that they become living members of the Church. They should share in the goals, the initiatives and the activities of the whole Carmelite family, so that, in turn, it can fully carry out its mission entrusted to it by the Lord in the Body of Christ.
- Communities must set out in their local statutes how they are to help spiritually brothers and sisters who are advanced in years or who are sick.
- They should be readily inspired in this by the spirituality and teachings of the great saints that God has raised up in Carmel.
- Every member is free to leave the Third Order by asking the council in writing and the council is authorised to accede to this request. Members may also be dismissed for a just cause, that is, for reasons set out in common law or for the repeated and unjustified failure to meet obligations. The decision belongs to the council according to the statutes, after having heard and warned the party concerned. They always have the right to appeal to the competent ecclesiastical authority, that is, the Prior General or Prior Provincial.Epilogue
The members of the Third Order of Carmel commit themselves to incarnate the Carmelite vocation set out in this Rule. Let them undertake this one brief voyage of earthly life as a colony of citizens whose homeland is heaven. Let them strive, with the help of the saints, to understand all the dimensions of the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge, hurrying with a fervent and true desire to reach that place that the Lord as he was leaving this earth, promised to prepare for us. Rooted and grounded in charity, always alert and holding lanterns alight they are aware that ‘in the evening of life they will be examined on love.’Let them multiply their talents so that at the hour of their death they will deserve to hear the Lord’s invitation to enter into his joy.