Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Allegiance to Jesus Christ through Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Photo: R. Massaro-Carmelite Monastery Lourdes, France

Many people wonder about the life of a Secular Carmelite and the obligations of this vocation. This new feature, "The School of Carmel," will provide commentary on the vocation of the Secular Carmelite.  Let's begin with a description of a Secular Carmelite from our Constitutions:

Secular Carmelites are faithful members of the Catholic Church who are called by the Holy Spirit to "live in allegiance to Jesus Christ." They seek evangelical perfection and union with God in the Order of the Teresian Carmel for his greater Glory and the good of his Church. In response to that call, members willingly submit to the "gentle yoke" (Mt, 12:30) of obligations and commitments contained in the Rule of St. Albert, our Constitutions and our Provincial Statutes.
From the Constitutions of the OCDS

*Faithful members of the Catholic Church
  The person seeking to become a Secular Carmelite must be in 
  good standing with the Catholic Church.

  Must be at least 18 years of age.

  Provide documentation of Catholic sacramental history.

  Living the Catholic faith for a minimum of 18 months after 
  Baptism before being eligible to enter Aspirancy.

  A person with marriage issues (divorced and remarried without a
  declaration of nullity, etc.) that have not been resolved by 
  a Catholic Tribunal may not proceed in formation. 

  A person who has made promises in another secular order, who
  has not been released from their promises, may not proceed in


The Daily Obligations of a Secular Carmelite:
1/2 hour of mental prayer each day
Attend Mass daily if possible
Pray Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours
Daily devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Observe the Carmelite days of fast
Regular recourse to the Sacrament of Confession
Spiritual Reading
Wear the Brown Scapular


The period of formation is approximately five years for one to make final promises.  The discernment process is a combined effort between the candidate and the council.  Even if the candidate wishes to become a Carmelite, the council may vote otherwise if they discern that Carmel may not be the right spiritual path for that person.

Candidates in Carmel must be interviewed by the council during each stage of their formation. The candidate will be questioned about his or her effort to fulfill the obligations. They will be asked about their faithfulness to prayer. They will also be asked to reveal any struggles or challenges they are facing. Also, the candidates are asked if they have the support of their family members. It is very important that family members support the vocation, because it is not the intention of the Order to cause strife or discord in the household because of the obligations. 

The candidate will be observed to see how they respond in obedience to the president and the council. The council represents the provincial delegate in the province. If a member is disobedient or disrespectful of the local authority, then, in essence, that person is being disobedient to the provincial delegate. 

Disobedience in just one member of a community can create a host of problems. Therefore, candidates should be carefully scrutinized that they understand what they are going to profess in regards to the promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Just as in Catholic marriage, if a person makes a vow and doesn't understand what he is promising, it can make the marriage invalid, so, too, a person professing poverty, chastity and obedience when he doesn't understand what he is doing, may make that promise invalid. The council, and in particular, the formation director, have the serious responsibility of seeing that candidates are formed and understand the serious nature of the promises.

The Secular Carmelite vocation is an awesome gift of God in which a person is called to respond to the invitation of intimate friendship with God through quiet prayer on behalf of the Church.  Is God calling you to a deeper prayer life? Is God calling you to Carmel?

Peace be with you!
Rosemarie of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, ocds

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