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Mary, model for Lay Carmelites

Fr. Joseph Hung Tran, O.Carm.

Lay Carmelites have a lot of common characteristics with the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is a lay person, a daughter, a sister and a mother in the family like many other women in the world, therefore Lay Carmelites can learn much from her.

The devotion to Blessed Mary has been long marked by the early lay hermits. They dedicated their first Church to the Blessed Virgin and received her as Mother and Sister of Carmel.  In Carmelite spirituality her presence and role are very obvious  throughout the history. “For this reason it is said that Carmel belongs totally to Mary, which means that Carmel is eminently Marian.”[1] Indeed, she is our Patroness, Mother and Sister. In her, all Carmelites take inspiration and motivation. For the members of the Carmelite Family, Mary, the Virgin Mother of God and Mother of all people, is not only a model to imitate, but is also present as Mother and Sister in whom one can confide. Rightly, St. Teresa of Jesus wrote, “Imitate Mary and consider how great she must be and what a good thing it is that we have her for our Patroness” (Interior Castle, III, 1, 3).

Lay Carmelites can learn from Mary how to pray and how to ponder God’s words in their life. The Bible tells us that Mary, through contemplation and attentive listening, knew how to keep and ponder in her heart the words of God.[2] Mary prayed constantly in her life and she lived according to the will of God. At every moment she carried out God’s will even though she faced being stoned to death.[3]  Mary always sought to live in union with her Son. From the Annunciation to the foot of the Cross she allowed God to guide her into the plan that God had made for her.[4]

Lay Carmelites can learn from Mary, the woman of faith. She allowed herself to be formed and molded by His Spirit so that in faith she might be conformed to His ways and choices.[5]  From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary always assented with the same obedience of faith to all revelations, to all the designs of God. Every moment of her life was an invitation to act on her faith, and as a fruit of her obedience.[6] At the Annunciation she was troubled but then accepted the will of God and believed that “God will do great things for her”[7] At the event of the Visitation, Elizabeth praised Mary for her faith: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). At the marriage feast in Cana, Mary taught us how to be attentive to the needy and how to trust in her Son.[8] And at the foot of the Cross, as Mary witnessed the death of her Son, her faith was put to the hardest test, she was painfully silent but her presence manifests her fidelity, her constant abandonment to the designs of the Lord’s will, and a faith that is undiminished, unchanged and unaltered even in the darkest hours.[9]

Living the Marian charism of the Carmelites, lay Carmelites can learn from Mary how to be a disciple of God. She followed Jesus, listened to his Word, trusted in his plan. [10] She accompanied Him with the disciples; she shared their demanding and wearisome journey - a journey which required, above all, fraternal love and mutual service.[11]

Lay Carmelites can learn from Mary how to bring forth Christ for all the people especially to the members in the family. They can be a channel to build good relationships with all the members in their family, with their co-workers or with their neighbours. Lay Carmelites can learn how to pay attention, care for the needy and serve others. The Gospel tells us that Mary in haste went to the hill country of Judaea in order to visit and help her cousin Elizabeth during her pregnancy although she was in danger of being stoned to death when Joseph silently left her. By the Visitation, she also brought Christ to Elizabeth.[12]At the wedding of Cana, knowing the trouble of the couple running out of wine, she begged her Son to help them. Mary accompanied the disciples in the upper room “in continuous prayer” (Acts 1,14) with other women at the foot of the Cross and continues to be with all of us.

Lay Carmelites learn from Mary how to overcome and stand still through many trials and suffering in her life in order to keep her vocation. Her suffering when Joseph silently left her, the trial of traveling a long journey with Joseph to Bethlehem, the pain when her Son was born in the cave, the hopelessness when she lost her Son in Jerusalem and the agony when she witnessed the death of her Son were all  like a sword piercing her heart. Through all those trials and suffering, she stood still and trusted in the plan of God. Mary teaches us that through our love for others, rooted in our love for God, and faith in the resurrection and power of God's grace, we have the strength and courage to persevere through any suffering the world presents.

 *extract from the Tesina: How Lay Carmelites live Carmelite Charism in their daily lives.


[1] Emauele Boaga, O.Carm., The Lady of the Place, May in the History and in the Life of Carmel (Rome, Italy, Edizioni Carmelitane, 2001), 13.

[2] Luke 2, 19

[3] Cf. Joseph Chalmers, Mary the Contemplative (Rome, Italy, Edizioni Carmelitane, 2001), 19.

[4] Cf. Constitutions #31.

[5] Luke 2:44-50.

[6] Cf. Mother Adela, SCTJM, In the End My Immaculate Heart Will Triumph, http://www.piercedhearts.org/ accessed on May 14, 2013

[7] Luke 1, 35

[8] John 2:5.

[9] Cf. Adela,

[10] MC 17, 35; RMa 12, 19.

[11] John 13:13-17; 15:12-17.

[12] Luke 1, 41

shieldOCarm

As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."