THE THIRD ORDER OF CARMEL
Rule for the Third Order of Carmel is printed in English, Spanish,
Italian, Portuguese and French. For orders and further information please
contact: Edizioni Carmelitane.
Pro Institutis Vitae Consecratae
et Societatibus Vitae Apostolicae
Prot. n. C. 52-1/2003
The Prior General of the Carmelite Order, having obtained the consent of his Council, presented the Apostolic See the text of the Rule of the Third Order of Carmelites, or the Secular Order of Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, asking for its approval.
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has carefully examined the above mentioned text and by this present decree approves and confirms it, following the Italian version which will be kept in its archive and be observed as far as the law dictates.
May the members of the Secular Carmelite Order, together with Mary, Queen of Carmel, walk the paths of history, attentive to the authentic needs of humanity, and ever ready to share with the Lord His sacrifice of the Cross and to experience with Him the peace of new life!
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary.
Vatican, 11th April 2003.
Eduardo Card. Martínez Somalo (Prefect)
X Piergiorgio Silvano Nesti, CP (Secretary)
5. The Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel has its origins at the end of the 12th century 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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 19th and 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
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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
17. 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.
50. 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.
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Last revised: 20 November 2003