The Lay Carmelite Rule
1. The Lay Carmelite Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (Third Order), is a lay association whose members, replying to the special call of God, freely and deliberately promise to live the evangelical life in the spirit of the Carmelite Order and under its direction. The following rule of life is offered them.
2. The diocesan clergy may belong to the Third Order, but the secular character of the spirituality peculiar to the laity is not applied to them. Because of the priestly character and their distinctive mission in the Church, the clergy are called to maintain an attitude of spiritual detachment from the world although not estranging them-selves from it. (1)
3. The clergy will find the Carmelite charism a powerful help, not only as a means of strengthening their spiritual life, but also in attaining that detachment more easily and in carrying out more effectively their mission in the world and the Church.
PART I: SPIRITUALITY
God the Absolute
4. "It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature." (1 bis) By means of the sacrament of baptism men are introduced into the divine life, becoming, in the Holy Spirit, adopted children of the Father and brothers of Christ. (2) Since they share the life of the Son and have him as their divine model, they are called to the same holiness of God: (3) "before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence." (4)
5. The love of God, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, (5) is the fire that Christ came to bring to the earth and wishes to be blazing. (6) To enter into and remain in that love given by the Father is the aim of the Christian pilgrimage as told in the Gospel, that authentic rule of Christian life. The law of the Gospel is that we love God, with all our strength, (7) and our neighbor as Christ loved us. (8)
6. In this context an authentic Christian life implies a mysticism based on the scriptural understanding of that life, especially as understood by Saint Paul. (9) At its most profound level this life consists in a personal love of God,:
Christ is its first and absolutely fundamental mainstay and, in him, the Father in the Holy Spirit. This commitment is the arrival and departure point for the life of the Christian who wishes to conform to Christ, especially in our days that are not always open to the values of the spirit and of the Gospel. On the other hand, not understanding the Christian life as an ever more intimate union with the Lord would be to lose its true meaning.
7. By baptism we become part of the huge assembly of brethren that is the Church; that is, we are united to the Mystical Body of Christ as real members. (10) All are called to form one fraternal community; (11) this is possible if, although by nature weak and limited because of their wretchedness, they allow themselves to be guided by divine grace and they do not reject God and their brethren through sinfulness.
8. This universal calling becomes a reality in the baptized who are united through faith and the Eucharist. (12) The basic mystery of the Church is the fact that it is essentially a community of brethren who, in a relationship of mutual love, discover that they are members of the one family. (13) This unity, formed and animated by Christ and his Holy Spirit, (14) demands a continual and loving active cooperation, love being the fundamental law Christ has given to the members of his Mystical Body.
9. Human weakness hinders the practice of fraternal love, but that renunciation and interior detachment required by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount help Christians to reach the goal of total availability, (15) and to overcome the three major obstacles identified by Saint John as the sensual body, the lustful eye and pride in possessions. (16)
Mission of the Laity
10. Baptism finally makes us sharers in the mission of Christ, continued by the Church, which is to proclaim the Good News to all and to lead them to the Father; (17) so that they can do this, it is recognized that "the laity have their proper and indispensable role in the mission of the Church." (18) By virtue of the common priesthood and the charisms they have received, they are called to build up the ecclesial community, (19) by taking part in the liturgical life of the community, "fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite and enriched by it." (20) if they so engage themselves the liturgical celebration will be extended into the life of the People of God, which is a community of faith, hope and love.
11. Because of their particular situation in the world, in that they are "in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations," they are called "that they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within, like leaven." (21)
12. Their vocation, arising from this secular character, is to deal with worldly matters and to order them according to God's law. They live their life in all these secular professions and occupations and in the ordinary conditions of the family and society. They are called by God to make their own contribution to the sanctification of the world, engaging themselves in their work, always according to the spirit of the Gospel. It is their duty to illumine and order worldly activities so that they may be carried out according to Christ's wish, becoming thereby praise to the Creator. (22)
13. There cannot be conflict between temporal well-being and the realization of God's Kingdom, since both the material and spiritual orders derive from God; but the danger of conflict can arise from the bad use we make of our knowledge of the temporal sphere. The Christian should use the findings of science to bring about a spiritual and material betterment of human life. (23)
The Lay Carmelite Order
14. In the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church, (24) the one and the same Spirit has time and again raised varieties of gifts and charisms, such as the many religious families. They are able to give their members greater stability in their way of living the life of charity, a proven method of acquiring perfection, and brotherly communion in the army of Christ. (25)
15. Some lay-people, because of a special call, share the charism of religious families. This charism is the common heritage of the People of God, and it becomes for them a source of strength and a school of life. The Church approves these charisms and gives encouragement by inviting the laity to try faithfully to adopt the special characteristics of the spiritual life proper to these families. (26)
16. In this way they can be helped in their tasks, that is, to illumine and give to temporal things their true value, in such a way that they may be done according to Christ's mind and give praise to the Creator and Redeemer (27) in a secularized world that lives and acts as though God were absent. (28)
17. The fundamental bond of Tertiaries with their Order is Profession by which they may, according to ancient custom, make vows of chastity and obedience according to the duties of their state in life. By pronouncing these vows they consecrate themselves more profoundly to God and offers him greater worship.
18. What the Tertiary expresses by one's Profession is none other than an intensified renewal of one's baptismal promise to love God above all else and to renounce Satan with all his works and pomps; the difference in this act of love lies in the means the Tertiary uses to reach this goal. The fundamental Christian law that pledges a person to love God and all others with all one's strength, demands of everyone the constant affirmation of the primacy of God, (29) the rejection of any possibility of serving two masters (30) and the love of others above and beyond all selfishness (31).
9. The chastity and obedience of the Tertiary, which also recall the deep sense of poverty, have meaning in the areas of economic well-being, of sexuality, and the imperative not to serve false gods: (32) Christian holiness is love of God and others without any consideration of self. By virtue of the vow of obedience Tertiaries must obey the superiors of the Order and the Group's Spiritual Assistant in all that they are asked to do, according to the Rule, for their own spiritual life. They are bound to observe the vow of chastity according to the duties of their state in life.
The Charism of Carmel
20. The Order of Carmel, present in the ecclesial body with its Religious, the Nuns of contemplative life, and the Sisters of active life, offers to the laity the riches of its own spirituality and tradition, so making them children of the one family and sharers in the same call to holiness and in the same mission. (33) They share, likewise, in the spiritual benefits of the Order, and in all the good works performed by its members throughout the world.
21. The entire Carmelite family, in its task of living out its consecration to Christ, (34) seeks to live in the presence of the living and true God who, in the person of Christ, lives in our midst; (35) it is a family that seeks divine intimacy.
22. In reaching for this goal by following its own charism, it is inspired by the figures of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Prophet Elijah. They lived, with the pro-found faith that God is with us, and showed how life be-comes fully human only in the measure that we allow God to be "The God" of our existence. (36)
23. The image and the first flowering of the Church, Mary stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord. (37) She is the constant source of our inspiration because of her full adherence to the Word that took flesh and life in her; because of her fidelity to her mission; because charity and a spirit of service were the driving force of her actions, and because of her active collaboration in the work of salvation. (38)
24. Elijah, who lived among a people who did not want to give proper place to the God of their fathers, faces the desert and Horeb, that is, the reality of his life with its hard and decisive trials: he promotes true religion against false gods; he rediscovers the presence of God who takes charge of mankind with strength and sweetness, and is always the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow; finally, he returns to face the reality of the world, secure that God will take care of him. (39)
Life of Prayer
25. Lay Carmelites, imbued with the spirit of the Order, try to live its charism in a silent listening to the Word, making their whole life a prayer by allowing themselves to be caught up by the Spirit for the wonderful works that God accomplishes and which require their commitment and worthwhile contribution.
a) The Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are the life of Christ spread among believers, enabling them to be united to him. (40) To take part in the Sacrifice of the Altar, (41) daily if possible, provides that necessary lifeline with Christ.
b) The Liturgy of the Hours, (42) at least morning Lauds, Vespers and Compline, are the ecclesial expression of their meetings with God. Different places and circumstances may point to the necessity of other forms of liturgical prayer.
26. The spiritual life is not devoted to the liturgy only. Although called to prayer in common, the Christian is still bound to enter into his or her room and pray to the Father in secret; (43) indeed, according to the teaching of Christ, (44) supported by the Apostle, (45) the Christian is bound to pray unceasingly. (46)
27. The Lay Carmelites, according to the constant tradition of Carmel, are to cultivate in the greatest degree possible prayer in all its forms: mental prayer and aspirational prayer, as well as the traditional practices. (47) Above all they should learn from the Virgin how to praise the Lord and to rejoice in God their Savior (48) in their ordinary daily life.
28. While Mary lived on this earth a life common to all men, filled with family cares and work, she was always intimately united with her Son, and cooperated in the work of the Savior in a manner altogether special. (49) They will address themselves to her with a special honor, practicing with love the pious exercises recommended by the Church down through the ages, especially the celebration of the Rosary. (50)
29. In the family, in work or professional surroundings, in their social responsibilities, in everyday actions, in their relations with others, Lay Carmelites look for the hidden hand of God. They recognize this hand of God and they help the seed of salvation bloom according to the spirit of the Beatitudes by a humble and continual exercise of the virtues of honesty, justice, sincerity, kindness and courage, without which there can be no true human and Christian life. (51)
Christian Animation of the World
30. The purpose of the Church is to spread the Kingdom of Christ on earth so that all might share in Christ's saving redemption. (52) Since it is the task of the laity to live in the world and in the midst of secular affairs, they are called by God to carry out the Church's mission and to be Christian leaven in the temporal activities in which they are engaged. (53)
31. The witness of the Christian life and good works done in a supernatural spirit have the power to attract others to the faith and to God. But the real apostle looks for opportunities for proclaiming Christ, especially in this age that proposes new problems of faith, in the moral and social order. (54)
32. The Lay Carmelites find in the person of Elijah a valid inspiration for this witness. Elijah found himself in a world in the course of transformation, and that brought the people to a gradual denial of God by persuading them that they were self-sufficient; he was sustained by the certainty that God is stronger than any crisis and any danger. Through his desert experience where survival was only assured by divine intervention, he returned to find God on the mountain, the place of the first Covenant, and he accepted God's invasion into this life by means of the new and intimate manifestation of the light breeze. (55) He was thus sent back to his prophetic and community task, in his daily life confident of himself be-cause confident of God.
33. Lay Carmelites accept the indispensable life of interior mortification so that they can more easily listen to the Lord who speaks to them, even in the new and confusing happenings of today. They give enthusiastic and tireless encouragement in the places where they work, and they always give generous help to the hierarchy and to the various organizations, taking an active part in the life of the community of believers.
34. They will see and be able to show how temporal activity and material occupations are a share in the creative and transforming work of the Father, (56) and that it is a true service to others, which helps bring about human progress. (57)
35. Lay Carmelites are witnesses in a world that does not perceive and often rejects altogether, the intimate and vital link it has with God (58) as it goes about its daily tasks. They understand and share sympathetically the hopes and profound ambitions of the world, because they are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (59) and to share with people the knowledge of salvation. (60)
PART II: GENERAL STATUTES
36. The secular branch of the Carmelite Order and the other groups that look for inspiration to the Carmelite Rule form spiritually in the Church part of the Carmelite family. (61)
37. The Lay Carmelite Order is divided into Groups or communities guided by the Superiors of the First Order or by their delegates.
38. The Groups are set up by the Prior General of the Order, having obtained previous written consent of the Ordinary of the place.
39. The Prior General of the Order is the spiritual father, head and bond of unity of the entire Carmelite family. It is his duty to look after the spiritual good of the Third Order, and to sustain and further its growth (62) through his Delegate General.
40. Within the limits of their respective competency, the Priors Provincial, the national, provincial or local delegates, through whom the Carmelite Order serves its people, have spiritual care of the Third Order.
41. The local Delegates (Chaplains) may be Carmelite priests or others, appointed by the Prior General or the Prior Provincial.
42. Each Group or community is directed by a Council made up of the Spiritual Assistant (Delegate or Chap-lain), the President (Prior or Director), and by two or more Councilors but not more than four, according to the number in the Group and the local Statutes. The Master of Formation (Novice Master), is also a member of the Council.
43. The Community Council, elected according to the norms of the local Statutes, is to appoint a Secretary, a Treasurer, and other necessary officers to help the Community. The same Statutes should determine the functions of the various officials, their duties and their authority. If the Statutes so provide, the Secretary and Treasurer form part of the Council.
44. It is the particular duty of the Council, but more especially of the President (Director) with the help of the Local Chaplain, to do everything possible to further the interests of the Group so that its members can better correspond to their vocation as lay people committed to the building up of the Kingdom of Christ in themselves and the world. They carry out their vocation according to the spirit and charism of Carmel, to which they are called by the Holy Spirit who gives his gifts according as he wills (63).
45. Councils at international, national and regional levels are helpful for the mutual collaboration and unity between the various Groups.
46. Lay people are admitted to the Third Order and enrolled in a Group or Community by its Chaplain, or by the Prior Provincial within whose jurisdiction it comes, or by the Prior General, or their delegates.
47. People who live at a distance from a Group and cannot take part in the external signs of its life, for special reasons may be admitted to the Order although not enrolled in a Group. Keeping the norms concerning admission and profession, they should live according to the Rule and under the direction of the Superiors or of their own confessor.
48. Candidates should be practicing Catholics, and they should not belong to another Third Order or Secular Institute, unless they have received a dispensation, and they should be at least seventeen years old.
49. After a suitable trial period candidates commence a period of spiritual formation (novitiate), according to the norms established in the local Statutes.
50. During the preparation period, lasting at least one year, the candidates should study and live the Third Order Rule under the direction of the Master of Formation (Novice Master). The Master, together with the Council, should ensure that the candidates receive sufficient instruction by using the most suitable means and persons.
51. At the conclusion of the period of preparation, the Council may invite those who feel themselves especially moved by the Spirit to bind themselves more closely to God.
According to the spirit of Baptism these bonds will help them practice the Gospel more fully according to the directives of the Rule.
52. The Spiritual Assistants (Chaplains) should help the candidates to decide the most suitable time and the means for contracting these vows.
53. A frequent renewal of the commitment should be encouraged since, by means of this, the vocation and the generosity of the response is strengthened.
54. The sign of enrollment in the Third Order is by means of the traditional Habit, the Scapular, or another suitable sign. The local Statutes should determine this. The name of the new member is inscribed in the Register of the Group.
55. Formation does not end with the period of preparation but, although different means be used, is an ongoing process.
56. Lay Carmelites should meet for this formation according to established times and means, so that they can form a living community in which Christ dwells. They should try to assimilate the charism of the Order so that they might become living members of the Church. They should try to share in the hopes, the initiatives and the activities of the entire Carmelite family, that it might exercise to the fullest in the Body of Christ the mission that the Lord constantly entrusts to it.
57. That they might learn this, the Lay Carmelites should be encouraged and inspired by the spirituality and teachings of the great saints God has raised up in Carmel.
The following abbreviations refer to the Document of Vatican II:
P0: "Priests" LG: "The Church" GS: "The Church Today" LG: "Revelation" AA: "Laity" (1) P0 3. (2) LG 2.4. (3) Cf. Mt. 5, 48. (4) Eph. 1, 4. (5) Rom. 5, 5 (6) CL Lc. 12, 49. (7) CL Mt. 22, 37. (8) Cf. Jn. 13, 34. (9) CL Rom. 16, 25; Eph. 3; Col. 1, 25-27; 3, 1-4; (10) Cf. LG 11 (11) CL Eph. 1, 9-10; GS 24. (12) DV 10; LG 26. (13) CL LG 6; GS 40. (14) CL Gal. 3, 27-28. (15) CL Mt. 5-7. (16) CL l Jn. 2, 16. (17) CL LG 39; AA 3. (18) AA 1. (19) AA 2 & 3. (20) SC 11.(21) LG 31. (22) LG 31.36. (23) AA 7; Gs 36. (24) CL Col. 1, 18. (25) CL LG 43. (26) AA 4. (27) LG 31. (28) Const. O. Carm. 13. (29) Mt. 22, 37 (30) Mt. 6, 24. (31) Mt. 22, 39. (32) CL Exod. 20, 3. (33) Const. O. Carm. 16 & 88. (34) Carm. Rule, Prologue; 2 Cor. 10, 5. (35) Const. O. Carm. 13; Jn. 1, 14. (36) Const. O. Carm. 14. (37) LG 55. (38) CL Marialis Cultus, 35. (39)1 Kg. 17-19. (40) CL LG 7. (41) CL Carm. Rule, 10. (42) CL Carm. Rule, 8. (43) Mt. 6, 6. (44) Lk. 18, 1. (45) Thes. 5, 17. (46) CL SC 12; Const O. Carm. 73. (47) CL Const. O. Carm. 53-54. (48) CL Lk. 1, 46-47. (49) CL AA 4. (50) CL Const. O. Carm. 69; Marialis Cultus, 46. (51) CL AA 4. (52) CL AA 2. (53) LG 31. (54) CL AA 6. (55)1 Kg. 19, 4-15. (56) GS 34. (57) GS 35. (58) GS 19. (59) Mt. 5, 13. (60) Lk. 1, 77. (61) Const. O. Carm. 16. (62) Lk. 1, 77. (61) Const. O. Carm. 16. (62) Const. O. Carm. 340. (63) CL Heb. 2, 4.
Created August 2, 1996 by Bro. Charles, O.Carm.