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What is a Lay Carmelite?

Lay Carmelites is an association mainly of lay people who, in response to a call from God, freely and willingly, promise to live the Gospel in the spirit of the Carmelite Order and under its guidance. The Lay Carmelite is connected to the Carmelite Order by means of the promise which he or she makes. It is possible, following a very ancient custom, to make private vows of chastity and obedience according to one's state in life in order to be consecrated more closely to God. Lay Carmelites, filled with the spirit of the Order, seek to live their own vocation by silently listening to the Word of God (Lectio Divina). According to the constant tradition of Carmel, they will especially cultivate prayer in all its forms. The members of the Lay Carmelites follow the charism of the Order which takes its inspiration from the figures of Our Lady and the Prophet Elijah. In the midst of their normal family lives, in the work place, in their social commitments and relationships with other people, Lay Carmelite members seek out the hidden image of God. They try to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes, humbly and consistently exercising the virtues of honesty, justice, sincerity, courtesy and fortitude, without which no Christian or human life is possible.

How is Lay Carmelite living meaningful in the Church today?

The Lay Carmelite is called to the Family of Carmel to be deeply involved in the mission of the Church and to contribute to the sanctification or transformation of the secular world. A Lay Carmelite does this by sharing or participating in the charism of the Carmelite Order. We find in Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and in the Prophet Elijah the models for this way of Gospel living. Profession of promises as a member of the Lay Carmelites is an intensified repetition of one's baptismal promises. Being a Lay Carmelite is not just a devotion added to life; it is a way of life; it is a vocation. By entering the Order the Lay Carmelite takes upon himself or herself the Carmelite charism, which is profoundly marked by personal and liturgical prayer. The call to Carmel, a call to seek God's will in the ordinary circumstances of everyday life, roots the Lay Carmelite in a love of those with whom they live and work, in the recognition of God's presence in all circumstances, and in solidarity with God's People everywhere.

What is this relationship that Carmelites have with Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Prophet Elijah?

Mary is Patroness, Sister and Mother to all Carmelites. Lay Carmelites have to live this relationship, imitating her virtues, listening to the Word of God in and through daily life. Lay Carmelites stand with Mary, cooperating with the mysterious will of God who desires salvation for all people. Elijah is an example of prophetic action, a life spent in service of God, a service that finds its source in a profound experience of God in prayer. Lay Carmelites see in the prophet of Carmel a model for a life spent testifying in deeds of love to God's presence in the world.

Where are the Carmelite Groups in South Carolina?

There are two branches of Lay Carmelites: Old Order Carmelites, formerly called Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, and the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. The names stem from a split in the order in the 16th century. St. Theresa of Avila is considered the founder of the Discalced Carmelites. Both communities have a presence in South Carolina: Old Order Carmelites are located in Greenville, North Myrtle Beach, and Columbia; Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in Columbia.

What are the requirements for admission to formation?

A candidate must be a Catholic in good standing who feels called by God to live more deeply his/her baptismal vocation as a member of the Carmelite family through a deeper formation in Christian values according to the charism of the Carmelite Order. A candidate must be between 18 and 69 years of age when seeking entry to formation as a Lay Carmelite through an existing Lay Carmelite community.

What is expected of a Lay Carmelite?

The Lay Carmelite is expected to participate in the daily celebration of the Eucharist when possible. He/she should spend about one-half hour in meditation each day, that is reflecting on the Scriptures, using Lectio Divina or some other appropriate type of personal reflective prayer. The Lay Carmelite also prays in union with the Church through recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours—Morning and Evening Prayer. Lay Carmelites attend a monthly community meeting. They wear the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel daily as an external sign of dedication to Mary, as a sign of trust in her motherly protection, as well as an expression of their desire to be like Mary in her commitment to Christ and to others.

What does the Lay Carmelite formation process entail?

Formation is divided into four specific periods:

First - is preparation for Reception and lasts a minimum of nine months but may extend up to two years. The period comprises a series of elementary instructions about Carmel, its charism and traditions.

Second - after Reception (by which one becomes a Lay Carmelite, if approved by the Community Council) one follows preparation for Temporary Profession. This two to three year formation period entails a course of instruction that will deepen one’s prayer life, one’s sense of community and one’s call to ministry. This phase ends with Temporary Profession, if approved by the Community Council.

Third - this period is preparation for Final/Perpetual Promises. In this time period of three years one engages in formation with the perpetually professed on a monthly basis. The temporary professed Lay Carmelite deepens his/her living of the Carmelite way during this period as a means of discerning the call to Final/Perpetual Profession.

Fourth - if accepted for Perpetual Profession, the Lay Carmelite then begins the final period of formation, which is life-long for all the members of the Local Lay Carmelite Community. 

How Can I Obtain Additional Information or Express An Interest in Pursuing a Lay Carmelite Vocation?

Email our Community or visit us for a Servants of Mary and Joseph Lay Carmelite Community meeting.

What is the meaning of the Brown Scapular?

The Brown Scapular is a sign of consecration to Our Lady and her way of life. Through it we enter into a covenant of love and trust with her. The Scapular finds its roots in the tradition of the Order, which has seen in it a sign of Mary’s motherly protection. It has, therefore, a centuries old spiritual meaning approved by the Church. It stands for a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary-the perfect model of all the disciples of Christ. This commitment finds its origin in baptism by which we become children of God. It leads us into the community of religious men and women, which has existed in the Church for over eight centuries. It reminds us of the example of the saints of Carmel, with whom we establish a close bond as brothers and sisters to one another. It is an expression of our belief that we will meet God in eternal life aided by the intercession and prayer of Mary. It is a sign of Mary’s protection and of belonging to the family of Carmel, voluntarily doing the will of God.

What is the Rule of St. Albert of Jerusalem?

St. Albert, called by God’s favor to be Patriarch of the Church of Jerusalem, bids health in the Lord and the blessing of the Holy Spirit to his beloved sons, B. and those who owe him obedience, the rest of the hermit brothers living beside the spring on Mount Carmel.  Many and varied are the ways in which our saintly forefathers laid down how each, according to his station and the manner of religious observance he has chosen, should live a life of dedication to Jesus Christ—how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, he must be unswerving in the service of his Master.  It is to me, however, that you have come for the rule of life most in keeping with your own aspirations, a rule you may hold fast to henceforward; and therefore: The first thing I require is for you to have a Prior, one of yourselves, who is to be chosen for the office by common consent, or that of the greater and wiser part of you.  Each of the others must promise him obedience, chastity, and the renunciation of ownership, and is to strive to make his whole life the true reflection of what he has promised.  You may make foundations in solitary places, or on any plot of ground you are given if it be suitable, in the Prior’s opinion and that of the brothers, for the way of life proper to your Order.  In addition, you are all to have separate cells, arranged as may be indicated by the lie of the land you propose to occupy, and allotted by disposition of the Prior with the agreement of the other brothers, or the wiser among them, but in such a way that you will be able to eat what you are given in a common refectory, listening together meanwhile to a reading from Holy Scripture, where that can be done without difficulty. None of the brothers is to occupy a cell other than the one allotted to him, or to exchange cells with another, without leave of whoever is Prior at the time.  The Prior’s cell should stand near the entrance to your monastery, so that he may be the first to meet those who approach, and so that whatever has to be done in consequence may all be carried out as he may decide and order.

Each of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering God’s law day and night, and attending to his prayers unless some other duty claims his attention. Those who know how to say the canonical hours recited by those in Orders should do so in the way those holy forefathers of ours laid down, and according to the Church’s approved custom.  Those who do not know them must say twenty-five Our Fathers for the night office, except on Sundays and feast days when that number is to be doubled, so that the Our Father will be said fifty times; the same prayer must be said seven times in the morning in place of Lauds, and seven times too for each of the other hours except Vespers, when it must be said fifteen times.  None of the brothers must lay claim to anything as his own, but you are to possess everything in common; and each should receive whatever befits his age and needs from the Prior, or the brother he appoints for the purpose.  You may possess asses or mules enough for your needs, however, as well as livestock or poultry to supply your table.  An oratory should be built as conveniently as possible among the cells, where, if it can be done without difficulty, you are to gather every morning to hear Mass.  On Sundays, too, or other days if necessary, you should discuss matters to do with discipline and your spiritual well-being, on which occasion the indiscretions or failings of the brothers, if any be found at fault, should in all charity be corrected.  You are to keep fast every day, except Sundays, from the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross until Easter, unless bodily sickness or feebleness, or some other good reason, demand a dispensation from the fast, for necessity overrides every law.  You are to deny yourselves meat, except as a remedy for sickness or feebleness, but as when you are on a journey you have more often than not to beg your way. Outside your own houses you may eat foodstuffs that have been cooked with meat, so as to avoid giving trouble to those who entertain you.  At sea, however, meat may be eaten.

As man’s life on earth is a time of trial, and all who would live devoutly in Christ must undergo persecution, and your opponent the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking victims to swallow up, you must use every care to clothe yourselves in God’s armor, so that you may be ready to withstand the enemy’s treachery. Your loins are to be girt with chastity, your breast fortified by holy meditations, for holy meditation, as Scripture has it, will save you. Put on righteousness as your breastplate, and it will enable you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Faith must be your shield on all occasions, and with it you will be able to quench all the fire-tipped arrows of your wicked enemy, nor can God be pleased without faith. On your head set the helmet of salvation, and so be sure of deliverance by our only Savior, who sets his own free from their sins. The sword of the spirit, the word of God, must abound in your mouths and hearts; let all you do have God’s word for accompaniment. You must give yourselves to work of some kind so that the devil may always find you busy: idleness on your part must not be to blame for his managing to pierce the defenses of your souls. You have in this both the teaching and example of Saint Paul the Apostle, through whose mouth spoke the voice of Christ himself. God made him preacher and teacher of faith and truth to the nations: if you pay him due heed you will not stray. We lived among you, said he, laboring and weary, toiling night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, not because we had no power to do otherwise, but so as to give you, in our own selves, an example you might imitate. For the charge we gave you when we were with you is this: that whoever is not willing to work should not be allowed to eat either. For we have heard of certain restless idlers among you . . . We charge such as these and implore them in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ that they earn their own bread by silent toil. This is a good and holy way, the way you ought to follow.
The Apostle enjoins silence, for in silence is it that he would have work done; as the Prophet makes known to us too, silence is the way to foster holiness. Elsewhere he says your strength will lie in silence and hope. For this reason I lay down that you must keep silence from after Compline each night until after Prime the next morning. At other times, although you need not keep silence so strictly, be careful not to indulge in a great deal of talk, for as Scripture has it—and experience teaches us no less—sin will not be wanting where there is much talk, and he who is careless in speech will come to harm, and elsewhere the use of many words brings harm to the speaker’s soul. And our Lord says in the Gospel: every rash word uttered will have to be accounted for on Judgment day. Make a balance each of you to weigh his words in; keep a tight rein on your mouths, lest you should stumble and fall in speech, and your fall should be mortal; like the Prophet, stand guard lest you offend in word, and employ every care in keeping silent, which is the way to foster holiness.

You, brother B., and whoever may succeed you as Prior, must always keep in mind, and put into practice, what our Lord said in the Gospel: whoever has a mind to become great among you must make himself servant to the rest, and whichever of you would be first must become your bondsman. You other brothers too, hold your Prior in humble reverence, your minds not on him but on Christ who has placed him at your head, and who, to those set over the Churches, addressed the words: whoever pays you heed pays heed to me, and whoever treats you with dishonor dishonors me; if you remain so minded, you will not be found guilty of contempt, but will merit life eternal as fit reward for your obedience. Here then are the few points I have written down for you, so as to provide a standard of conduct for you to live up to; but our Lord, at his second coming, will reward anyone who does more than he is obliged to do. You must always act with moderation, nevertheless, for so must virtue ever be tempered.

Who was St. Albert of Jerusalem?

St. Albert Avogadro was born about the middle of the twelfth century in Castel Gualteri in Italy. He became a Canon Regular of the Holy Cross at Mortara and was elected their prior in 1180. Named Bishop of Bobbio in 1184, and of Vercelli in 1185, he was made Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1205. There, in word and example, he was the model of a good pastor and peacemaker. While he was Patriarch (1206-1214) he united the hermits of the Mount Carmel into one community and wrote a “way of life” for them. He was tragically murdered during a Church procession on the Triumph of the Holy Cross in Acre on September 14, 1214.