Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites

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The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, officially Ordo Carmelitarum Discalceatorum Saecularis (OCDS), and formerly the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and of the Holy Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus, is a religious association of the Roman Catholic Church composed primarily of lay persons and also accepted secular clergy.

The term secular clergy refers to deacons and priests who are not monastics or members of a religious institute. A diocesan priest is a Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox priest who commits himself or herself to a certain geographical area and is ordained into the service of the citizens of a diocese, a church administrative region. That includes serving the everyday needs of the people in parishes, but their activities are not limited to that of their parish.


Secular Carmelites profess promises to strive to live evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, obedience, and of the beatitudes. [1] They are an integral part of the Discalced Carmelite Order (OCD), [2] [3] juridically dependent upon the Discalced Carmelite Friars, [4] and in "fraternal communion" with them and the cloistered Nuns of the Order. They share the same charism with the Friars and Nuns according to their particular state of life. [2]

Evangelical counsels Chastity, poverty (perfect charity) and obedience

The three evangelical counsels or counsels of perfection in Christianity are chastity, poverty, and obedience. As Jesus of Nazareth stated in the Canonical gospels, they are counsels for those who desire to become "perfect". The Catholic Church interprets this to mean that they are not binding upon all and hence not necessary conditions to attain eternal life (heaven). Rather they are "acts of supererogation" that exceed the minimum stipulated in the Commandments in the Bible. Catholics that have made a public profession to order their life by the evangelical counsels, and confirmed this by a public religious vow before their competent church authority, are recognised as members of the consecrated life.

Discalced Carmelites religious order

The Discalced Carmelites, known officially as the Order of the Discalced Carmelites of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or the Order of Discalced Carmelites, is a Catholic mendicant order with roots in the eremitic tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. The order was established in the 16th century, pursuant to the reform of the Carmelite Order by two Spanish saints, Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross. Discalced is derived from Latin, meaning "without shoes".

There are two Carmelite orders in the Church, the Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance (O. Carm.) and the Discalced Carmelite Order (OCD). The Discalced became a separate order under Teresa of Ávila, so as to return to the more austere and contemplative life lived by the first Carmelites, and eventually by the end of the 17th century the Discalced developed their own secular order. [5] "Discalced", meaning "shoeless", signifies this greater austerity, although seculars do not actually go barefoot. Members of the OCDS are distinct from the secular order known as the Lay Carmelites (T. O. Carm.).

The Carmelites, formally known as the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel or sometimes simply as Carmel by synecdoche, is a Roman Catholic mendicant religious order for men founded, probably in the 12th century, on Mount Carmel in the Crusader States, hence the name Carmelites. However, historical records about its origin remain very uncertain. Berthold of Calabria has traditionally been associated with the founding of the order, but few clear records of early Carmelite history have survived. In 1452 a parallel order was founded for women.

Teresa of Ávila Roman Catholic saint

Teresa of Ávila, born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish noblewoman who chose a monastic life in the Catholic Church. A Carmelite nun, prominent Spanish mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and mental prayer, she earned the rare distinction of being declared a Doctor of the Church over four centuries after her death. Active during the Counter-Reformation, she reformed the Carmelite Orders of both women and men. The movement she initiated was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic, John of the Cross. It led eventually to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites. A formal papal decree adopting the split was issued in 1580.

Lay Carmelites

The Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a branch of the religious Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance and was established in 1476 by a bull of Pope Sixtus IV. It is an association of lay people who choose to live the Gospel in the spirit of the Carmelite Order and under its guidance. The Carmelites known for devotion to Blessed Virgin Mary under her title as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Vocation and promise

The Seculars' vocation is to live the Carmelite spirituality as Seculars and not as mere imitators of Carmelite monastic life. [6] They practice contemplative prayer while living lives of charity in their common occupations. They profess a promise to the Order patterned on the monastic vows which guides their life. The Promise is to live according to the Rule of St. Albert and the OCDS Constitutions and to live the evangelical counsels of chastity, and obedience (not poverty) and the beatitudes according to their lay state of life.

Spiritually mature members receiving the recommendation of the local council of their OCDS community and the approval of their provincial superior are permitted to profess vows of chastity and obedience to their community, which are strictly personal and do not translate into a separate class of membership. [7]

Way of life

Secular Carmelites order their lives according to the ancient Rule of Saint Albert, as does the whole Discalced Carmelite Order, according to the OCDS Constitutions specific to the Secular Order, and according to the provincial statutes applicable to the particular province of the Order which includes their communities. These three sources of legislation, in that order, move from general to more particular rules which are approved by the Church for their particular vocation and circumstances.

The eremitic Rule of Saint Albert is the shortest of the rules of consecrated life in existence of the Catholic spiritual tradition, and is composed almost exclusively of scriptural precepts. To this day it is a rich source of inspiration for the lives of many Catholics throughout the world.

The primary, daily obligations of the Seculars are to engage in silent, contemplative prayer or "recollection", to pray Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers) of the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), and to attend daily Mass and pray Night Prayer (Compline) when possible. Lectio Divina and spiritual retreats are also highly encouraged.

As models of this ancient way of life, they study the writings and imitate the lives of the many saints of the Discalced Carmelite Order, especially St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross, both doctors of the Church. Doctrines include "gladly mortify themselves in union with the Sacrifice of Christ," and their "interior life must be permeated by an intense devotion to Our Lady." They wear the brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is the habit of the Secular Order and the entire Discalced Carmelite Order. [8] Larger scapulars of various sizes are worn for ceremonial purposes. They attend the monthly meetings of the local communities of which they are members, and members of each community serve terms on the community's council, which coordinates the formation of members and the other aspects of the community.


Depending on their existing provincial statutes and with the approval of their local council, their communities accept Catholics in good standing in the Church who meet the age requirement into formation. [9] [10] Admission into formation depends on a clear indication of a Carmelite vocation and maturity in faith in the opinion of the local council of the community petitioned, and permission to profess the Promise of the Seculars requires a number of years spent in spiritual formation and the study of contemplative prayer under the direction of the community's formators. [11] Catholics begin by discovering a community of Seculars which they visit for monthly meetings and may eventually join. Communities are listed in online provincial directories (see bibliography below).

Seculars are not members of the Scapular Confraternity, [12] a newer development that is merely a pious association of Catholics who wear the small Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, commonly known as the Brown Scapular, and may or may not practice the primary principles of Carmelite spirituality. Any Catholic can be invested with the Carmelite Scapular by a Catholic priest, and indeed it is the most popular of Catholic scapulars because of the special promises made to its wearers by the Blessed Virgin Mary in apparitions. But the garment is properly the habit of the Discalced Carmelite Order, including the Seculars. Candidates for admission to the Order are clothed in the Scapular at the beginning of formal formation, usually during a Mass.

Seculars, after the tradition of the Friars and Nuns, take a religious name and title of devotion. The custom is increasing of retaining the person's surname and/or given name depending on suitability. The name taken is generally only used in Carmelite contexts, and members use the postnominal initials "OCDS" after their legal names.


When the Discalced Carmelite Order was juridically erected in 1593, its superiors retained the power granted by Pope Nicholas V in the bull "Cum nulla fidelium conventio" of 7 October 1452 to incorporate lay persons as members of the Order. However, the Order forbade lay persons from membership and incorporated this decision into the Constitutions of 1581 and 1592. [13] After the Order was divided in 1600 into the Spanish and Italian congregations, both of these maintained exclusion of lay persons but included as an apostolate investing lay persons with their Scapular. In the late 17th Century efforts were made that led to the erection of a secular order, beginning in Belgium and then in France and Italy. In 1699 a rule of life for seculars was privately published with provincial approval in Liege, Belgium. In 1708 in Marseille, France, a full Carmelite rule of life for secular women was published, being the first known and true rule of life for the Third Secular Order (as it was them styled), and ostensibly bearing the authority of the whole Order. The Rule of Marseille seems to recognize the presence of already existing Third Secular Order communities in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Belgium and attempt to impose some degree of uniformity on independent Secular Order communities. The Rule of Marseille was translated into Latin during the end of the 18th Century. In 1848 a short book on the Third Order, the "Breve [C]ompendio", was published in Florence, Italy, being merely an abridged version of the Rule of Marseille. On 8 January 1883 the Definitor General of the Order revised the Breve Compendio and officially imposed it on the whole Third Order. This was in force until it was superseded on 25 October 1911, when the Definitor General imposed the "Manuale of the Third Secular Order". The Manuale was approved by the Holy See on 3 March 1921. This document was revised on 26 October 1970 and approved by the Holy See as the Rule of Life. [14] The Rule of Life was superseded by the current OCDS Constitutions, which were approved by the Holy See on 16 June 2003.

The Order throughout the world

Seculars are spread throughout the world in various communities, with each community canonically erected, [15] and subject to the direction of the provincial superiors of each province and the General Superior of the Discalced Carmelite Order in Rome. [16]

The Order has many members in the Philippines, which it attributes to the great devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in that nation. [17]

Our Lady of Mount Carmel. V.Carmen de Beniajan-general.jpg
Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Pope John Paul II was a member of the Order and wearer of the Carmelite Scapular. [18] All faithful to whom the Brown Scapular is installed, become of a member the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular, a Carmelite Confraternity. [19]


  1. OCDS Constitution #11
  2. 1 2 OCDS Constitution #1
  3. "Secular Order", Discalced Carmelite Friars, Washington Province
  4. OCDS Constitution #41
  5. Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, Appendix I: The Third Order of the Teresian Carmel; Its Origin and History, page 131, in Michael D. Griffin, OCD, Commentary on the Rule of Life (superseded) (The Growth in Carmel Series; Hubertus, Wisconsin: Teresian Charism Press, 1981), pages 127-36
  6. Carmelite Seculars and the Apostolate of the Order by P. Aloysius Deeney, OCD
  7. OCDS Constitution #39
  8. OCDS Constitution #36b
  9. OCDS Provincial Statutes-Washington Province Archived 2010-10-17 at the Wayback Machine
  10. OCDS Philippines Provincial Statutes
  11. OCDS Philippines Provincial Statutes
  12. A Catechesis on the Brown Scapular Archived 2016-01-09 at the Wayback Machine
  13. Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, Appendix I: The Third Order of the Teresian Carmel; Its Origin and History, pages 128-30, in Michael D. Griffin, OCD, Commentary on the Rule of Life (superseded) (The Growth in Carmel Series; Hubertus, Wisconsin: Teresian Charism Press, 1981), pages 127-36
  14. Otilio Rodriguez, OCD, Appendix I: The Third Order of the Teresian Carmel; Its Origin and History, pages 130-4, in Michael D. Griffin, OCD, Commentary on the Rule of Life (superseded) (The Growth in Carmel Series; Hubertus, Wisconsin: Teresian Charism Press, 1981), pages 127-36
  15. OCDS Constitution #49
  16. OCDS Constitution #48
  17. OCDS Philippines Archived 2009-04-08 at the Wayback Machine
  18. "Message of John Paul II to the Carmelite Family", 6 (25 March 2001)
  19. "Brown Scapular Confraternity", downloaded on 5 (May 2014),



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