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Lay Carmel in Malta: The Third Order

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Georgina Linwood

The Carmelites in Malta

The Carmelite Order arrived in Malta from Sicily in 1418. The friars’ first home was at Lunzjata, which is located in Rabat, and afterwards the brothers went to live in Mdina. In the following centuries the Carmelites spread out along the island. Today there are four parishes, a school run by the Carmelites, religious vocations teams, Third Orders and groups following Carmelite spirituality.

The Third Order and Lay Carmelites

The Carmelite Third Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is formed of lay members who, in a response to a call from God, promise to live the Gospel in the spirit of the Carmelite charism. The Third or Secular Order comprises both lay people and secular clergy. In the charism of Carmel they find a spiritual home which animates their own spiritual life and their mission in the Church and in the World. Among the Third Order in Malta we find a bishop, Rt Rev. Charles Scicluna, and a Saint – Gorg (George) Preca. Altogether we have more than five thousand members, and nineteen branches, including four based in Carmelite parishes. These communities welcome men and women, young people of various ages, and people from different social backgrounds. They meet to pray together, and follow a Carmelite-based programme of spiritual formation.

Each Third Order community has a council and its spiritual needs are taken care of by a Carmelite priest. Each group meets about once a month to discuss spirituality, organise Eucharistic adoration, retreats, sermons, and other spiritual and social activities.

The National Council of the Carmelite Third Order in Malta was founded on June 18th, 2011. The Council meets to discuss and plan activities both spiritual and social. The Council felt the need to incorporate all members of the Third Order in Malta, and plan a programme of spiritual formation that can reach out to every tertiary. This brings Lay Carmelites together, giving direction and community formation according to the Carmelite Rule of Saint Albert and a new charter for Lay Carmel in Malta.

In 2003 the Carmelite Order issued a new Charter (Rule/Constitutions) for the Third Order. In 2009 the Maltese Carmelite Family discussed the situations of the Third Order in Malta and concluded that steps were needed to enact the Charter. The purpose of the document is to give directions on spiritual and community formation, so that each member follows the Rule and Constitutions of the Order and thereby grows in living Carmelite spirituality. The Third Order National Council was formed by the Maltese Prior Provincial to help realise this goal.

The National Council works as a team together with the friars’ Delegate for the Third Order, Fr Alex Scerri, O.Carm. Once a year the Council organises a National Congress, and a National Retreat that brings all Lay Carmelites together. The Council is now planning retreats, seminars and workshops on a province-wide level.

Lay and Third Order Carmelite Workshops

In Malta there are communities of the Carmelite Third Order as well as other groups of lay people inspired by the spirituality of Carmel. A team has been brought together to analyse the reality of these groups, and start planning workshops among them. These workshops will discuss: the Rule of Saint Albert and the Charter/Constitutions of the Third Order; ways to enrich catechesis and spiritual formation; the meaning of our consecration to the Lord; the teachings of the Carmelite mystics and saints. The team working on this is comprised of the Prior Provincial (Fr Alexander Vella, O.Carm.), the Delegate for the Third Order (Fr Alex Scerri, O.Carm.), the Delegate for Other Lay Carmelite Groups (Fr Charlò Camilleri, O.Carm.), other Carmelite friars, and three members of the Third Order National Council.

Deus Caritas Est

In the last four years a new group of Lay Carmelites has been formed in Malta. The group is called Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). The group welcomes women of all ages and situations in life. They meet on a regular basis for Mass, seminars of spiritual formation, and Adoration. The core group meets every week to practice Lectio Divina meditation on the Bible, praying and interceding for priests and for families. A few members of this community have also become members of the Third Order and have formed a distinct community. One of the activities of Deus Caritas Est is a project with children; through crafts and creative workshops Lay Carmel evangelises young people.

Celebrated Carmelite Figures in Malta

In Malta we are fortunate to have some inspiring figures in the Carmelite Family. Saint Gorg Preca (1880-1962) was a diocesan priest who founded The Society of Christian Doctrine. He was also a member of the Carmelite Third Order, and was keen that everyone should wear the Carmelite Brown Scapular. He used to love writing, and his many books contain a wealth of knowledge about spiritual formation. Another inspiring Carmelite was Fr Avertan Fenech, O.Carm. He was a very humble and simple friar who loved God. At this moment the Order is working towards his beatification. Another important Carmelite from Malta was Fr Anastasio Cuschieri, O.Carm. (1876-1962). He was a friar, senator, philosophy professor and author. He was twice elected Prior Provincial of the Carmelites. He is known as ‘The Virgin Mary’s Poet’ because most of his poems are about Our Lady.

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." 


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