What is a Lay Carmelite and how Do I Become One?
By NATALIE MIERAS, T.O.CARM., AND MARGIE MCCALESTER, T.O.CARM.
Do you feel that there is something missing in your life? Do you feel that you might like to be closer to Jesus Christ, walk nearer to Him, and be more like Him? Do you feel that there is never the correct time to pray, or even just the time to pray? If you answered YES to any of these questions, then perhaps Carmel and the life of a lay Carmelite is exactly what you are looking for.
Third Order Carmelites (TOC) are lay people who are over 17 years of age and who are Catholics who are in full communion with the Church. They are called to live more deeply their baptismal promises. The lay Carmelite follows the mission of Carmel (which is also the mission of the Church) which is to trans¬form the secular world after the teachings of Jesus. This is accomplished through the Carmelite charism and dedication to prayer, community and service. Most important is to remember that being a lay Carmelite is not just a devotion added to life; it is a way of life-a vocation.
Each lay Carmelite is associated with a specific lay community which meets each month for a community meeting and an ongoing formation meeting for those who have been professed. Individuals who are in different stages of formation meet for the community meeting and then separately for their formation. As lay Carmelites, we are asked to pray morning and evening prayer from Christian Prayer: Liturgy of the Hours; spend time each day in lectio divina, which is prayerful reading of the scriptures, with contemplation, quietly sitting in the presence of God and being receptive to the voice of God. We are to participate fully in the life of our community and in the bigger community of Carmel. We are to give some form of service to benefit those less fortu¬nate, which completes the mission of Carmel. As Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection tells us: we are to continually practice living in the presence of God. Being a lay Carmelite is a very busy and fulfilling life practice.
A person enters onto the path of becoming a lay Carmelite by becoming associated with a lay Carmelite community in their vicinity. If you are unaware of any in your area, you can e-mail the General Delegate of Lay Carmelite, Fr. Josef Jancar, O.Carm. Email: jjancar @ ocarm.org or the Delegate of PCM Province, USA, Email: lavcarmelites@ carmelnetorg and you will be directed to a lay community nearest you. We suggest that you attend some meetings and get a feel of the community Perhaps you might want to visit several in your area before you make a decision. After finding a community you feel comfortable in, you would enter into a year of study on general topics relative to Carmel and lay Carmelites. At the end of this first formation year, if you are inter¬ested in continuing, you would be received into Carmel. The next two years of learning would be more concentrated study on the topics covered in the first year. At the end of this formation period, if you have decided that Carmel is the path that you would like to follow as a vocation, you are temporarily professed as a member of Carmel. This lasts for a minimum of three years at which time you can make a permanent profession as a member of Carmel.
There are many wonderful books about Carmel, its history, saints, and its mission. Two that we would like to recommend are: The Springs of Carmel, by Peter Slatterv, O.Carm., and A Pattern for Life-The Rule of Saint Albert and the Carmelite Laity, by Patrick McMahon, O.Carm.