“This is the reason for prayer: the birth always of good works, good works."
– St Teresa of Avila –
As Secular Carmelites, we share the same charism as the Friars and Sisters, the same traditions, the same call to holiness and the same apostolic mission. What is unique about the vocation of a Secular, is that we live the Carmelite charism not in a monastic community but 'in the world': we are lay people (or diocesan clergy). Whether we are young adults, middle-aged or elderly, married, widowed or living a single life, we live our faith and Carmelite vocation in the midst of and through that present situation.
In our families, in our work and professional lives, in parishes, in school parents' groups, in nursing homes, in the supermarket, on trains and buses, wherever we are, as prayerful people, living in awareness of God's presence, we bring this presence into all these situations and so bring this presence to others.
Carmelite spirituality is not so much about doing certain things but rather about being a certain kind of person and so it affects every aspect of our lives, and every relationship or interaction we have with others. In such ways we contribute to the Order the benefits proper to our secular state of life.
The Carmelite Secular Order is made up of local communities. The local community is a visible sign of the Church and consists of people who have made a commitment to the Carmelite Order and to each other.
Each community is governed by an elected Council consisting of the President, three Councillors and the Director of Formation. The community meets monthly for prayer, fellowship, formation and to conduct the business of the community. Each community also holds reflection days or at least one retreat each year.
In this region, there are six OCDS communities in Australia, one in Samoa, one in Tonga and three in New Zealand.
Transformation and Witness
In a world of diverse beliefs and values, we are called to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ, supported by the patronage of Mary, our Mother. This involves a gradual and progressive conversion and transformation – a putting on of the mind and heart of Jesus.
We cooperate with this process by taking time daily to develop and maintain an intimate friendship with Jesus, the one who we know loves us. As with any relationship, this friendship develops by spending time together.
Jesus is with us throughout our day but we can develop our conscious awareness of his continual presence by developing certain daily habits, which, over time, become a way of life. Finding time for the listed prayerful activities each day can be challenging in the midst of our busy lifestyles, but a discerning spirit will always focus on the purpose of these set activities.
Relationship with Jesus is a consequence of our baptism, made more specific through our Carmelite calling.
Some of the ways we foster this relationship are by:
- listening to the Word of God and responding in silent prayer for at least half an hour each day
- participating in the Church’s liturgy – daily Mass where possible,
Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church, and, if possible, also Night
- taking Mary our Mother as our model of prayer and service as she
pondered the Word of God in her heart and lived in obedience to that
- studying and meditating on the inspired teachings of the Carmelite saints, especially Saints Teresa and John of the Cross
- studying and meditating on the beliefs of our Christian faith and our Catholic tradition
- supporting one another through regular Community meetings, contact and service.
Our commitment to this way of life, through responding to God’s invitation in love, is a source of growth, strength, and transformation. Through our way of life, we desire to be changed into people who are the living Gospel to others and so to spread the message and charism of Carmel. Saint Teresa tells us the only proof of prayer is the growth of virtue, and also writes,
“This is the reason for prayer, …. the birth always of good works, good works.”
(Interior Castle VII.4.6.)
As we are called to evangelization, we are particularly interested in promoting prayer: meditation and contemplation, and sacramental and spiritual life. As exhorted by Saints Teresa and Thérèse, we support priests and religious by our prayers and sacrifice, while also collaborating with the Friars and Sisters in their apostolic commitment where possible.
The Church Documents remind us that the world has need of witnesses to the presence of God. We want to be those witnesses in the world so that through knowing us others may know the love of God. Becoming such a person, however, is a life-long challenge, but being a member of the Order, through the local community, can be a constant support along the way.
Formation is a life-long process. It is a gradual transformation to become more fully the unique person whom God desires each of us to be. Therefore, one of the criteria to be eligible to become a Secular Carmelite is to be open to formation.
This means to have an open attitude and disposition: open to being changed, to personal growth and ultimately to transformation in response to the working of the Holy Spirit. Through this continual process we are formed more truly into the image of God in which we are created.
Specifically, within the Secular Order the process of formation is to prepare the person to live the charism and spirituality of Carmel in its following of Christ (Constitution 32). The local community assists applicants in this formation through a structured process. This process, through progressive commitments, moves toward a life promise to the Carmelite Order and to a Carmelite way of life.
- After a minimum of 6 months contact with a community an applicant may be admitted to membership in the Order.
- Admission begins a more serious period of formation that usually last for two years leading up to the First Promise.
- After the commitment of the First Promise a further three years of formation follows leading up to the Definitive Promise.
- After the Definitive Promise, ongoing formation continues as we meet the ever-changing demands of living a Carmelite way of life in a secular setting.
If You Feel Drawn...
If you feel prompted to find out more about the life and commitment of a Secular Carmelite contact the National President who will put you in touch with the community nearest to you. They will be happy to answer your questions and help you discern the next step to take.
- Be prayerful: Set aside regular times for prayer and celebrate daily Eucharist if possible.
- Be reflective: Read and reflect on the teachings of the Carmelite saints.
- Be patient: The Carmelite charism is gradually understood as it is internalised and lived.
“ … we don’t know what we are asking for.
Let us leave it to the Lord.
For he knows us better than we do ourselves.
And true humility is content with what is received.”
St Teresa, Way of Perfection.