For the last 550 years— since Pope Nicolas V sent the Carmelite Prior General, John Soreth, the bull "Cum Nulla"— the laity has formed part of the Carmelite Order. Today Lay Carmelites exist in many different countries around the world. They participate in the life of the Order as members of the Third Order and confraternities.
The immediate motive for the papal bull was a request to the pope to recognise the privileges of the prior of the Carmelite house in Florence, Italy to aggregate lay people to the Order. The response from the Pope opened the way throughout the Order for the official recognition of something that had been happening unofficially for at least one hundred years.
The origins of lay association with religious orders go back to 11th century monasticism. Lay people who wished to live a religious lifestyle but who were not monks or nuns were called "conversi" (males) or "conversae" (females). These lay people took three vows and lived in community.
The oldest group of "Lay Carmelites" is found in Lucca, also in Italy, in 1284.
The vast majority of Lay Carmelites belong to what is still usually called the "Third Order." The terms "First", "Second" and "Third" are taken from the Servite Order from the early 16th century. They were never intended to refer to a hierarchy but simply reflected the historical reality that some groups were founded officially earlier than others.
In some Provinces, members of the Third Order are called by the generic name of "Lay Carmelites," although the latter also covers many other realities and groups. In several countries there exist many ancient Carmelite fraternities and confraternities.
The Vocation of the Lay Carmelites
Within this common baptismal vocation, some lay people are called to participate in the charism of a particular religious family. Profession as a member of the Lay
Carmelites is an intensified repetition of our baptismal promises. By entering the Order they take upon themselves the Carmelite charism.
Like all Carmelites, the Lay Carmelite is called to some form of service, which is an integral part of the charism of the Order. Lay people have the mission of transforming secular society. They can do this in many different ways according to their possibilities. The great example for prophetic action is Elijah, whose activity had its source in a profound experience of God.
Fraternity is also an essential element of the Carmelite charism. Lay Carmelites can create community in various ways: in their own families, where the domestic church is to be found; in their local parish, where they worship God with their fellow parishioners and take a full part in the community activities; in their Lay Carmelite community in which they find support for the spiritual journey; in their workplace and where they live.
Being a Lay Carmelite is not just a devotion added to life; it is a way of life; it is a vocation. For this reason a sound formation is essential just as for the friars, nuns and sisters. The main challenge facing lay Carmelites is to translate the essential elements of the Carmelite charism into daily life.
CITOC is proud to present Lay Carmelite news from various parts of the world:
The Lay Carmelite Inter-Provincial Commission in the USA called together 42 regional coordinators and regional formation coordinators from Most Pure Heart of Mary and Saint Elias Provinces for an assembly.
The weekend gathering was held from May 30–June 1, 2003 at Carmel Retreat in Mahwah, New Jersey. The discussion topics covered 32 areas of concern such as Carmel’s Call, statutes, web sites, and updates of how the various communities function.
All in attendance had time to socialize and get to know each other and the Provincial Delegates, Fr. John-Benedict Weber, O.Carm. (PCM), Fr. Brocard Connors, O.Carm. (SEL) and Sr. Libby Dahlstrom, O. Carm., Associate Director (PCM).
There was much information to be discussed. Some in attendance hoped that this kind of event might happen more often. It was evident that communication is vital for the continued implementation of the formation programs for the Lay Carmelites.
Rose Mary Lancellotti T.O.C.
Bicentenary of Australia's
On Sunday 11 May, Australia’s 40 bishops gathered at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the nation’s first Catholic Mass.
It was a significant anniversary, not only in Catholic history, because it marked the beginning of religious toleration and recognition of minority groups that Australians today consider a hall-mark of the national way of life.
A very important link with the first Catholics was the presence of descendants of James Dempsey, a Lay Carmelite in whose home many of those early Masses were held.
Archbishop George Pell celebrated the Solemn Mass, with the bishops, and a congregation of some 2500 people. This was a far cry from the first Mass celebrated at The Rocks, a rough place, by a convict priest, Fr James Dixon, for a ragged bunch of convicts and free people on May 15, 1803.
Mr. Dennis Dempsey has loaned the crucifix and candlesticks to the exhibition of "The First Australian Catholics" in the crypt at the cathedral. These precious items have been held in the Dempsey family since James Dempsey’s death in 1838 and were also loaned for the Lay Carmelite celebrations in Sydney October 2002 for the 200th anniversary of the arrival in Australia of James Dempsey and John Butler on October 30, 1802.
These two Lay Carmelites were committed in their faith and provided catechetical instruction as well as James Dempsey’s home being secretly used for devotions when the Blessed Sacrament had been left there by Fr Jeremiah
O’Flynn on his deportation in 1818. The tabernacle, made from an oak chest that held the Blessed Sacrament during that priestless time is on display in the exhibition of "The First Australian Catholics," too.
A stained glass window in St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney depicts Mass being held in a home (presumably, that of James Dempsey) with a figure standing at the window keeping guard for police.
Nulla" Celebrations in York (UK) Minster on May 16, 2003
Carmelites and friends gathered at York Minster on the Feast Day of St. Simon Stock, May 16, 2003, to celebrate the 550th anniversary of "Cum Nulla," the papal bull to which we owe our Lay Carmelite existence. It was pouring with rain and freezing cold outside the Minster, but right from the start there was a warm glow within.
Over 800 people from many countries and all parts of Britain congregated in this historic venue, their chatter accompanied by melodic singing of medieval motets and hymns from the fifteenth century. A number of dignitaries, including representatives from York City, York Minster, Methodist, Anglican, and Catholic Diocese as well as Discalced Carmelites, processed into the Minster and our celebration began with various words of welcome from those associated with York or with the Carmelites. Then there was a very moving procession, accompanied by a quiet Taize chant, of representatives of the various British communities and countries with a Carmelite presence. Each person carried a large coloured flag down the nave, which when combined together at the north transept made an impressive rainbow of colour.
Prior General Joseph Chalmers gave the homily, challenging us all to keep the special charism of Carmel alive to pass on to future generations. He suggested that the way to do this was by carrying the words of Jesus, "What I command you is to love one another." This was followed by a Carmelite Family Litany in thanksgiving for the different branches of our family, each represented by a candle brought to the altar.
The Mass ended with everyone singing the "Flos Carmeli." The music for the Mass was exceptional and included Therese of Lisieux’s "Canticle of Love" and Panis Angelicus during Communion. There was an intensely communal and spiritual atmosphere during the whole Mass, enclosed as we were within the beauty and grace of the Minster, our ears filled with the best in sacred music and song and our minds focused on our place in history. The proceedings came to a very definite end, marked by a quarter peel (1,260 changes!) of the Minster bells, ringing out across the City of York in honour of the Carmelite Family and the anniversary of "Cum Nulla."
Following the Mass, a small exhibition of Carmelite artefacts were available for viewing on the way to lunch in the Chapter House. Following the lunch, a symposium was held in nearby St. William’s College.
Carribean-St. Lucian Lay Carmelites Meet
The Regional Co-ordinator for Lay Carmelites, Sr. Adriana Noel, O.Carm. paid a recent visit to St. Lucia to meet personally with local members of the Order and to share glimpses of Carmelite spirituality with them. During her visit, she conferred with leaders and members of the three lay communities in St. Lucia as well as with the Mount Carmel Confraternity.
Communities of Third Order Carmelites, also known as Tertiaries, are established in Castries, Gros Islet and Anse La Raye. They live the evangelical life in the spirit of the Carmelite Order, through community, prayer and ministry. Members are called to a life of holiness and service to the Church, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Prophet Elijah serving as their models for Christian witness in the world.
An assembly was convened at the Emile Vrignaud Auditorium on Sunday April 27, with Archbishop Kelvin Felix in attendance. He offered prayers and words of encouragement for the movement in St. Lucia. In her address to the gathering St. Adriana outlined the history and spirituality of Carmel, and elaborated on such topics as Marian traditions and the Brown Scapular. Also in attendance were the presidents of the three local chapters: Felicite Jaria (Castries), Bibiana Jules (Gros Islet) and Petrolilla Deterville (Anse La Raye). Corpus Christi Carmelites Sr. Amadeus Nicholas and Sr. Teresa Dominic Desir, were appointed as Spiritual Directors for the local chapters and Rosemarie Cooper was appointed Local Co-ordinator.
The Lay Carmelites hope to hold their annual general meeting for the first time in St. Lucia this November.
The Lay Carmelites began in Kenya under the leadership of a Consolata priest, Fr Joseph Demante in 1969. There are now about 400 professed members spread all over Kenya in small groups with some isolated members too. Fr Felix Pallipatt, O.Carm, from the Indian Commissariat, is now the director of the Lay Carmelites.
During a recent visit by Fr Anthony Scerri O.Carm, he met with ten members, three of whom are from outside Nairobi. Fr Scerri explained Lectio Divina in a very simple way that was easily understood. We are looking for ways to structure ourselves so that every group takes responsibility for itself at its level.
A Retreat is held annually to bring all members together but a vast majority are unable to afford the cost of attending. Fr Felix is trying to visit all the groups and get to know what is happening. We publish a bi-monthly newsletter "Scapula" and struggle with the cost of sending it to every member.
Lay Carmelite Retreat
Lay Carmelites attended a retreat organized by the OCDS Philippines last February 7-9 at the St Michael Retreat House in Antipolo City. The theme was "Nada de Turbe ... Let Nothing Disturb You," the opening words of a poem written by St Teresa of Avila. Fr Kieran Kavanagh O.C.D led the retreat.
The National Formation Commission held its third Seminar/Workshop for training formators at Metro Manila, Quezon City. The theme was "A Committed Formator is an Effective Formator." Seventy formators attended which is double the number of last year. Carmelite Missionary Sister Ludy C.M. was the resource speaker.
The main focus of the seminar was establishing the identity of a Lay Carmelite. Sr Ludy asked the attendees how they would identify themselves as Lay Carmelites and how they are different from members of other Church organizations. Sr Ludy said that formators should first know who they are and whom they are to form, as these will become the basis of their formation and activities. A follow-up seminar will be held in October 2003.
Taken from reports sent by Nimfa Tangcuangco, TOC
The Commissariat of Sumatra, in Medan, has formed a new Lay Carmelite community with the consent of the Archbishop of Medan. While there are no figures available on this new community, the rest of the Carmelite Third Order numbers 220 in Malang, Batu, Surabaya, Probolinggo, Jember, Jakarta and Mauloo - Flores.
The National Center now has a National Council following a National Convention held last year. The aim is to be of better service to the needs of the Lay Carmelites. Details will follow in a later report.
Our National Delegate, Fr. Yulius Sudharnoto O. Carm has published two books for initial formation and texts that can be used for monthly meetings. He also published a prayer book.
Our National Delegate has suggested to the Provincial Council that a National Delegate be full time so as to give full attention and care to the Carmelite Third Order.