Secular order of discalced carmelites

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

Professing promises to strive to live evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience and of the beatitudes, [1] they live a "fidelity to contemplative prayer with the spirit of detachment it entails".

Commonly known as 'Carmelite Seculars', they are an integral part of the Discalced Carmelite Order[2], juridically dependent upon the Discalced Carmelite Friars (OCD)[3], and in "fraternal communion" with them and the cloistered Nuns of the Order. They share the same charism with the Friars and Nuns, each according to his or her particular state of life, forming a single family with the same spiritual possession, and called by God to holiness and apostolic mission.[4]

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 its foundress, St. Teresa of Jesus (of Ávila), in order 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. However, Seculars do not consider foregoing shoes as a necessity for living internal austerity and poverty. Carmelites Secular (OCDS) are distinct from the secular order of the Carmelites of Ancient Observance, known as the Lay Carmelites (T. O. Carm.).

Vocation and Promise

The Seculars' vocation is to live the Carmelite spirituality as Seculars and not as mere imitators of Carmelite monastic life [6]. With the Friars and Nuns, they assist the Order in drawing the Church into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and His Mother, Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel. They are apostles of contemplative prayer, but also live intense 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 Constitution and to live the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience and the beatitudes adapted to their lay state of life.

Spiritually mature members receiving the recommendation of the local council of their 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

The old Rule of Life, or Regula vitæ, of 1979 requires Seculars to pray for at least a half an hour each day "in an atmosphere of interior silence and solitude," to pray Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers) of the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), and to attend daily Mass when possible. Lectio Divina is a highly encouraged practice among them. 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. Although the Rule of Life was replaced by the new OCDS Constitution of 2003, the essence of their way of life remains unchanged.[8] They "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.[9] 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. They are also encouraged to attend spiritual retreats, and often collaborate with the Friars for this purpose.


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 are at least 18 years old for entry into formation.[10][11] Admission into formation depends on a clear indication of a Carmelite vocation and maturity in faith as discerned by 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.[12] Catholics called to this vocation by God 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[13], 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 acronym "OCDS" after their legal names if appropriate.


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" of 1452 to organize lay persons, but they forbade lay persons from membership in the Order and incorporated this decision into the Constitutions of 1581 and 1592. 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 Secular Order. The Marseille Rule seems to recognize the presence of already existing Secular Order communities in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Belgium and attempt to impose some degree of uniformity on independent Secular Order communities..[14]

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 grown tremendously in the United States in recent years, but membership may be decreasing in Europe. There is a large number in the Philippines due to the great devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in that nation.[17]

Bl. Pope John Paul II was an honorary member of the Order and devout wearer of the Carmelite Scapular.


  • The Rule of St. Albert and the Constitution of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS), 2003.
  • "The Rule of Life," The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, 1979.
  • Welcome to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, by Rev. P. Aloysius Deeney, OCD, ICS Publications, 2009, ISBN 978-0-935216-75-2.
  • "The Third Order of the Teresian Carmel; Its Origin and History" by Rev. Otilio Rodriguez, OCD.


External links

  • The Rule of St. Albert and the Constitution of the OCDS
  • Discalced Carmelite Order (including the OCDS)
  • USA National Council of the OCDS
  • Washington Province of the OCDS (Eastern USA)
  • California-Arizona Province of the OCDS (Western USA)
  • OCDS Subic, Zambales, Philippines.
  • Meditations from Carmel
  • Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in San Diego, California, USA
  • Our Lady of Confidence and St. Joseph Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, Savannah, Georgia, USA
  • [1]
  • A commentary on the traditional rule of the Discalced Carmelite Third Order.

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