Lay Carmelites

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Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
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Abbreviation Lay Carmelites
Formation 1476
Type Catholic religious order branch from O.Carm.
Prior General
Fr. Fernando Millán Romeral
Website http://www.ocarm.org

The Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (also named Lay Carmelites) is a branch of the religious Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance and was established in 1476 by a bull of Pope Sixtus IV. It is known for devotion to Blessed Virgin Mary under her title as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Soon after the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was established in Europe in the thirteenth century, lay persons, not bound by religious vows, seem to have attached themselves to it more or less closely. There is evidence of the existence of a "Confrairie Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel" at Toulouse in 1273, and of a "Compagnia di Santa Maria del Carmino" at Bologna in 1280, but the exact nature of these bodies is uncertain owing to a lack of documents.

Somewhat later mention is frequently made of trade-guilds having their seat in churches of the order, members of which acted as their chaplains. Thus the master-bakers, innkeepers and pastry-cooks at Nîmes, the barbers and surgeons of the same town, who were also connected with the Dominicans, the goldsmiths at Avignon. Benefactors of the order received letters of fraternity with the right of participation in the privileges and good works of the friars.

Others, under the name of bizzoche and mantellatoe, wore the habit and observed the rule, e.g. "M. Phicola nostra Pinzochera" at Florence in 1308. Others again became recluses in the anchorages attached to Carmelite churches, and made profession under the form: "Ego frater N. a Spiritu Sancto ad anachoreticam vitam vocatus offero me, coram Deo, Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, et promitto me in servitio Dei secundum Scripturam sacram Novi et Veteris Testamenti more anchoreticae vitae usque ad mortem permansurum." Among the tertiaries not living in community must be mentioned Blessed Louis Morbioli of Bologna (d. 1495).

The canonical institution of the third order dates from the middle of the fifteenth century, when a community of Beguines at Guelders sought affiliation to the order, and Blessed John Soreth, General of the Carmelites, obtained a Bull (7 October 1452) granting the superiors of his order the faculties enjoyed by the Hermits of Saint Augustine and the Dominicans of canonically establishing convents of "virgins, widows, beguines and mantellatae". Also Saint Nuno of Saint Mary had participated in the developing work of the carmelite third order. Further legislation took place in 1476 by the Bull "Mare magnum privilegiorum", and under Pope Benedict XIII and his successors.

The rule observed by the tertiaries, whether living in the world or gathered into communities, was originally that of the friars with modifications as required by their status. Theodor Stratius, General of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, composed in 1635 a new rule, revised in 1678, which is still observed among the tertiaries of the Calced and the Discalced Carmelites. It prescribes the recitation of the canonical office, or else of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, or, in its place, of the Pater noster and Ave Maria to be said thirty-five times a day, five times in lieu of each of the canonical hours; also half an hour's meditation every morning and evening; fasting on all Fridays and also on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 14 September till Easter, abstinence during Advent and Lent, and various works of mortification, devotion, and charity. Superiors may in their discretion dispense from some of these obligations.

In the early 20th century it was impossible to estimate even approximately the number of tertiaries living in the world. Besides these there are numerous corporations of tertiaries established in different countries, viz. two communities of tertiary brothers in Ireland (Drumcondra and Clondalkin near Dublin) in charge of an asylum for the blind and of a high-school for boys; eighteen communities of native priests in British India belonging partly to the Latin and partly to the Syro-Malabar Churches; four houses of Brothers of Christian Education in Spain. At the start of the 21st century there were several hundred professed members of the Carmelite Third Order Secular in the British Province of Carmelites.

Far more numerous are the communities of nuns, namely twenty-three in India (Latin and Syro-Malabar rites) for the education of native girls, and four convents in Syria in connection with the missions of the Order; two congregations of tertiaries in Spain with nineteen and forty-eight establishments respectively, and one unattached, for educational work. In Spain there are also tertiary nuns called "Carmelitas de la caridad" engaged in works of charity with 150 establishments. The Austrian congregation of nuns numbers twenty-seven houses, while the most recent branch, the Carmelite Tertiaries of the Sacred Heart, founded at Berlin towards the end of the last century for the care and education of orphans and neglected children, have spread rapidly through Germany, Holland, England, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and Hungary, and have twenty houses. In Italy there are three different congregations with thirty-two convents. There are smaller branches of the tertiaries in South America with two houses at Santiago, Chile, in Switzerland with four convents, and in England with one.

The Third Order Secular of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been introduced into the United States. There are at present two congregations, with 125 members.

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