The Carmelite Third Order (Secular)

Vocation to Lay Carmel

Membership of the Carmelite Third Order is open to Christians over 18 years of age who, together with a Carmelite community, discern that God is calling them to the Order's way of life.

Called to Carmel: members and enquirers of the Third Order

Carmelite tertiaries seek to live the Carmelite charism in their everyday lives. A vocation to Carmel does not necessarily mean "doing something extra" but rather "doing everything inspired by Carmelite values". Lay Carmelites are called, as St. Teresa put it, to "find God amid the pots and pans" of daily life. Being a Carmelite is not so much a matter of "doing something" as "being something beautiful for God".

As with the religious of the Order, membership of the Third Order develops in different stages. The timetable for membership varies with each candidate, but the following stages are typical:

  • Enquiry. Someone who is interested in becoming a Lay Carmelite must be in contact with a Carmelite community (ideally attending meetings or, if that is not possible, in regular communication with the Order) for a period of at least six months.
  • Reception. With permission from the Carmelite community, and recommendation from a representative of the Church, a candidate may be 'received' into the Third Order and begin a programme of initial formation.
  • First profession. Two years after being received, a candidate may apply to the community to make first profession of promises, a public commitment to live a Christian life according to the Carmelite charism and inspired by the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity (according to one's state in life) and obedience. After first profession, formation and life in the community continues.
  • Final profession. Three years after first profession, and with the consent of the community, a candidate can apply to make final profession of promises, publicly and definitively stating his or her intention to follow Jesus Christ by embracing the Carmelite charism and Evangelical Counsels. This is not the conclusion of a Lay Carmelite's formation, but the start of a life-long period of ongoing formation in and living out of the Order's way of life.

A candidate being received into the Carmelite Third Order,
the symbol of which is the 'Reception Scapular', a miniature form of the habit

A tertiary making profession as a member of the Carmelite Third Order.

Following an ancient custom, the tertiary places his or her hands
into those of the superior of the community, as a symbol of
the bond between the individual and the Order.

At each stage on the vocation journey, God's guidance is sought, and the candidate is in dialogue with a community leader and formator. A candidate is free to leave the Order, or (in serious cases) be dismissed, at any point up to final profession.

To help in the process of discerning a vocation to Lay Carmel, the British Province has produced a set of Guidelines for Discernment.

Members of the Third Order from Kenya and the Czech Republic.
The Third Order is open to anyone over 18 who, together with a community,
discerns a vocation.