My Story – the TL:DR version
I feel called to the Third Secular Order of Our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Teresa of Jesus. But after exploring all of my options, there is no way for me to do so currently.
I do not consider myself a teacher; I am simply a student of Carmelite spirituality who is sharing the pearls I have found in my spiritual journey. This website is my attempt to gather all of the resources I have collected in my journey towards the desert of Carmel and share them with others who may feel the same call to live a deeper spiritual life in the tradition of Carmel, but are currently unable to become an official member of the Carmelite family.
The information and resources contained on this website are especially suited for those with a devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass and spiritual practices that were popular in the Catholic church before the reforms of Vatican II.
The Long Version, or The Story of That One Time When I Almost Became A Third Order Carmelite Until They Kicked Me Out
I am a recent convert to the Catholic church, baptized and confirmed about 10 years ago. After my baptism, I soon found my way to a parish in my diocese which celebrated the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I can’t remember when exactly I got it in my head that I wanted to be a Third Order Carmelite. I do remember, however, that very soon after I began attending my new parish, that desire to become a Third Order Carmelite became strong enough that I decided to pursue this call.
My first attempt at Carmel was to join a little group that formed in the parish. The person leading the group was a professed Third Order Carmelite of the ancient order (TOC). He had recently had a “Tradversion” and was looking to found a group that was more traditionally minded than the liberal leadership of the current Ancient Order Carmelites. That experience ended rather quickly, as the group was comprised almost entirely of Novus Ordo parish members whose spirituality was just too different from my own.
After doing some research on the Discalced Carmelite Third Order before the reforms after Vatican II, I discovered that it was common for people to take the vows of a Third Order Carmelite, but due to location or other reasons were allowed to live as Isolates. This option was removed, however, in the new 1983 Constitutions for OCDS, largely due to irregularities in the formation of isolates.I then tried to explore every option that I could find to possibly be an isolate tertiary Carmelite so that I could become a formal member of the Carmelite family and live a rule under the mantle of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel while continuing to practice a more traditional spirituality. I found an OCDS group in Indiana tied to Polish Carmelites who pray the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but they would not accept isolates. I met a woman at our parish who was a professed OCDS who had been a mentor to isolates for years before the option was taken out of the OCDS Constitution, but after a few months of mentoring me her cancer returned and she was unable to continue with our formation studies (she has since passed away, God rest her soul). I reached out to the Carmelite Monks of Wyoming, the Carmelite hermits in the west Texas town of Christoval, a new apostolate of Carmelites in Brazil. I even checked with a traditional parish in New Jersey to see if I could be an isolate in their group, but had no luck.
After exhausting all of the possible Latin Mass friendly alternatives, I decided to request to enter the local Novus Ordo OCDS group, and was accepted in the fall of 2012. I was nervous, but I had hopes that even someone like me who prayed a little different than everyone else could still be accepted. I also thought it very providential that there was a woman from the Anglican Ordinariate and a woman from a Maronite Catholic church who were aspirants in my group.
This is an excerpt from the letter that I wrote to the novice master of the OCDS group before beginning my aspirancy period:
I have given much thought to the Third Order Discalced Carmelite group. My discernment process has been very sincere, and filled with many hardships and struggles. I’ve prayed about this vocation many times, and continued my daily practices that would be required were I to become OCDS (daily Mass, 30 minutes of mental prayer, etc.). I’ve also continued to take monthly classes at the local Carmelite retreat center with the Carmelite friars.
Quite honestly, the reservation that has been holding me back is the fact that I belong to an Extraordinary Form (EF) parish. I know that in addition to adopting pious practices of the Carmelite order, wearing the mantle of Carmel as an OCDS also means making a promise of Obedience. By addressing concerns about Ordo and liturgy, I fear that I may appear to be against the spirit of the Obedience required of an OCDS, which is not at all my intention. I did not think it would be fair, however, to walk in the door without being fully honest about my concerns and thoughts.
To be very clear, I have absolutely no doubt of the validity of the Ordinary Form (OF) Mass, and was catechized and baptized at the Cathedral downtown. I find beauty and truth in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form of Mass, and would delight in celebrating Mass with the Carmelite friars and the OCDS community.
In regards to my day-to-day spiritual practices, I have found the charism and apostolate of the traditional priestly apostolate in charge of my parish to be of invaluable assistance in my spiritual growth. The pastor at my parish is the one who first introduced me to Little Thérèse and Story of a Soul in his sermons, which was the beginning of my walk towards Carmel. My pastor’s mother is actually a professed OCDS and has been for 20+ years, which explains his tendency towards having a very Carmelite-influenced spirituality based in love of God and perseverance in prayer. The priests of my parish give sermons regularly about such topics as the importance of mental prayer and devotion to Mary, and the brown scapular devotion is strongly encouraged as well. We even have an Infant Jesus of Prague prayer nook in our church. In a nutshell, my parish is about as Carmelite as a non-Carmelite parish can get!
Here is where my hesitancy lies: being an active member of an EF parish would definitely create questions in regards to the best way of fulfilling the requirements of the current OCDS constitution. Let me give you a few examples. Because of the Ordo that goes with the 1962 Liturgy, the liturgy in my Daily Mass would be a bit out of sync with the OF Carmelite Ordo. For example, the Mass celebrating the saint day of St. John of the Cross would be on November 24th in my parish instead of December 16th as it is in the OF Ordo. Instead of praying the Liturgy of the Hours, I pray the Divine Office 1962 form as approved in Summorum Pontificum for priests. While this has not been approved as liturgical prayer for anyone but priests, I find that praying the Office fits much better into my spiritual life than the Liturgy of the Hours, again due to the Ordo and saints celebrations.
Luckily, there are easy solutions to all of these OF/EF issues. In regards to the Carmelite/OF order versus the EF ordo, I can easily journey down to the local Carmelite convent, the Carmelite retreat center or the parish staffed with Carmelite priests, all within 15 minutes drive of my home, to celebrate Mass with my Carmelite family on OF feast days. In regards to the Divine Office, Collect remembrances can be inserted into the EF form of the Office just as they can the OF form. I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for a long time and would definitely feel comfortable praying the LotH in group settings with the community. As far as private Offices, we should be able to find a compromise that would be faithful to both the Order while keeping me in sync with my EF parish liturgy. My Pastor’s mother actually has a dispensation to pray the Lauds, Vespers and Compline of the 1962 Office in place of the Morning, Evening and Night prayers required in the OCDS constitution so that she can join her liturgical prayers with the priests of her home parish as well as the universal Church.
I am very willing to adopt the practices required to be in union with the Carmelite Ordo and family, and to be a true member of the OCDS community. I understand that being a member of the Discalced Carmelite family is not just joining an organization, but making promises to support an Order of the church and live a particular Rule of life. I desire to be formed as a Discalced Carmelite, to develop the deep friendship with Christ that Holy Mother St. Teresa so beautifully taught, to be able to belong to a community, and to contribute to the community apostolate and to its support of the Carmelite religious through prayer and sacrifice.
The bottom line is, I want to know God so that I can love God. And I long to do this in the desert of Carmel. I’ve read quite a few lives of Carmelite saints, and not one started with “Once I had discerned the Carmelite vocation, it was a huge cake walk.” St. Teresa of Avila had to run away from home, little Thérèse begged the Pope to be allowed into Carmel, Fr. Augustine-Marie of the Blessed Sacrament was completely shunned by the people in his previous life before conversion. And of course, once a person is in Carmel, it doesn’t get any easier. Holy Father St. John of the Cross was imprisoned by his former Order after the reforms, St. Teresa Benedicta died a martyr in the concentration camps, and St. Teresa of the Andes and St. Teresa Margaret Redi died very soon after entering the cloister. In other words, these challenges are a light cross to bear compared to others that could have been given. I have full faith that with prayer and the desire to act only with the will of the Good God, the correct decisions will be made.
Alas, it was not to be. After six months as an aspirant, I was called in by the novice master, and she told me that the group did not feel that I have the call to Carmel. I was told that they didn’t see the “charism” in me. She said that she did not see in me the interior life needed for a Secular Carmelite, and that I lacked a sense of self-reflection. Also, apparently my “unique” spirituality was something I should continue to develop. While she never directly said that my devotion to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass was the factor, there were a few comments made that implied that it was a factor. My pastor even said, after I told him I had been asked to leave the aspirancy, that I was “busted for being a Trad.” Also, he did not agree with the group’s assessment of my spirituality.
To say I was heartbroken is an understatement. Not only did I feel rejected by the Order, I felt rejected by God. Ever since that time, I have felt very spiritually “lost”, like God has asked something of me and that I failed Him.
I’ve asked myself on many occasions what would be the benefit of being a member of a Third Order community over simply following the Rule of Life of a lay Carmelite. A couple of very compelling reasons always come to mind.
Quite honestly, there is a part of me that simply wants to belong, to feel I have a true spiritual “home”. As a convert, I am the only Catholic in my family, both my family of birth and my current family of myself and my husband. I also spend a large amount of time in church-related activities – I work for the Catholic church in my diocese for my employment, and I volunteer a significant amount of time at my parish as well. Being married, I often feel sadness with the fact that my husband is not interested in anything church-related, which means that he is not involved in a huge portion of my life. At work I am often treated like a fundamentalist “Shiite Catholic” (to borrow a phrase from Jim Gaffigan) for attending a Latin Mass parish and practicing traditional Catholic devotions such as veiling. And at my traditional Latin Mass parish, I’m often treated like I’m dancing with the devil for working at the Chancery.
I also found great comfort in conforming my prayer life to the Rule and being under the protective mantle of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Having a clearly defined prayer life and spiritual formation was a constant consolation. The inherent discipline built into the formation process took away the decision avoidance that has always been a battle for me in my spiritual life.
However, both of these reasons point to things that *I* want, and not to anything that *God* has made clear as His will for me.
At this point, I do not know if this call I still feel to become a Third Order Carmelite is a true vocation that will be realized in time, or if it is only a temptation that I must bear. Until then, I will do my best to learn how to love God as a Carmelite does – to learn detachment from St. John of the Cross, to learn friendship with God through mental prayer from St. Teresa of Avila, to learn about humility and simplicity from Little Thérèse’s “little way”, to learn to live in the presence of God from Brother Lawrence, to learn to love the cross from St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and to learn the God is Love from St. Teresa Margaret Redi. I will wear my scapular and continue my devotion to the Holy Face through their Confraternities. I will pray the Little Office of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and I will do my best to help spread Carmelite devotions and share what I can about Carmelite spirituality when I can.
When I find myself confused as to my true path, I think of the words of little Thérèse when she said,”God cannot inspire unreasonable desires. I can then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness.” God has given me this desire to be holy for love of Him so that He can be loved, and I am sure that if I approach him as a little child, in poverty and humility, that he cannot help but to give me this gift of holiness, my heart’s deepest desire. This gift is His alone to give. But I also must remember that the package that he uses to contain the gift, to keep it safe and to make sure it reaches its final destination, is His to choose as well.
 Names, locations and other identifying details have been edited to protect the privacy of those involved.↩
 “Tradversion” – a change of attitude, emotion, or viewpoint from one of indifference, despair, or antagonism to one of acceptance, faith, or enthusiastic support for the Catholic religion after attending and joining a parish that teaches traditional spirituality and devotions as practiced before the reforms of the church after Vatican II, specifically a parish that offers the Traditional Latin Mass, also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Some of these “traditional” devotions include Eucharistic Adoration, Marian Processions, daily Rosaries, studying the Douay Rheims version of the Bible, kneeling at the altar rail and receiving Communion on the tongue, daily mental prayer, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, etc.↩
 For T.O.Carm: The Order of Carmelites no longer accepts candidates as isolates. The Order maintains that some form of community is essential to the Carmelite Charism. For OCDS the local statutes contain more specific information about isolate status. The OCDS Constitutions (2014) state: 56. Members of the Secular Order, who for reasons of distance, age, or illness cannot participate in the regular meetings of a community, remain members of the Secular Order and, under the authority of the Provincial Delegate, are to be associated to a particular community. It is the responsibility of the President of the community to establish contact with those members and the responsibility of these members to maintain contact with the community. However, most will not accept isolates unless they have had their formation and promises made in a community first. One of the huge differences between the Pre-VII TOCD’s and the VII OCDS is a much stronger emphasis on the priests of the Carmelite order being involved in the formation of communities.Apparently, Pre-VII, the individual groups were each doing their own thing independent of the provincial, much as the convents of cloistered nuns were doing (and the 1990 constitution Carmelite convents are still doing). It’s one thing, however, to be in a cloistered community and being formed full-time, and another to be an independent community assuming that you are being formed correctly. Apparently the provincials did not like the formation that was happening, and wanted to supervise all formation, (and for a good reason, in my opinion).↩