Basic Rule of Life for Laity
Based on the ‘Manual of the Third Secular Order of our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel and St Teresa of Jesus’ (Rule of the Third Order Seculars (OCDS – Discalced Carmelites) from March 1921 until the changes after Vatican II in October 1970)
1. From a very remote period, certain individuals, through devotion to the Carmelite order, undertook to observe the Rule of St. Albert, in so far as was compatible with their secular state. Those desiring to aim at a Christian perfection in the way most suitable to their state in life may find inspiration in a more lofty spiritual doctrine and characterized by greater austerity, under the protection of the August Queen of Carmel, and in imitation of the many saints whose virtues have adorned her venerable Order. These Aspirants to Holiness, while living a life of discernment to understand God’s holy will for them, may choose to live a life structured similarly to that modeled in traditional Third Order and Tertiary Rules of Life. This rule is a guide to model such devotion.
2. The object of the laity who live this rule is to give glory to God, to honor our Blessed Lady of Carmel, and to aid our holy Mother the Church by their prayers.
3. The means proposed for the attainment of these ends are contained in the present Rule which, if faithfully observed, will lead these Aspirants to the attainment of sanctification and the possession of eternal life.
Wearing the Habit of the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular
4. The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the habit of the Carmelite Order. For the laity it takes the form of a two smaller pieces of brown or dark cloth, preferably plain, joined over the shoulder by ribbons, and falling, one to the back, the other to the front. Aspirants should wear the brown scapular devoutly, once they have been enrolled in the Scapular Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel by a priest.
5. Enrollment in the Brown Scapular makes a person part of the Carmelite family throughout the world. They therefore share in all of the prayers and good works of the Carmelite Orders, allowing participation in the merits of the Carmelite Fathers and Religious in life and in death, as well as receiving the promises of Our Lady through the Scapular.
6. Christ in the Gospels taught certain principles which He expressly stated were not to be considered as binding upon all, or as necessary conditions without which heaven could not be attained, but rather as counsels for those who desired to do more than the minimum and to aim at Christian perfection. These are the evangelical councils of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.
7. Chastity – The Members of an Order (or in the case of the Aspirant, those with a devotion to the spirituality of an Order), whose glory it is to render them in a special manner the children of the most pure and Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, should be most sensitive to all that concerns holy purity in thought, word and deed, and in their entire comportment should scrupulously shun everything calculated to dim the lustre of this beautiful virtue.
8. Obedience – It will be helpful for Aspirants to practice humble submission to their confessor or spiritual director in matters concerning their spiritual advancement.
Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary
9. All Catholics, but especially those drawn to Carmelite spirituality, are called to a consistent prayer life. For Aspirants who do not feel called to recite the Divine Office, but still wish to participate in the liturgical prayer of the Church, or for those who have a particular devotion to the holy Mother of God, there is no finer form of prayer than the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the official prayer of Carmelite tertiaries before the reforms of Vatican II. One may also recite the Divine Office from motives of devotion to unite one’s prayer life to the larger prayer of the church.
Mental Prayer, Spiritual Reading, etc.
10. As a member of a family whose primary scope is the contemplative life, Aspirants should endeavor to dispose themselves for the practice of Mental Prayer. Each day they will make half an hour’s meditation, a quarter of an hour in the morning and a quarter of an hour in the evening, or all at one time, according as the duties of the day permit.
11. Spiritual reading will be found most helpful, especially on feast days should it be impossible on working days. They should read preferably the Holy Gospels, the Imitation of Christ, the Spiritual Works of our holy Mother St. Teresa and our holy Father St. John of the Cross, of St. Francis de Sales, and St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, the Lives of Saints and of person who have died in the odour of Sanctity.
12. Aspirants should never fail to make a daily examination of conscience with due care and contrition for their sins : this is one of the most efficacious means of preserving purity of heart and advancing in perfection.
13. They should also endeavor to apply themselves earnestly to the practice of the presence of God, especially by the frequent use of ejaculatory prayers.
Holy Mass and the Frequent Reception of the Sacraments
14. Every day if possible, Aspirants will hear Mass with lively faith and recollection.
15. One should strive to recieve Holy Communion regularly. In addition all are encouraged to communicate on the first Friday of each month, on the principal feasts of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, on the feast of the Founders and Patrons of our Order.
16. Regular Spiritual Communions are also encouraged; by this means they will keep alive in their soul the desire of the Holy Eucharist, and dispose themselves better for its sacramental reception.
17. Aspirants, following the advice of St. Paul, should be sober and earnest in the practice of piety, and avail themselves of all means calculated to foster it in their souls.
18. In their homes they should be charitable, patient, good-tempered and exact in fulfilling the duties of their state, thus rendering religion and piety attractive to the eyes of others.
19. They should have greatly at heart devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Holy Patriarch St. Joseph and the Saints of the Order. To foster these devotions, they are recommended to make a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
20. In imitation of the zeal and charity of our holy Mother St. Teresa, they should be earnest in offering prayers and good works for the exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church, for the good estate of the Sovereign Pontiff and the prosperity and increase of the Carmelite Order.
Fasting and other Mortifications
21. All Aspirants should be exact in the observance of the fasts and abstinences prescribed by the Church, and never seek to be dispensed without grave and sufficient cause.
22. In addition to the days binding upon all Christians, in embracing the spirit of penance (one of the weapons of the Carmelite), Aspirants should consider incorporating some or all the fasts previously observed by the Third Order Tertiaries of Carmel:
- The Vigils of the feasts of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Immaculate Conception, and Corpus Christ, the Solemnities of our Holy Father, St. Joseph, our holy Father St. Elijah, our holy Mother St. Teresa of Avila, the feasts of All Saints of Carmel, 0f our holy Father St. John of the Cross
- All Fridays in Advent
- All Wednesdays of the year
- All Saturdays in Advent
23. Aspirants living in the world who cannot observe regular hours of rigorous silence, should at least set apart certain times for the practice of such a degree of silence as is compatible with the circumstances of their lives : for instance, from the evening examination of Conscience till after morning prayers, they might laudably abstain from all conversations not imposed upon them by necessity or civility.
24. Aspirants should be on their guard against the detestable habit of back-biting, and prove themselves the true children of St. Teresa by imitating her scrupulous regard for the good name of the absent.
25. Such is the Rule and manner of life to be followed by Aspirants of Holiness devoted to Carmelite Spirituality who desire to correspond faithfully to the graces of their vocation.
26. These Regulations, though not binding under pain of sin or punishment, should nevertheless be observed with great fidelity. It is not the dread of sin or punishment which should be the motive that impels Aspirants to the loyal fulfilment of their duties, but rather the holy fear of God, the desire to be true to their vocation and the conviction that they will obtain the reward promised to those who have faithfully observed the Rule.
27. Should any Aspirant, impelled by the desire of identifying himself more closely with the spirit of the Order, feel drawn to add to these obligations other practices of piety, especially such as involve penance and mortification, let him first obtain the authorization of his Spiritual Director or Confessor; and let him not doubt but that God will richly reward him.
28. But in everything let discretion, which is the moderating principle of all virtue, be the guide.