Yesterday I joined the group of secular Carmelites in my parish. On Sunday 29th November I was waiting for my kids at the church. They were at the altar servers stall selling things for Christmas when I got talking to Fr. Lancy. After asking few questions, he told me to join the OCDS in my parish. Yesterday morning I went to meet him and in the evening I became a secular Carmelite.
Now, who are these Secular Carmelites?
The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS) are those faithful lay people, who by special vocation, undertake to live, in the world, an evangelical life of fraternal communion imbued with the spirit of contemplative prayer and apostolic zeal according to the example and teaching of the Carmelite saints. Secular Carmelites come from all walks of life. They are business owners, public servants, clerical staff, professionals, homemakers, retirees, students, men and women, young and old, married and single. Each one is tries to respond to God's call to "meditate on the Lord's law, day and night" while working, raising families, etc. Secular Carmelites usually belong to a local community. Where such communities exist they gather once a month for fellowship, prayer, and the study of Carmelite spirituality.
A Secular Carmelite endeavors to devote a minimum of a half-hour each day to mental prayer or meditation, to recite Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, and if possible, Night Prayer before retiring. They attend daily Mass if possible, and wear the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as a sign of one's devotion to Mary and membership in her order.
Those interested in becoming a Secular Carmelite first undergo a period as an Aspirant. An Aspirant will meet regularly with a Secular Carmelite community for a period of six months. During this time, the Aspirant will receive a broad introduction to the order and its spirituality. At the end of six months, an Aspirant may request to enter into formation.
The initial formation period begins when an individual is clothed with the Brown Scapular of the order and given a copy of the Gospels and of the Rule. This period of formation lasts two years and may be extended a year under certain circumstances. During formation a member will more fully study the Rule, Carmelite saints, Carmelite writings, the Liturgy of the Hours and contemplative prayer. Gradually, the person in initial formation will integrate the Rule into their daily life as he/she develops the habit of prayer.
After initial formation, the individual may request permission to then make public Temporary Promises. The Promise is a commitment "to tend towards evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, obedience and the Beatitudes, according to the Rule of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites, for three years". After three years, an individual may request permission to make Final Promises.
One year after making the Final Promises, a Secular Carmelite may be permitted to make vows of chastity and obedience. The vow of chastity does not affect the rights and duties of married people, nor does it prevent a single person from entering into marriage. The vow does not add any obligation which is not already binding under God's law. The vow of obedience binds the Secular Carmelite only within the limits of the Rule. The vows "constitute a more complete oblation of self to God, and add the merit of the virtue of religion to the observance of chastity and obedience."
The secular Carmelites are also called as the Third Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel who respond to a call from God and promise to live the Gospel in the spirit of the Carmelite Order and under its guidance.