Recently Minsteracres hosted a large group of lay Carmelites who came from all over the country for their national gathering. Curious about their motivations and intentions in being part of a lay order we asked some of them to tell us what had originally attracted them and how it enriched their lives to be a member.
What we heard is that the initial contact had seemed like a calling: they were strongly drawn to what was offered, even describing it as “an irresistible force”. The (not too tightly defined) structure of living a Christian and Catholic life in the secular world was experienced as very appealing.
By joining the lay Carmelites in a local community you become part of the worldwide Carmelite family. There are monthly meetings and regular retreats. You are helped in building up a personal routine of daily prayer. Within that framework there is plenty of opportunity for discovering and developing your own spirituality and recharging your inner batteries.
We were told that it takes several years of introduction and formation to learn the ropes and to decide whether it’s a good idea to become a full member. That final stage is attained by making promises to dedicate yourself to prayer/contemplation, community and service.
One person said: “I love the combination of contemplation and action”. Another mentioned that being a lay Carmelite “helps me to focus and act from a prayerful attitude”. Members also expressed how much they enjoyed being with like-minded people with whom they can reflect on Gospel and community, and presence in the world.
Third Order Carmelites (TOC) are a secular branch of the Carmelite Order and its members are Catholic lay people. They devote themselves to leading contemplative/prayerful lives, being active church and community members and of service to all.