Living Carmel in the secular world

ORLANDO | “More than 20 years ago, a Lay Carmelite from St. James (Cathedral) invited me to come to a community meeting and I said “yes.”  I can’t explain why I said “yes” since I was married and had three children (ages 9-15) who were involved in everything,” said Kathleen Richardville, a Third Order Carmelite and regional coordinator for the seven Lay Carmelite communities in the East Central Florida Region within the Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. “The meeting was on Saturday morning, an impossible day for me to be away from family,” she recalled. “I actually chuckled at God and told Him that if He wanted me to be a Carmelite, He’d have to find a way for me to make the community meetings. In 20 plus years, I have almost never had to miss a meeting!”

The story is similar for many Lay Carmelites, known as Third Order Carmelites or T.O. Carm., Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, that began in 1476. Secular Carmelites are committed to living their baptismal promises in the world and thrive in this way of life. It is their vocation, whether married, single, young or old.

Richardville soon learned, “Living out the vocation is not about being more busy or doing more,” she said. “Even though we are called to serve in whatever ways we can… in our homes, neighborhoods, and certainly in the parish, it is about living each day with the heart and soul more and more attuned to God. It is about seeking God’s presence in all that a day presents to me. It is about making time for some quiet and solitude.” She added, “If at all possible, I go to daily Mass, spend a little time in quiet gazing and loving God—saying  Morning and Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, loving the Scriptures and letting God speak to me through them.” She emphasizes, “The fire of God’s love within fuels everything else, but it absolutely comes first. Nurturing the relationship with Jesus Christ is central. Then, all of life becomes prayer.” She describes it as developing the “inner tabernacle.”

“Lay Carmelites are an integral part of the Carmelite family, where First Order friars, Second Order cloistered nuns, Third Order Religious and Third Order Lay depend on each other for the upholding of Carmelite spirituality in the world,” said Cindy A. Perazzo, T.O. Carm, and coordinator of Lay Carmelites, in the Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Chicago. “More and more, Lay Carmelites are the face of the Order as the religious branches of the Order seem to be waning in North America and Europe at the present time.” The Lay Carmelite shares in the spirit of the Carmelite family of Orders, so much so, should a Lay Carmelite choose to leave the order, they require a special dispensation. Otherwise, upon burial, they may choose to be buried in the full habit worn by the religious.

There are nine Lay Carmelite chapters or communities in the Diocese of Orlando and 25 communities across Florida. Approximately 190 communities in North America have an estimated 3,000 members, not counting other parts of the world. Carmelites follow the Rule of St. Albert of Jerusalem which requires “meditating day and night on the law of the Lord” (Rule of Albert, 10 [VII, viii]). Most Carmelites do this through the practice of Lectio Divina. The official Lay Carmelite habit is the large brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but daily they wear a smaller scapular or scapular medal.

Explaining what drew her to the order, Richardville noted, “A desire and longing to love God more fully and more deeply, to learn how to live in God’s loving presence as continuously as possible while living out my active, everyday life. The contemplative dimension and the Carmelite saints and especially Our Lady are models of living a Carmelite life.” She refers to the models of the Virgin Mary and the prophet Elijah. Both lived an active faith by standing in the presence of God. It was the secret to Elijah’s success. The name Carmel comes from the mountain upon which Elijah challenged King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. Elijah and Mary are models of the active and contemplative dimensions of Carmelite spirituality.

“The Carmelite Way of prayer, community, and service is a perfect fit for me,” said Richardville. “Sharing a deep love of Jesus and His word in community here and in the larger “community” of the entire Carmelite family worldwide provides the opportunity for great growth in trying to live a holy life…a life of love.”

In Central Florida, the Lay Carmelite communities continue to grow with several candidates in formation. On May 4, 75- year-old Paulette Zucker, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Lay Carmelite community, made her first temporary profession at Holy Family Parish in Orlando after four years of structured formation. An additional three years of ongoing formation and discernment within her Lay Carmelite community is required before Zucker makes her final, lifelong profession in the Carmelite Order.

“My call to Carmel has been a culmination of many factors over the years,” says Zucker, whose husband died last year. “I needed to find a more perfect way to improve my prayer life, which now I have found in the Carmelite way of life.”

She added, “My journey to profession has been an ongoing climb to new heights, centered on Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, pondering his word in a new light, a lifting up of the spirit with a new meaning like none before, and serving others.

“This profession today continues the journey—a journey home, a home I’ve never known before, still living in the world, but not being of the world,” she explained. “Living in it in a more perfect way, through the three Carmelite charisms of prayer, service and community. I have come to learn that I need to die to self and serve others.”

If you are interested in the Lay Carmelite Order, please contact Kathleen Richardville at 407-421-7769;

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – May 10, 2019