The Carmelite Life
Much has developed and changed in the 800-year life of our Carmelite brotherhood, but the common thread that has always distinguished the Carmelite way is that our lives are defined by prayer, community and apostolic works. It’s a balanced way of life that leads you closer to Christ while in service to His Church.
Our website is designed to be a window into the diverse experiences, interests and ministries of the men who make up the Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary. We invite you to browse through the site to get a feeling for our way of life. We have no doubt that men who are interested in the Carmelites will have numerous questions for us and we invite you to contact us with those questions or to set up an appointment here. In the meantime the FAQ section below can help answer some fundamental questions about who we are.
Q: How do I know if the Carmelite way of life is the right one for me?
A: The first question to ask yourself is “do I feel drawn to that way of life, do I find it attractive”? God often works in our lives by giving us desires for beautiful things. If what we desire is good and true, the desire is likely of God. Prayer and discernment are necessary to discern the quality of a desire to see if it is of God.
Q: Why would someone join this Order today?
A: Carmelites are dedicated, interesting, happy, and holy people who do a lot of great things. Men join because they want to live and work with these guys. The Carmelites have a rich tradition of spiritual guides-some of the best in the Church! To be a Carmelite is to be a part of a something bigger than yourself. And the Carmelite life leads you into the heart of God – people like Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, Andrew Corsini, and Edith Stein!
Q: What does the Carmelite way of life have to offer a world torn by terror and impoverished materially and spiritually?
A: Life is so complex, a mix of sorrows, joys, sacrifices and gifts. The Carmelite life does not falsify this complexity. Recognizing our own sinfulness we fast and open ourselves to God’s healing love. Recognizing the incompleteness of the Kingdom of God in the world, we strive to reach out in prayer and service to all people. In all this we find inestimable joy, the joy of Mary who witnessed the joy of the redemption of the world in the sacrifice of her son.
As a Carmelite, you will walk a tested and true path of peace. You will walk in union with your brothers and in fidelity to Christ and the witness of Elijah and Mary. You will be living out your baptismal call to be “salt of the earth and leaven of the world,” bearing witness to a gift hardly heeded or understood.
The only thing the Carmelite way of life can offer is the only thing Christianity has to offer and indeed the only thing God has to offer: Christ. But we should not want anything else, for in Him all our longings are fulfilled.
Q: Where is the Order based?
A: The Order began on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land about 1200 A.D. The international headquarters is now located in Rome, Italy. The Prior General and his Councilors and support staff live there. Also in Rome is Collegio Sant’ Alberto, our International House of Studies. This is located a few blocks from the Vatican.
The Order is divided into “provinces” each under the leadership of a “Prior Provincial” and his Council. There are about 40 Provinces throughout the world including North America, Europe, Africa, South America, and the Asian rim.
About ten years ago, we re-established the Carmelites in France. Previously Carmelites had fled or been killed during the French Revolution in 1789. From bits of documents available, we know that 34 Carmelite priests died as direct victims of the revolution. Frs. Martien Pannetier, Michel Barrot, Jean Baptiste Bedouin, and Firmin Vigneron were guillotined, probably because of support for the revolution. The rest died of malnutrition and sickness while confined to prison ships. It took awhile to get back to France but Carmelites are there now.
We also recently founded missions in Vietnam and Trinidad. Currently, men are being trained in Rome to return to their homeland of Romania. We’re currently working to establish missions in several areas of Africa, including the Congo, Bukino Faso, and Uganda.
Q: Does the Order have a certain habit you wear today? What does it look like?
A: Our habit looks somewhat like the Franciscan habit. It consists of a brown tunic with a scapular and capuce (hood). On special occasions-and when we are buried-we wear a white cloak (that is why we are sometimes called “Whitefriars”).
We wear the habit sometimes when we are going to celebrate Mass and give talks at a retreat. Some wear the habit a lot more frequently – for dinner, to teach in, for prayer, etc. It is a matter of personal preference.
Q: Are Carmelites cloistered?
A: Actually there are several branches of Carmelites. The PCM Province of Carmelites (whose site you are currently visiting) is not a cloistered group. While most Carmelite men are not cloistered there are a few hermit groups. However, there are several groups of Carmelite nuns that live a cloistered life and their work tends to be something that can be brought into the cloister (painting, computer data entry, making vestments, writing books, etc). There are also Carmelite sisters who are not cloistered. They might work in hospitals, daycare centers, schools, etc. where they are out among other people.
Q: What are the requirements for joining?
A: You have to have completed high school, show potential for leadership, and show an interest in living the Carmelite lifestyle. In very simple terms, the Carmelite lifestyle means a few things:
- We do not get married and focus our energy and love on one person as a married person must and should. Carmelites are called to focus their love and energy on developing relationships with anyone we might meet (this is the vow of chastity);
- We do not own anything. We take a radical view that what we have comes from God as a gift and that we are merely stewards of God’s creation (this is the vow of poverty).
- We do not do what we want necessarily but we do what is good for the group (this is the vow of obedience)
Q: I have accumulated a large amount of educational debt. Can I still become a Carmelite or do I have to spend years paying off my loans?
A: We recognize the inevitability of educational debt in today’s society. We also recognize that the education you’ve received will likely aid in your future ministry and can thus aid the work of the Order. We thus have no problem assuming your educational debt, should you become a professed Carmelite.
Unfortunately, we do have limited resources, so cannot take on other kinds of debt (credit card and others). These will have to be taken care of before you apply to the Order.
Fear not, though. If you have a vocation to religious life, God will send the means to make it possible. Do contact us-we’ve dealt with other young men in your situation.