Secular Order Discalced Carmelites


Carmelite_Symbol.gif (2067 bytes)

(If you do not wish to hear the music..just press the stop button... :)


its Origin and History"


    By Fr. 0. Rodriquez
        Roma, TERESIANUM 1980

To look into the roots of the Third Order of Carmel is not an easy task because, strange as it may sound, we do not as yet have a complete history about its origin and development. There are only very sketchy references to it, and those which have come to us are not trustworthy in their entirety, for in the earliest documents there is some confusion about its name. Sometimes its members are called "confraires" or "confratres" (Latin), or "Beatas" (Spanish), or pinzocchere" (Italian), or "terciary" (English), etc. It is not always clear if there is question only of pious persons, or benefactors, or friends or sympathizers of the First Order.

In any case, it seems historically true that in the thirteenth century, with the strong so-called "Mendicant Movement," when popular preachers from the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Augustinians, etc. were engaged in the instruction and evangelization of the towns, villages and cities of Europe, they usually stayed with families and friends of their Religious Orders; and as a reward for their assistance, they were made participants of their respective Order's prayers, penances, indulgences, etc. and were named "Brothers" of the Order.

As the number of benefactors grew, it became necessary to organize them so as to communicate to them the spiritual riches and privileges of the First Orders. It is believed that St. Francis of Assisi was the first to organize those lay men and women benefactors into a kind of Secular Order through a special Rule he wrote for them (1221) according to the legend of the three golden coins. This practice was later imitated by other Mendicant Orders; e.g., the Augustinians (1401), the Dominicans (1405), the Carmelites (1452), the Minimins (1506), the Trinitarians (1751), the Premonstrates (1751), the Oblate Benedictines (1871), etc.

As for the Carmelites, it was Bl. John Soreth who obtained from Pope Nicholas Vth the Bull of Approval, "Cum nulla fidelium convention" on October 7, 1452; and the first Rule of the Third Order of Carmel was issued by him on March 12, 1455.

Origins of the Third Order of the "Teresian" Carmel

Fortunately, we are far better acquainted with the origins and development of the Third Order of the Teresian Carmel, as it is closer to us and better documented. In fact, St. Teresa, the Mother and Foundress of the Teresian Carmel, inaugurated the first house of her nuns, St. Joseph of Avila, on August 24, 1562, and the first house of her friars six years later at Duruelo on November 28, 1568. It is quite evident that in such unbelievable and superhuman enterprises she needed every bit of help she could get; and so, in her writings (cf. Life, chs. 32-36; Foundations, etc.) we find a host of persons in every state and condition who helped her generously and all are mentioned by her with thankful gratitude. For example, the rich widow Da. Guiomar de Ulloa, her brother B. Lorenzo de Cepeda, Francisco de Salcedo, Antonio Gaitan; and devout priests, such as Maestro Daza, Julian de Avila, and especially her great friend, D. Alvaro de Mendoza, the Bishop of Avila, and many others too numerous to be mentioned by name.

Grateful as she was, she did not limit herself to thanking and praying for them all; she also wanted to share with them the spiritual treasures of her Carmel: prayers, penances, graces, indulgences and the spiritual privileges of her religious family. And so, very frequently (as a spiritual retribution for their services) she would confer on them the small scapular of the Order. That's what she did for her first chaplain of St. Joseph's, Julian de Avila, and others.

Thus we have to stress the peculiar feat of St. Teresa: she was the first woman in the Church to become the Foundress of an Order of men, in which the nuns, juridically the Second Order, were chronologically the first to be founded. Our Lord so helped her that by the time she died in 1582 her Carmel was already an independent Province of Carmel, by virtue of the Bull, "Pia consideratione" of Pope Gregory XIII (June 22, 1580), with all the graces and privileges of the Carmelite Order. But it was only in 1593 that the Teresian Carmel became totally independent as a new religious family among the Mendicant Orders. And so, there is no doubt that in virtue of many Pontifical Bulls and documents (such as Gregory XIII's "Pia consideratione" [1580], Clement VIII's "Cum dudum" [1594] and "Romanum Pontificem" [1603]), all the privileges and faculties of the old branch of the Carmelite Order were granted and communicated to the new Teresian Carmel officially called "Discalced". These consisted of the faculty and power to organize and aggregate to their new Order groups of laymen, both men and women, "terciarii ad instar" as the first Chronicler of the Italian Congregation called them. (cf. Isidorus a S. Joseph: Historia Generalis OCD. Rome, 1668, vol. 1, p. 205).

Now we encounter the problem of how those Superiors of the Teresian Carmel used the powers and privileges granted to them by the Holy See in regard to the Third Order. It seems that their attitude regarding those groups of laymen who wanted to be admitted to the habit and profession with a single vow of chastity and the observance of a proper Rule, adapted to the Rule of the First Order, was at the beginning rather negative. In fact, we know that the first Provincial of the Teresian Carmel, Fr. Jerome Gracian, in his unified Constitutions for the Friars (1576) forbade to admit to the habit or profession of the vows any "beata," as those pious women were then called. (Cf. Constitutions of Gracian in BMC, Vol. 6, pp. 405-08; and Fortunatus-Beda:Constitutions OCD, '576-1600, Rome,1968.)

Such decision was accepted and fixed in the first Constitutions of Alcala (1581) when they were independent from the Calced Carmelites by this concrete ordination: "We decide that in our Province will not be accepted any ‘pinzocchere'or ‘converse' (popularly called beata) nor can they be admitted to make profession (not even of simple vow) nor be they accepted in any way under the protection of our Province. And nobody will dispense on this law." And such law was incorporated in the Constitutions of Madrin in 1592, or the Doria Constitutions.

The Two Congregations of the Teiresian Carmel

In 1600 the Teresian Carmel was divided into two Congregations by the Bull of Clement Vill: "In Apostolica dignitatis culmine" (November 13, 1600, ap. Builariu,,n Carmelitanum, Vol. 3, pp. 324-27). The Spanish Congregation was under the title of St. Joseph, and the Italian Congregation under the patronage of St. Elijah, but the attitude in both toward a Third (Secular) Order was very restrictive:

In the Spanish Congregation (limited to Spain and the Spanish Dominions) the legislation about our ternaries of 1572 remained unchanged throughout all its various Constitutions until its last one of 1786. As a general rule, they were opposed to any kind of tertiaries, concentrating their apostolate on the Confraternity of the Sacred Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and to those Christians closer to them; e.g., friends, benefactors, etc. to whom they used to offer the title or Patent Letters called "Carta de Hermanded", or "Brothers of the Order", offering for them their prayers, penances and spiritual Merits. It is true that in 1742 Fr. Manuel de Sta. Teresa approved the "Instructorio Espiritual de los Terceros, Terceras y Beatas de Ntra. Senora del Carmen" and a few years later the General, Fr. Francis of the Presentation, approved the "Ordenaciones" for the first organized Third Order in Spain, (I 776). But in both cases the norms were those of the General of the Calced, Fr. Theodore Straccio of 1637, which were some kind of adaptation of the Rule of St. Albert with nothing of the Teresian spirituality.

As for the Italian Congregation, its attitude toward the terciaries was not much different from the Spanish Congregation. It is true that here and there, there were some spiritual men and women under the special care and spiritual direction of some Teresian Carmelites. Thus, for instance, the Ven. Fr. Peter of the Mother of God, who gathered in Rome La Scala: "selectos atque excellentioris speclei Confratres per votorum et Regulae uniuscuiusque statui convenientium aliqualem promissionem" (cf. Isidorus a Sto. Joseph: Historia Generalis, Rome, 1668, p. 214). Still, the same author definitely asserted: "Carmelites do not have any kind of ternaries, or better: "Nostra Congregatio non habet terciarios collegialiter viventes," for there were isolated members with no Rule or any other type of organization.

It was only toward the end of the seventeenth century that our Third Order experienced new developments: first in the Low Countries, then in France and finally in Italy, leading it toward its final establishment.

In the Low Countries (more concretely, in the City of Liege, Belgium) a book appeared in 1699, Explication du Tiers-Ordre de N.D. du Mont Carmel, whose author was Fr. Victor de Saint Laurent. For the first time a very short "Rule of the Third Order" was offered, and even though it is quite confusing and furthermore "private" (i.e., non official, but only approved by his Provincial), nonetheless, it proves that the Third Order was very much alive and growing.

A little later, in France (Marseille) in 1708 was published a very interesting book, La Regle, le Ceremonial et le Directoire des Soeurs du Tiers-Order de Notre Dame du Mont- Carmel et Sainte Therese, Etabli dans Plusie Villes de France, d'Italie, d'Espagne, d'Allemagne et de Flandre. It appeared anonymously, but the author was a French Teresian Carmelite, and in it were some interesting developments. There can be seen the juridical setting almost complete, a Rule, a Ceremonial, and a Directory or kind of Constitutions, all of them proper to the Third Order; but interestingly enough, only for women (soeurs) as men are not mentioned at all. Other noteworthy details include:
A very specific proper title: Third Order of N.D. of Mont Carmel and St. Therese, as a counter distinction from the old Third Order of Carmel.

Of value is the statement that such Third Order was already existing in many cities or villages in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Belgium. In fact, it is stated in the Preface that: The purpose was to erect a Third Order in Marseille, after the manner of those already existent in all nations of the world wherever the First Order was established, even in the mission territories where our Fathers inscribe in the Third Order a multitude of faithful of both sexes, so as to offer them means to strengthen their faith in the Catholic, apostolic and Roman Church."

But more importantly, in the same Preface is stated that the intention of publishing this book is: "to put an end to the great confusion prevalent then about the Third Order; for while some members followed the austere Rule of the First Order in regard to the fasting and abstinence, others follow the Mitigated Rule of Fr. Giacomelli, General of the Old Observance (1678) and in order to avoid such confusion, the Superiors of the Teresian Carmel have decided to select from our Rule and frorn the Constitutions and Ceremonial of our Nuns some points which can be adapted to faithful living in the world, thereby establishing a proper Rule and Ceremonial which will be sent to all houses where the Third Order is erected so as to achieve the desired uniformity."

Thus, from the anonymity of this book, plus the reference to the Superiors of the Teresian Carmel, it is legitimate to conclude that such a new organization came from the central Superiors of the Order and not just from an obscure individual. It is also reasonable to conclude that it was during the generalate of Fr. Quintino of St. Charles (the Frenchman Lemaire, 1646-1725), who was a professed member of the Province of Tuscany, Italy and was also General of the Italian Congregation from 1707-1710, that such development took place. Therefore, this Rule should be considered the first true and proper Rule of the Third Order of the Teresian Carmel.

Now, let's take a look at the content of this first Rule of the Third Order. In its 19 chapters, the IDEALS as well as the OBLIGATIONS of the ternaries are clearly established: to attend daily Mass; to recite daily the Little Office (or 82 Paters and Aves); to make one hour of mental prayer daily, half in the morning and half in the evening; to keep some days of fast and abstinence; to do some works of charity, especially for the sick members. After one year of novitiate, members were admitted to the profession of chastity (according to their secular status) and obedience to God, to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and to St. Teresa, as well as to the Superior General and his successors.

This Rule was accompanied by a short Ceremonial and an ascetic Directory with many chapters explaining the exercise of mental prayer. This first Rule was later translated into Latin toward the end of the eighteenth century, probably to serve for a model for other languages. It is still preserved in Rome in our General Archives (cf. Code 24).

Now in Italy, the first Rule of Marseille (1708) made its way little by little in the Teresian Carmel. If we take into account that the General who approved it (Fr. Quintino of St. Carlo, 1707-1710) was a member of the Province of Tuscany, it is quite understandable that its influence would be felt first in his own Province. Thus, in 1848, a little book came out in Florence entitled, Breve Compendio di Quanto Devesi Osservare da' Terziari e Terziarie delta Ssma. Maria del Monte Carrmelo e delta Serafica Vergine S. Teresa, delta Provincia Toscana. It was really an abridgement of the Rule of Marseille (1708) and in 11 chapters it explains the nature and structure of the Third Order, laying great emphasis on the spirit of prayer as the main characteristic of the tertiary.

Some years later (1857) the Superiors of the Teresian Carmel decided to present the Breve compendia which was presented in Florence to the Holy See for its pontifical approval, but such approval was not granted. Then, another text was prepared by a jurist of the Order, Fr. Paolo di S. Guiseppe (Lupi, 1784-1866) who in 13 chapters tried to integrate both Third Orders; i.e., the Calced and Discalced. This too was presented to the Holy See, but once again refused.

Now what to do? The Superior General could not abandon the Third Order; and so, in 1883, the Definitor General revised the text of Florence (1848) and imposed it on all Congregations of the Third  Order as the-official text on January 8, 1883. This edition had a few corrections, especially about the vow of chastity and the age of admittance, which was extended to 35 years of age.

The Approval of the Holy See

This legislation was kept unchanged until 1912 when the first official Manuale of the Third Order was published in Rome. It was the work of Fr. Elia of St. Ambrose and approved by the Definitor General on October 25, 1911. In it, the goal or purpose of the Third Order was clearly established: 'to honor God and His Most Blessed Mother, and to serve the Church through an ascetical and prayerful life." It was finally approved by the Holy See on March 3, 1921, with a few adjustments to the new Code of Canon Law (1918).

This new legislation also remained unchanged until after Vatican II, when the legislation of our Third Order, like that of all religious families, underwent new revisions. After lengthy and arduous consultations with all our Congregations of the Third Order worldwide, a new redaction was published on October 26, 1970, under the title, Regola di vita e Statuti del Terz'Ordine secolare dei Carmelitani Scalzi (Rome, Casa Gen. OCD, 1970). It was approved by the Holy See "ad quinquenium" i.e., for five years. This version contained many significant changes:

A new emphasis about the specific vocation of the layman in the Church according to the Teresian Carmelite charism was incorporated.

Instead of the vows of chastity and obedience being made by the candidates after the novitiate year, now, at the end of the two formation periods, the candidates in the Secular Teresian Carmel say: "Thankful to God for the grace of my vocation, I promise to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and to the Superiors of the Order to pursue evangelical perfection in the spirit of the counsels and beatitudes of Our Lord according to the Rule of the Secular Order of the Discalced Carmelites for life." And it is only after one year of abiding by this promise that the Secular members, at their request, may be permitted to take the vows of chastity and obedience according to the Rule of the Secular Order of the Discalced Carmelites.


Our ancestors were little concerned about the number of our tertaries, just as they were not concerned about their own number. Today we are more interested in statistics, and so, since the beginning of this century, we have been able from time to time to get some statistics about the number both of monasteries and members of the Order. I will limit myself to the two latest statistics of the entire Order of the Teresian Carmel, the ones of 1962 and 1971.

In 1962 there were 360 monasteries of the First Order with 4,000 members; 760 convents of the Second Order with nearly 15,000 members; 365 Fraternities with nearly 36,000 members. (The largest Secular Order in the Church, the Franciscans, numbered nearly 70,000.)

In 1971 the number of monasteries was 357 with 3,689 members; the Second Order had 783 convents with 13,634 members; and the Secular Order had 365 Fraternities and about 50,000 members (plus 50 different Third Order Regular Congregations).

Famous Tertiaries

Our Third Order has formed a real multitude of holy souls, models of love for Christ and His Church throughout its four centuries of existence. Let's mention only the most famous: In the life of St. Teresa there were tertaries like D. Alvaro de Mendoza, the Bishop of Avila who admitted under his iurisdiction the first convent (St. Joseph's); Gaspar Daza, one of her confessors; Julian de Avila, her first chaplain; Francisco de Yepes, brother Of St. John of the Cross. And later on in the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries we have St. Vincent Ven. Elizabeth Sanna; Servant of God Maria Guiseppa Remar, Pallotti, Founder of the Society for the Catholic Apostolate; spiritual daughter of St. Francis Bianchi; Servant of God Bastone de Sonis, French general hero of Solferino and Loigny; Servant of God Peter Poveda, Founder of the Teresians and martyr; Servant of God Anita Cantieri of Lucca, whose spiritual slogan was "to love, suffer, and be silent for the Church" and others.

Fr. 0. Rodriquez



1.    History of the Order        

13.     750th Anniversary of the Brown Scapular

2.    Basic Identity of Secular Carmelites       

14.     The Brown Scapular 

3.    A Method of Meditation       

15.     Profile of an OCDS

4.    The Divine Office

16.     The Reform    

5.    Prayer,   Little Rock Congress 1976

17.      Practice of the Presence of God   

6.    Prayer,  Fr. Gabriel Barry, OCD

18.     Jessica Powers,OCD 

7.    Meditative Prayer,  Fr. Gabriel Barry, OCD  

19.     Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit (J. Powers)

8.    Elizabeth of the Trinity 

20.    The Spirituality of Jessica Powers 

9.    Fascinated by God 

21.    Sr. Maravillas of Jesus, OCD

10.  Raphael Kalinowski  

22.    Mother Luisita  


12.  Message of John Paul II, Brown Scapular


  [ St. Therese of Lisieux the "Little Flower"    I   St. Teresa of Avila  I  St. John of the Cross ]
[ Sr. Francoise-Therese, V.H.M. Edith Stein--St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross ]  
[ Secular Carmelite Information  I  The Carmelite Order The Brown Scapular  ] 
[ Our Inspirational Page  I  Pope John Paul II  I  Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
[ Elijah Prophet of God  I  Sr. Lucia, the Last Visionary of Fatima ]
The Martyrs of Compiegne   I   About Helen Carlin, OCDS   ]
[   St. Teresa of the Andes   I   Home Page
© Copyright 2001-2011 Help Fellowship, Inc