The Third Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is an association of lay people who, in response to a call from God promise to live the Gospel in the spirit of the Carmelite Order and under its guidance.
As well as lay people, diocesan priests, who find in the Carmelite charism help for their spiritual lives and their mission in the Church and the world, may be members of the Carmelite Third Order.
The Third Order member is connected to the Carmelite Order by means of the promise which he or she makes. It is possible, following a very ancient custom, to make private vows of chastity and obedience according to one’s state in life in order to be consecrated more closely to God.
Lay Carmelites, filled with the spirit of the Order, seek to live their own vocation by silently listening to the Word of God (Lectio Divina). According to the constant tradition of Carmel, they will especially cultivate prayer in all its forms.
The members of the Third Order take their inspiration from the figures of Our Lady and the Prophet Elijah.
In the midst of their normal family lives, in the work place, in their social commitments and relationships with other people, Carmelite Third Order members seek out the hidden image of God. They try to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes, humbly and consistently exercising the virtues of honesty, justice, sincerity, courtesy and fortitude, without which no Christian or human life is possible.
The Carmelite Third Order is divided into communities, fraternities or sodalities which are accompanied by the superiors of the Carmelite Order or their delegates. These groups are instituted by the Prior General of the Carmelite Order according to the law of the Church with the previous approval of the local Bishop.
Those who wish to be members of the Carmelite Third Order must be practicing Catholics. They must not be members of any other Third Order or Secular Institute, except in special cases, and they must be at least 18 years of age. After a period of initial formation, candidates are accepted for profession.
There are very many enthusiastic members of the Carmelite Third Order throughout the world at present. In recent years many new communities of lay Carmelites have been set up in various parts of the world. There has been a marvelous growth in the Third Order especially in the USA, Italy, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Kenya, The Philippines, Indonesia and Timor Leste.