The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS) are faithful members of the Roman Catholic Church, called to live in allegiance to Jesus Christ through a friendship with the One we know loves us. Under the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel; in the biblical tradition of the prophet Elijah; and inspired by the teachings of St.Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross; we make a commitment to the The Carmelite Order to deepen our Christian commitment received in baptism; seeking  the face of God in prayer and service for the good of the Church and the needs of the world.

One is called to become a lay member of the Carmelite Order only if one has been blessed by God with a vocation.  If one has a true vocation, it must be tested for several years before one may make a life-long commitment by the Promise to strive for perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and through the beatitudes.  This promise is a pledge to pursue holiness, with a commitment to serving the Church in faithfulness to the Teresian Carmelite charism. 

Carmelite Seculars, together with the friars and nuns, are sons and daughters of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Teresa of Jesus.  As a result, Seculars share the same charism with the religious, each according to their particular state of life.  It is one family with the same spiritual possessions, the same call to holiness and the same apostolic mission.  Secular members contribute to the Order the benefits proper to their secular state of life (married or single).

The Discalced Carmelite Order is blessed with about 4,000 mendicant friars in 82 countries, 12,000 cloistered nuns in 98 countries and 53,000 lay Carmelites throughout the world.


By Loretta Gallagher, OCDS

​​The Carmelite Order developed from a single community of hermits, of whom we first hear living “after the example of that holy man and solitary prophet Elijah” on Mount Carmel (according to one contemporary writer) in Palestine in the early 13th century. They were Latin (European) Christians and around 1210 they were given a Rule of Life by St. Albert, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. Their chapel and their whole institute were dedicated to Our Lady. Carmelites have always regarded themselves as daughters and sons, in a very special way, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and also of Elijah, whom Scripture associates intimately with Mount Carmel​​  (See 1 Kings: 18). ​​

By 1238 the Saracens overran Mount Carmel, forcing the Carmelite friars to return to Europe, where they began establishing communities. The Rule of Life was adapted in 1247 to meet the needs of an Order spreading throughout Christendom. During the second half of the 13th century, circumstances conspired to lead the Carmelites ever further from their hermit origins and they finally became a mendicant Order, modeling themselves in many ways on the Dominicans, though the old hermit way of life (embracing solitude and community) was not forgotten; indeed, it was ever present to them in their Rule.

In 1562, a Spanish Carmelite nun, St. Teresa of Avila, reformed the Carmelite Order, assisted by another great Carmelite, St. John of the Cross. They established what was to become a completely new branch of the Carmelite Order: The Discalced Carmelites. This reform was part of a general reform in the Church in the 16th century. “Discalced” comes from the Latin word meaning “unshod,” and they were so called because the most distinctive thing about their appearance was that, in keeping with their more austere way of life, they wore the rope sandals of the poor in place of leather shoes. This was also a sign to the world of their poverty of spirit and simplicity of life. It was a reminder of the biblical stories where the people removed their shoes to stand barefoot, humble, on holy ground in the presence of God.

The Discalced Carmelites, both nuns and friars, aimed at a more retired and contemplative form of life, in keeping with the spirit of the original 13th century Rule of Life. Thus, it is today that there are two branches of the Carmelite family: the Ancient Observance (O. Carm.) and the Discalced (OCD). Each branch has its own Secular Order. Although updated by Vatican II, the reality of the Carmelite way of life remains the same today as almost five centuries ago: to live simply and always in the presence of God at the service of the Church. 

Three Carmelite Doctors of the Church

Over the centuries many other Carmelites have been recognized by the Church for their outstanding holiness:

  • St. Teresa of Avila (Doctor of the Church)
  • St. John of the Cross (Doctor of the Church)
  • St. Therese of Lisieux (Doctor of the Church)
  • Sts. Louis & Zelie Martin (Parents of St. Therese)
  • St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes
  • St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
  • St. Teresa Margaret Redi
  • St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
  • St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi, virgin
  • St. Albert of Trapani
  • St. Simon Stock
  • Bl. Titus Brandsma
  • Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection
  • Bls. Teresa of St. Augustine & Companions
       (Martyrs of Compiegne)

​​ Causes for Carmelite Saints