‘Secular Carmelites welcome
new member in Natchez
By Dr. Elizabeth Boggess
NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Vidalia community of Secular Carmelites welcomed Camille Gloria Durkin during a special celebration for her definitive promises last Sunday at St. Mary Basilica.
Durkin has studied the Rule of Life, the constitutions and by-laws of the Secular Order, and the writings of the founders and other great Carmelite saints over a seven-year period of formation, which normally consists of a year’s aspirancy, two years’ postulancy, and three years in the equivalent of the novitiate.
Her aspirancy was extended because she entered just before the province established a new universal course of study. As a candidate for the definitive promise, Durkin passed scrutiny by the provincial leadership to determine her readiness to make this final commitment to a life-long way of life.
The first Carmelites were retired Crusaders who had found ruins of buildings surrounding a spring on the south slope of Mt. Carmel near Haifa, Israel. They thought they had found the Prophet Elijah’s School of Prophets. There was already a shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on the summit, so they called themselves the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen and Beauty of Carmel.
By 1210 lay hermits in the settlement asked the bishop of Jerusalem to write a Rule of Life for them. This rule, written before 1215 when Bishop Albert Avogadro died, is presently used by both branches of the Carmelite family.
About 1280, all Christians were forced to leave the Holy Land, and the Carmelite monks and priests fled to Italy. The papacy required they live in regular monasteries, and no longer as hermits. The first convents for women began about 100 years later, and the first organized secular communities developed around 1400, usually just outside the walls of convents and monasteries.
St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross lived just after the time of Martin Luther, during the peak of the Protestant movement. Together they created a reform movement among Spanish Carmelites, desiring to return to the Rule of Life of the early hermits, focusing on contemplative prayer and simplicity of life.
They became known as Discalced or Barefoot Carmelites because they gave up their elaborate fur-lined shoes, as well as the velvet and fur-lined robes, worn by the Old Order Carmelites at that time. Nowadays both the Old Order Carmelites (O Carm) and the Discalced Carmelites (OCD) base their way of life on the early Rule of St. Albert, Bishop of Jerusalem, though they have different charisms and different roles within the church as a whole.
The Secular Carmelites are not friars or nuns and therefore make promises to their superiors in religion rather than vows to God. Because of their special relationship with Mary as a sister, they confide their promise to her safe-keeping.
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