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Carmelite Monks
Lay Brothers

In the past seventy-five years, the vocation of brothers in consecrated life has been often forgotten, neglected, or looked down upon. The history, however, of consecrated life abounds with accounts of monks who were not called by God to the priestly dignity and duty, but nonetheless sought to offer their lives to God in obedience, chastity, and poverty. The Carmelite tradition has immemorially sought to preserve the vocation of the lay brother as an authentic path to holiness. As experience readily manifests, lay brothers are often some of the holiest and most self-sacrificing men within the monastic community.

Lay brothers are true monks who share with the choir monks or priests all that is essential to the Carmelite monastic vocation: namely the profession of the evangelical counsels in the monastic community. Lay brothers, then, are not lay in the sense of a calling to the married or single vocation; instead, the Carmelite tradition identifies perpetual brothers as lay merely to denote that they are not clerics, since they do not receive Holy Orders.

Within the monastic observance, lay brothers follow the example of St. Joseph. Unburdened with priestly duties, the lay brothers provide for the monastic community and its future through the labor of their hands and the sweat of their brows. Lay brothers unite the praying of the Our Father as prescribed in the Carmelite Rule to the choir monks in the Divine Office. In a life that readily witnesses to the Gospel values of Nazareth including the dignity of work, lay brothers find God in the midst of their daily labors. The simplicity of the life of the lay brother swiftly advances the pursuit of Christian virtues upon the necessary foundation of humility.

While a candidate to the monastic life can best discern his vocation, either choir monk or lay brother, during his first year in the monastery and with the assistance of his spiritual father, the monastic community upholds the vital place of lay brothers in the monastic community. A lay brother importantly witnesses to the monastery's charism without the added mark of the ministerial priesthood. Both vocations of choir monk and lay brother are absolutely essential to the fostering of the Carmelite tradition as envisioned by Ss. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross.