Discalced Carmelites form group on Pawleys Island

PAWLEYS ISLAND—Lay people along the Grand Strand now have the chance to connect with an ancient spiritual tradition founded more than 800 years ago — the Carmelites. 

A new discalced Carmelite group, the Coastal Community of St. John of the Cross, has been formed and is based at Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawleys Island. 

The Carmelites were founded in the 12th century by a group of hermits who gathered on Mount Carmel and decided to live their lives patterned after the prophet Elijah. Those founders devoted themselves to solitude and prayer in an effort to grow closer to God. Elijah and the Blessed Mother are considered the patrons of the order. 

The Discalced Carmelites were established in 1593 by St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross during their work to reform the Carmelite order. 

The new group along the coast is part of the Lay Carmelites, a religious third order. 

Those who join third orders are lay people who commit themselves to participate in disciplines of prayer and service while continuing to live in the secular world. 

Pawleys Island resident Steve Attias is one of the founders of the group, which met informally for four years before applying to the secular order office for the province in Washington, D.C. Members had to write a “spiritual biography” detailing their journey of faith and what led them to explore Carmelite spirituality, among other things. 

“We hope this group brings a deeper love for Jesus and his holy Catholic Church to people in this area,” Attias said. “Our vocation is for the good of the whole Church. We want to help people develop the skill of listening with the heart and seeing with the eye of the soul, and to experience the gift of contemplation.”

Provided: Keith Barron of Columbia (left) stands with Bob Barrows, Steve Attias, Lili Murphy and Matt Cullum, members of a newly formed group of discalced Lay Carmelites based on Pawleys Island.