Blessed Joan of Toulouse, Founder of the third order Carmelites
On March 31, we commemorate Blessed Joan of Toulouse, the first lay associate and founder of the Carmelite third order.
Blessed Joan was born to a noble family in the kingdom of Navarre. A Carmelite monastery had been founded in Toulouse, France, in 1240, which exposed her to the Carmelite lifestyle and spirituality. Due to her devotion to Our Lady, she wished to live as an anchorite near the Carmelite monastery. In 1265, when St. Simon Stock, a thirteenth century reformer of the Carmelites, was passing through Toulouse, Joan met him and asked to be affiliated with the Carmelites. Simon agreed and Blessed Joan became the first Third Order Carmelite. She received the habit of the Carmelite order from St. Simon Stock, making a vow of perpetual chastity. A gentle, pious, prayerful young woman, she attended daily Mass and spent her days caring for the sick, elderly, and infirmed. One of Joan’s primary missions was encouraging the boys of the town to help her serve the poor and help them discern whether or not they were called to be Carmelites. Joan died in 1286 and was the first female Carmelite beatified (1452).
Blessed Joan carried a picture of the crucified Christ in her pocket, which she studied as though it were a book. Each time she gazed upon the picture, she gained a new and wonderful insight into Christ’s love.