OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL
Today, the universal Church honors the Blessed Mother under the mantle of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which is also a principal feastday of the Carmelite Order.
Mount Carmel is the mountain in the middle of the plain of Galilee on which the prophet Elijah called down a miracle of fire from the Lord, in order to show the people of Israel who had strayed that “The Lord is God!” and that the prophets of Baal were worshipping a false god – a very interesting story to read (1 Kings 18:18-39).
At the time of the Crusades to the Holy Land in the 12th century, hermits began settling in various places throughout Palestine. Some of these hermits followed the example of the prophet Elijah, a holy man and a lover of solitude. They, too, adopted a solitary life-style on Mount Carmel, near a spring called the Fountain of Elijah. They lived in small communities, similar to the cells of a beehive. Their lives were devoted to prayer and contemplation.
Moved by their love for the Holy Land, these hermits formed a fraternal community, consecrating themselves to the One who had paid the ultimate price for our salvation by the shedding of His Blood, in order that they might serve Him, clothed in the habit (attire and attitude) of religious poverty.
By the 13th century, they had formed an Order called Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and thus they became known as Carmelites. They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In 1226, the Rule of the Order was approved by Pope Honorius III, and, 21 years later, Simon Stock (later Saint Simon), an Englishman, was elected Superior of the Order.
On July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon and gave him the Brown Scapular and promised her Motherly protection to all those who wear the Scapular in faith that they will not experience the fires of Hell.
For the Scapular calls the wearers to consecrate themselves to Mary in a special way, as she leads her children to love her Son more profoundly, reminding them of the Gospel call to prayer and penance – a call which Mary models for each of us in a most wondrous way!
The brown scapular was formally approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587.
In 1726, Pope Benedict XIII extended this honor given to Mary as a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries, the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary.
Their great saints and theologians of the Church, including Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, have promoted a special devotion to her – thereby giving glory to the One True God and His Son Jesus Christ – and often championed the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
Mary, the Mother of God, leads her spiritual children clothed with this tiny garment of humility and poverty, the brown scapular, into a more intimate and loving relationship with her Divine Son – a relationship which always reminds us of our complete and unquestioning dependency upon the Loving Mercy of Almighty God.
We celebrate the feastday of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org, carmelites.net and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the Collect of the Roman Missal from the Proper for Our Lady of Mount Carmel)
“May the venerable intercession of the glorious Virgin Mary come to our aid, we pray, O Lord, so that, fortified by her protection, we may reach the mountain which is Christ. Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”