Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Patroness of the Carmelite Order
Feast Day - 16th July
3 2us by Father Matt Blake OCD
"Mary is the one who reveals to the world the true God, Mary is the one who gives the world her Son. What Elijah did on Mount Carmel, showing the world who the true God is, is brought to completion in Mary; & the reins, the new life, the waters of baptism, all the symbols of that episode, become associated with Mary. So Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a devotion that has grown through the faith of people, through people's meditation upon Mary & what she means to them. It is through Mary that the world knows the true God, it is through Mary's son that we have been given new life through Baptism, it is through Mary's son that the abundant generosity of God is so visible, so well seen."
Talks 2us by Father Iain Matthew OCD
"Our Lady, as Mary of Mount Carmel, is a woman who is constantly present in your life, who we might say clothes you, shelters you, carries you. And that continual presence fits with silence, serenity and calm; not so much with a lot of activity or a babble of words. It fits with an attitude of gratitude, a heart that's turned towards the Lord, gratefully gazing. It fits with a disposition to carry people's sufferings in your heart. "
Rima from London
"For me the image of Our Lady that strikes me most and moves me most is Our Lady of Mount Carmel. So the Carmelite tradition which says that in the first Book of Kings the cloud that rose, no larger than a man's hand, and that foresaw the rain that was to come after the years of drought, is Our Lady, and Our Lady points to the rain that comes which is Christ, and brings the rain of grace. So Our Lady is there in times of real drought and she points to Christ and that to me is the strongest image of Our Lady."
Blessed John Paul II (at the Angelus, 16 July 2000)
"As I look at these mountains, my thoughts turn today to Mount Carmel, praised in the Bible for its beauty. We are, in fact, celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. On that mountain, located in Israel near Haifa, the holy prophet Elijah strenuously defended the integrity and purity of the chosen people's faith in the living God. On that same mountain some hermits gathered in the 12th century after Christ and dedicated themselves to contemplation and penance. The Carmelite Order arose from their spiritual experience. Walking with the Blessed Virgin, the model of complete fidelity to the Lord, we will fear no obstacles or difficulties. Supported by her motherly intercession, like Elijah we will be able to fulfil our vocation as authentic "prophets" of the Gospel in our time.
.. May Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we call upon today with special devotion, help us tirelessly climb towards the summit of the mountain of holiness; may she help us love nothing more than Christ, who reveals to the world the mystery of divine love and true human dignity."
Papa Benedict XVI (at the Angelus, 16 July 2006)
"Through a happy coincidence, this Sunday falls on 16 July, the day when the liturgy commemorates Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The slopes of Carmel, a high ridge that runs down the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea at the altitude of Galilee, are dotted with numerous natural caves, beloved by hermits. The most famous of these men of God was the great Prophet Elijah, who in the ninth century before Christ strenuously defended the purity of faith in the one true God from contamination by idolatrous cults. Inspired by the figure of Elijah, the contemplative order of Carmelites arose. It is a religious family that counts among its members great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in the world: Edith Stein).
The Carmelites have spread among the Christian people devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding her up as a model of prayer, contemplation and dedication to God. Indeed, Mary was the first, in a way which can never be equalled, to believe and experience that Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is the summit, the peak of man's encounter with God. By fully accepting the Word, she "was blessedly brought to the holy Mountain", and lives for ever with the Lord in body and soul. Today, I would like to entrust to the Queen of Mount Carmel all contemplative life communities scattered throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order, among which I recall the Monastery of Quart, not far from here, that I have had the opportunity to visit in these days. May Mary help every Christian to find God in the silence of prayer."
In the Family - the Order of Discalced Carmelites
Sr Mary of St Joseph ocd: "The Order of Carmel in itself goes back to the Middle Ages, began in the 13th century on Mount Carmel from which it takes its name in the Holy Land, begun by a group of hermits who gathered there and eventually formed themselves into a religious order. In Spain in the 16th century, when the Church was undergoing the Reformation, St Teresa of Avila founded a reformed branch, a renewed branch, of the Carmelite Order, based on what she understood of the spirit of those early hermits. The essence of her vision was to construct a way of life that would support and encourage a life of prayer, a life dedicated to prayer, very much at the service of the Church and of the whole of humanity. Her own experience of the Reformation, this attack on the unity of the Church, impacted on her as an attack on Christ himself, and that led to her famous declaration "My one wish was and still is that, as Christ has so many enemies and so few friends, his few friends should be good ones." She saw that life of prayer as being a way of serving the Church in a hidden interior way, strengthening the Church as it were from within."
Mother Mary of St Joseph is at the Notting Hill Carmel in London. She is the author of Upon This Mountain on prayer in the Carmelite tradition. She and many of her sisters gave their something about Mary during the novena to St Thérèse of Lisieux. You can contact the sisters with prayer requests here.
Blessed John Paul II's Message to the Carmelite Family
in English, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
To the Most Reverend Fathers, Joseph Chalmers, Prior General of the Order of Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (OCarm) & Camilo Maccise, Superior General of the Order of Discalced Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (OCD)
1. The providential event of grace, which the Jubilee Year has been for the Church, prompts her to look with trust and hope to the journey we have just begun in the new millennium. "At the beginning of this new century", I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, "our steps must quicken.... On this journey we are accompanied by the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom ... I entrusted the third millennium" (n 58).
I therefore learned with deep joy that the two branches of the Order of Carmel, the ancient and the reformed, intend to express their filial love for their Patroness by dedicating the year 2001 to her, invoked as the Flower of Carmel, Mother and Guide on the way of holiness. In this regard, I cannot fail to stress a happy coincidence: the celebration of this Marian year for the whole of Carmel is taking place, according to a venerable tradition of the Order itself, on the 750th anniversary of the bestowal of the Scapular. This celebration is therefore a marvellous occasion for the entire Carmelite Family to deepen not only its Marian spirituality, but to live it more and more in the light of the place which the Virgin Mother of God and of mankind holds in the mystery of Christ and the Church, and therefore to follow her who is the "Star of Evangelization" (cf Novo millennio ineunte, n 58).
2. In their journey towards the "mountain of God, Christ the Lord" (Roman Missal, Opening Prayer of the Mass in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 16 July), the various generations of Carmel, from the beginning until today, have sought to model their lives on Mary's example.
In Carmel therefore and in every soul moved by tender affection for the Blessed Virgin and Mother, there has thrived a contemplation of her, who from the beginning knew how to open herself to hearing God's Word and to obeying his will (Lk 2: 19, 51). For Mary, taught and formed by the Spirit (cf Lk 2: 44-50), was able by faith to understand her own history (cf Lk 1: 46-55) and, docile to the divine promptings, "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan (cf Jn 19: 25), enduring with her Only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering and associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart" (Lumen gentium, n 58).
3. Contemplation of the Virgin presents her to us as a loving Mother who sees her Son growing up in Nazareth (cf Lk 2: 40, 52), follows him on the roads of Palestine, helps him at the wedding at Cana (cf Jn 2: 5) and, at the foot of the Cross, becomes the Mother associated with his offering and given to all people when Jesus himself entrusts her to his beloved disciple (cf Jn 19: 26). As Mother of the Church, the Blessed Virgin is one with the disciples in "constant prayer" (Acts 1: 14); as the new Woman who anticipates in herself what will one day come to pass for us all in the full enjoyment of Trinitarian life, she is taken up into heaven from where she spreads the protective mantle of her mercy over her children on their pilgrimage to the holy mountain of glory.
Such a contemplative attitude of mind and heart prompts admiration for the Virgin's experience of faith and love; she already lives in herself all that every believer desires and hopes to attain in the mystery of Christ and the Church (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium, n 103; Lumen gentium, n 53). Therefore, Carmelites have chosen Mary as their Patroness and spiritual Mother and always keep before the eyes of their heart the Most Pure Virgin who guides everyone to the perfect knowledge and imitation of Christ.
Thus an intimacy of spiritual relations has blossomed, leading to an ever increasing communion with Christ and Mary. For the members of the Carmelite Family, Mary, the Virgin Mother of God and mankind, is not only a model to imitate but also the sweet presence of a Mother and Sister in whom to confide. St Teresa of Jesus rightly urged her sisters: "Imitate Our Lady and consider how great she must be and what a good thing it is that we have her for our Patroness" (Interior Castle, III, 1, 3).
4. This intense Marian life, which is expressed in trusting prayer, enthusiastic praise and diligent imitation, enables us to understand how the most genuine form of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the Scapular, is consecration to her Immaculate Heart (cf Pius XII, Letter Neminem profecto latet [11 Feb 1950]; Lumen gentium, n 67). In this way, the heart grows in communion and familiarity with the Blessed Virgin, "as a new way of living for God and of continuing here on earth the love of Jesus the Son for his Mother Mary". Thus, as the blessed Carmelite martyr Titus Brandsma expressed it, we are put in profound harmony with Mary the Theotokos and become, like her, transmitters of divine life: "The Lord also sends his angel to us ... we too must accept God in our hearts, carry him in our hearts, nourish him and make him grow in us so that he is born of us and lives with us as the God-with-us, Emmanuel" (From the report of Bl. Titus Brandsma to the Mariological Congress of Tongerloo, August 1936).
Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church. By its simplicity, its anthropological value and its relationship to Mary's role in regard to the Church and humanity, this devotion was so deeply and widely accepted by the People of God that it came to be expressed in the memorial of 16 July on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church.
5. The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother's loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a "habit". Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church (cf "Formula of Enrolment in the Scapular", in the Rite of Blessing of and Enrolment in the Scapular, approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 5 January 1996). Those who wear the Scapular are thus brought into the land of Carmel, so that they may "eat its fruits and its good things" (cf Jer 2: 7), and experience the loving and motherly presence of Mary in their daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest him in their life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity.
Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life's journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a "habit", that is, a permanent orientation of one's own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the "covenant" and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother.
6. A splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which inwardly moulds individuals and conforms them to Christ, the firstborn of many brethren, is the witness to holiness and wisdom given by so many Carmelite saints, all of whom grew up in the shadow and under the protection of their Mother.
I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time! Out of my love for our common heavenly Mother, whose protection I constantly experience, I hope that this Marian year will help all the men and women religious of Carmel and the devout faithful who venerate her with filial affection to grow in her love and to radiate to the world the presence of this Woman of silence and prayer, invoked as Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope and Grace.
With these wishes, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing to all the friars, nuns, sisters and lay people of the Carmelite Family, who work so hard to spread among the people of God true devotion to Mary, Star of the Sea and Flower of Carmel!
From the Vatican, 25 March 2001 [Feast of the Annunciation]
Blessed John Paul II's Message to the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt Carmel
- in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish
To the Most Reverend Father Joseph Chalmers, Prior General of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel
1. I am delighted to know that the centuries old Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is celebrating its General Chapter, moved by the desire to continue serving Christ and the Church in total fidelity to its charism and to the directives of the Papal Magisterium.
This resolve assumes particular eloquence at the beginning of the new millennium, in which the Church confidently goes toward the future fixing her eyes on Christ - "the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Apoc 22,13) - striving to fulfil faithfully the mission He entrusted to her.
I want to underline the fact that the General Chapter is held during the year celebrating the 750th anniversary of the gift of the Scapular. For such a special jubilee I wanted to send, on 25 March this year, a special message to the whole Family of Carmel. Further, this year also marks the 7th centenary of the birth of the great Carmelite bishop, St Andrew Corsini, rightly remembered as an example for pastors and a model of consecrated life for all religious.
While uniting myself spiritually to your Chapter to invoke the Spirit of the Lord upon its work, I greet you, Most Reverend Father, and I thank you for the service rendered to the Order of Carmel and to the Church during the past 6 years. With you I greet the participants in the General Chapter coming from various nations, and through them, I extend my warm best wishes to the whole Carmelite Order.
2. The theme of the chapter is: The journey continues. Your reference to human experience of a journey belongs to Carmelite spirituality. From the first hermits established on Mount Carmel, who had arrived in the Land of the Lord Jesus as pilgrims, life is represented as an ascetical ascent towards the holy mountain, that is Christ Jesus our Lord (cf Roman Missal Collect of the Mass in honour of the BV Mary of Carmel, 16 July). Two Biblical icons, precious to the Carmelite tradition, inspire this interior pilgrimage: that of the prophet Elijah and that of the Virgin Mary.
The prophet Elijah burns with zeal for the Lord (cf I Kgs 19,10); he sets off toward Mount Horeb and, although tired, he continues walking until he reaches the goal. It is only at the end of his difficult journey that he meets the Lord in the still small voice (cf I Kgs 19,1-18). Looking at his example, the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel understand more deeply that only those who train themselves to listen to God and to interpret the signs of the times are able to meet the Lord and recognize Him in daily events. The Lord speaks in many ways, even through realities that at times can seem insignificant.
The other icon is that of the Virgin Mary, whom you venerate under the title of Sister and Beauty of Carmel. Our Lady sets out to visit an elderly cousin, St Elizabeth. As soon as she received the announcement of the angel (cf Lk 1,26-28), she generously departs, running along mountain paths (cf Song 2,8; Is 52,7), to visit Elizabeth when she learned that she needed her help. In the meeting with her cousin, from within her rich spirit she pours forth her hymn of joy, the Magnificat (cf Lk 1,39-56). It is a hymn of praise to the Lord and a witness of humble readiness to serve her neighbour. In the mystery of the Visitation, every Christian can discern the shape of his own vocation. Let it be so for you, gathered together in your Chapter, to give to your Order a fresh ascetical and missionary impulse. With a heart full of praise to the Lord in the contemplation of his mystery, go forward joyfully on the paths of charity, opening yourselves with fraternal readiness in order to be credible witnesses of the merciful love of the Word of God become man to redeem the world.
3. "The journey continues." Yes, brothers, your spiritual journey continues in the world of today. You are called to reread your rich spiritual inheritance in the light of the current challenges so that "the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anguish of the people of today, of the poor and of all those who suffer may be the joys and hopes, sorrows and anguish of the disciples of Christ (Gaudium et Spes, n 1) and especially, of every Carmelite.
This year, when you commemorate the 750th Anniversary of the gift of the Scapular, you need to make more vigorous and decisive your will to allow yourselves to be clothed with Christ (cf Rom 13,14). Ask Mary, who was so caring and so gentle towards the Child Jesus (cf Lk 2,7b), to clothe each of us with the wisdom and love of her divine Son. While you are fully aware of the mission that God has entrusted to your beloved Order, offer to the world the witness of your fidelity so that Christ may be known and accepted by all as the only Saviour of mankind, yesterday, today and forever (cf Heb 13,8).
For this end, I invoke the abundance of divine grace on you. May the Holy Spirit, in a renewed Pentecost, descend on you and enlighten you so that you can discern the will of your merciful and heavenly Father so as to be able to speak to the men and women of today in a way that is effective and appropriate (cf Acts 2,1-13).
With these sentiments I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, to the members of the Chapter, and to the entire Family of Carmel, imploring on each of you the maternal protection of Our Lady of Mt Carmel along with the intercession of the prophet Elijah and of the numberless Saints of your Order.
Castel Gandolfo, 8 September 2001 [Feast of Our Lady's birthday]
IOANNES PAULUS II