A special Feast for many of us.
The mountain is literal: hermits lived caves on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah (what is now northern Israel, a steep forested mountain with a view down to the Mediterranean coast) in the 12th century. The Hebrew name “karmel” means “garden land” and “a fruitful place.” It is believed that the prophet Elijah may have taken refuge here. The hermits built a small primitive chapel dedicated to Our Lady. On July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, an English Carmelite and showed him the brown scapular. She appeared with the scapular in hand, and told him: “Take, beloved son, this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant.”
By the 13th century, Carmelite monastics were known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They had a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 their vocation and celebration of Mary on this lonely mountain became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The Carmelite charism is closely related to the Virgin Mary as well as to Elijah. Carmelite contemplatives, saints and theologians have promoted devotion to Our Lady and were among the first to champion the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.
St. Teresa of Avila in Spain called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” St. John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel and helping him escape from prison. St. Therese of the Child Jesus believed that a statue of Mary and subsequent intercession cured her from illness. Carmelite spirituality is centred on prayer, understood as loving friendship with God, and contemplation as the free gift of God. Hence, Carmelite spirituality is focused on attention to one’s relationship with Jesus and the intercession and example of His Mother. It is deeply Marian: like Mary, Carmelites ponder in their hearts the Divine mystery.. The spirituality is profoundly eremitic and bound up with the hidden inner life guided by the spirit in solitude and prayer.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel
O, most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel,
fruitful vine, splendor of heaven,
blessed mother of the Son of God, immaculate virgin,
assist me in my necessity.
O, star of the sea,
help me and show me herein,
you are my mother.
Mary conceived without sin,
pray for us who turn to you.