Tag Archives: Carmelite

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 14, 2016


Our Lady of Mount Carmel

July 16 is the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  It commemorates July 16, 1251, the day when the Blessed Mother Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock in England a number of years after he had made a visit to Mount Carmel.  It is the patronal feast of the Carmelite religious order.

Mount Carmel is a beautiful and picturesque mountain located in northern Israel just south of the modern city of Haifa.  It towers magnificently over the Mediterranean Sea below with an elevation of 470 feet at the coastline and 1742 feet further inland.  The Stella Maris Mount Carmel location provides a panoramic view of the sea to the east and the city to the north.

Mount Carmel is associated with the ministry of the prophet Elijah who lived in solitude in a cave along the mountainside.  It is the place where Elijah successfully confronted the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19-40).

During the Twelfth Century AD, a number of Christian hermits moved into the same caves, inspired by the prophet Elijah to live a life of poverty and simplicity, silence, solitude, and prayer.   Mount Carmel has been traditionally associated with the glory of Mary while Mount Tabor has been traditionally associated with the glory of Jesus.  The monks who lived on Mount Carmel had a special devotion to Mary, built a small chapel in her honor, and prayed regularly through her intercession.

St. Simon Stock was a baron from England who visited Mount Carmel sometime in the early Thirteenth Century, and upon encountering the Carmelite hermits who lived there, he convinced some of them to accompany him back to England where they would establish a community and monastery.  Upon their return, St. Simon Stock reported that the Blessed Mother appeared to him on July 16, 1251, at Aylesford, England, and that during the apparition she presented him with a scapular which subsequently became a featured aspect of the Carmelite religious habit.  The scapular is a long rectangular piece of brown fabric worn over the shoulders to below the knees over the front and back above the full-length brown robe.

The scapular represents the yoke of Jesus (Mt 11:29-30), and it serves as a constant reminder to comply with the gospel and obey the will of God.  It also is an outward sign of devotion to Mary, and a reminder to imitate her virtues, exceptional holiness, and prayerfulness.

The Blessed Mother made several promises regarding the scapular.  St. Simon Stock was burdened with many worries, as were many of the other monks, and Mary promised that whoever wore the scapular would be given the gift of perseverance.  Furthermore, she promised that whoever was wearing a scapular at the time of death would be released from Purgatory the first Saturday after their death.

The promises at first were understood to be reserved to the members of the Carmelite religious order, but later the promises were extended to members of the laity.  An adapted form of the scapular was developed for lay use, two small rectangular panels joined by two brown strings or cords and worn over the shoulders and usually under the clothing.  The scapular is a sacramental, a sacred object that is blessed and treated with reverence and respect.

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