Today, July 16th, is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the patron of Chile and the Carmelite religious order.
Here we present a few important things to know about Our Lady and the Brown Scapular, but if you wish to read a more detailed history, we suggest checking out the Sisters of Carmel.
The devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been a beautiful tradition of the Catholic Church for many years. Find a way to celebrate and honor Mary with your family today.
3 Things to Know About Our Lady of Mount Carmel
1. Early History of the Carmelites
The Carmelite Order originated on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. They do not have a particular founder. Early historical accounts find Christian hermits already settled on Mount Carmel around the year 1200. The hermits dwelt near the fountain or well of Elijah. (You can read about Elijah on Mount Carmel in the 1st Book of Kings in the Bible.) In 1204, the hermits were given a Rule of life by St. Albert of Jerusalem.
2. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and The Brown Scapular
Invasion by the Saracens caused the hermits to flee to Europe by the end of the 13th century. One of these hermits, St. Simon Stock, returned to his native England, entered the Carmelite order and was eventually named prior of his community. He appealed to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the patroness of their order, on July 16, 1251, with the following prayer:
Flower of Carmel, Blossoming vine, Splendor of Heaven, Mother Divine, None like to thee, Peerless and fair, Thy children of Carmel, Save by thy care, Star of the sea.
The Blessed Virgin, accompanied many angels and the child Jesus, appeared to St. Simon Stock and presented him with the brown scapular. She made him this promise: “This shall be the privilege for you and for all Carmelites that whoever dies piously wearing this scapular, shall not suffer eternal flames.” The brown scapular is one of the most popular sacramentals in the Church. According to the Catechism, sacramentals are “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy”. CCC 1667
3. Carmelite Nuns
The first community of Carmelite nuns was founded in Belgium in the 14th century. The nuns soon also spread throughout Europe. In 1534, St. Teresa of Avila, a great reformer and Doctor of the Church, entered the Carmel of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain.
After almost three decades as a Carmelite nun, St. Teresa became convinced that the nuns had become too worldly and needed to return to the primitive rule of Carmel with its emphasis on silence, solitude, strict enclosure and a small, sisterly community life of manual labor, prayer, penance and joyful recreation, where all would strive to live “the evangelical counsels as perfectly as possible”. She founded the first monastery of Discalced Carmelite nuns under the patronage of St. Joseph in Avila, Spain.
The Carmelite nuns have since spread throughout the world. The first monastery of Carmelite nuns in the United States was founded in 1790. Now there are 60 monasteries of Carmelite nuns in the U.S. alone.
Questions for Reflection:
The Carmelite hermits were forced to move from their original location but continued to thrive. Are you willing to go wherever the Holy Spirit leads you?
The word “Carmel” means “garden.” How are you growing the garden of your soul? Do you frequently appeal to Mary like St. Simon Stock?
St. Teresa of Avila’s decision to reform the order was not a popular one with some of her sisters. What do you do when you make a decision that might be opposed by others? How does your faith help you to stay on course?