Lady of Mount Carmel
Stanley J Muzhuthettu
July 16th is a day of great importance to many Catholics. We celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel but the meaning and purpose of this feast is often forgotten. The goal of this article is to shed light on the significance of our Lady of Mount Carmel and the powerful way she leads us to union with God. Additionally, I will also go into detail on the history of this event and its relationship to the brown scapular many Catholics wear.
To understand our Lady of Mount Carmel, we must first understand the history of the Carmelites and the history of Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is located in the holy lands above Jerusalem. This mountain range has been the site of many miracles such as God answering the prophet Elijah to contest the prophets of Baal. Fast forward to the Twelfth and Early Thirteenth Century, many hermit Christians live on Mount Carmel and refer to themselves as Carmelites. They choose to live a remote, yet, communal life of prayer and dedicate their first church to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Lady of Mount Carmel and patron responsible for the care of the Carmelites. That is why their title was “Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Mt. Carmel”. To the Carmelites, she represented a union of faith and maternal protection. A love similar to Mother Mary’s love for her son Jesus.
When the Carmelites traveled to Europe, they planned to join the Church. What they experienced was much danger and persecution from other religious orders and many tribal groups. It is said that on July 16th, 1251, a young Carmelite named Simon Stock was praying for the safety of his people. Mother Mary answered Simon’s prayers and appeared with a brown scapular in her hand. A scapular is a brown robe that is suspended from the shoulders. She commanded him, “Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.” The brown scapular became a symbol of Mother Mary’s embracing presence and anyone who faithfully followed and honored her service as a Carmelite would never be lost and always be protected.
“Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”
The Carmelites were soon spared from persecution and their people flourished. As time went on, others wanted to share in this grace with the Carmelites. So, the Carmelites would cut two square pieces of cloth from their scapular and tie them as a necklace. This little scapular signified a shared promise of protection and mercy with Mother Mary. Today many Catholics wear these brown pieces of cloth as a necklace to honor Mother Mary as the Carmelites did on Mount Carmel.
Thus, July 16th marks the anniversary of this miracle. A day to honor the Mother of Mercy and to be grateful to her, so that our prayers may be answered just as Saint Simon Stock’s prayers were. So, as the great day approaches, let us wear our scapular necklaces and pray to our Lady of Mount Carmel just as the Carmelites have prayed for thousands of years.