Posted by: fvbcdm | July 16, 2012

Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (16 July 2012)

One of the nicest things that my four years in the Navy brought to me during the Korean War was getting to know more about Carmelite spirituality.  I am very much aware of this today, since July 16 is the annual celebration of  Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  Many years later, on my first trip to the Holy Land, my travel group and I were able to celebrate Mass in the monastery on Mount Carmel that is so much associated with the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha, and then of course, with Our Blessed Lady herself.

Is there any strict proof that Our Blessed Mother ever went to Mount Carmel?  Not quite, but there is a beautiful tradition to that effect among the Carmelite friars and nuns and sisters and lay Carmelites throughout the world.  And it is highly possible that that did happen.  Mount Carmel is a mountainous ridge jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea from the northwestern corner of the Holy Land, and is about thirty miles from the town of Nazareth, where Our Lord and his Mother spent most of their lives. The tradition is that Our Lady became aware that a group of holy men and women continued to live on Mount Carmel, following in the footsteps of the prophets of old who made that mountain their home.  So when the boy Jesus was a baby or small child, Our Lady took him to Mount Carmel so that those holy people could see him, and perhaps hold him and pay him their loving homage, recognizing him to be the promised savior of the world and his young mother to be the woman through whom the savior of the world had come into sacred history. 

Be that as it may, the devotion to the Mother of Jesus under this title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel came into Western Europe about the same time that our father Saint Dominic was founding our Dominican Order.  In medieval England, where the ordinary people identified the religious orders in terms of their religious garb, there were the black monks (Benedictines), the white monks (Cistercians), the black friars (Dominicans), the white friars (Carmelites who wear a white cloak over the characteristic brown habit and scapular), the gray friars (Franciscans, in those days) and the Austin friars (Augustinians).  The brown scapular was adapted to the use of the lay people, first to a cloth one, and then to the scapular medal which has become so widespread today.  When Our Lady appeared at Fatima, she assumed on one occasion the Carmelite habit so as to identify herself as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, associating herself with the scapular as well as the Rosary, since she said, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.”  Let us try to understand the joy of the holy men and woman on Mount Carmel if in fact Our Lady did bring her divine son there and allowed them to adore this child: “Emmanuel—God with us.”  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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