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Mount Carmel in our times

Mount Carmel is the biblical site where the prophet Elias battled the 450 priests of Baal in a public spiritual contest which led to their defeat and ruin as Scriptures aptly recorded. (1 Kings 18:19-40). It was also here where Elias sent his servant seven times to the mountaintop to look for rain after years of drought which ended as he proclaimed, "Behold a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man's foot." (1 Kings 18:44).

We can find Mount Carmel on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, overlooking the modern-day city of Haifa. 

It rises 1742 feet above sea level and towers above the Mediterranean coastline and its limestone rocks form a cliff-like landscape.

The name "Carmel" means, in Hebrew (Hakkarmel [with the definite article], "the garden" or "the garden-land" because of its renowned lush and verdant beauty during ancient times. (Isaiah 35:2)

It is known for its cover of flower blossoms, flowering shrubs, and fragrant herbs. Such was its charm and appeal that it was compared to the beauty of the bride in Solomon’s song. (Song of Songs 7:5)

Nowadays it comes in various names as Antelope-Nose, Har Karmel, Holy Headland, Jebel Kurmul, Mar Elyas, Mount of User, Rosh-Kedesh.

 

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Origin of Invocation

The title of Our Lady of Carmel can be traced back to the hermits who used to live in the renowned and blessed mountain at the time of the Old Testament.

There, this pious and austere community prayed in expectation of the advent of a Virgin-Mother who would bring salvation to mankind much like the holy prophet Elias who ascended Mount Carmel to pray to God for the salvation of the Israel which was suffering a terrible drought at that time.

Elias "went up to the top of Mt. Carmel, and casting himself down upon the earth put his face between his knees." (1 Kings 18:42).

He persevered in prayer, and as previously mentioned above, sent his servant several times to the mountaintop to see any sign of foreboding rain.  Elias, never wavering in his confidence, received the good news on the seventh try, "Behold a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man's foot." (1 Kings 18:44)

Soon thereafter, torrential rains fell upon the parched land and the people of Israel were saved.

 

A Prefigure of Our Lady

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14). The hermits took after his example and prayed likewise for the advent of the much awaited Virgin who would become the mother of the Messiah. It became their spiritual mission.

Theologians see in that little cloud a figure of Mary, bringing salvation in the seventh age of the world. As the clouds arise out of the sea without the weight and the salinity of the waters, so has Mary arisen out of the human race without suffering its stains.[1]

Based on the L’Institution Des Premieres Moines, a text most singularly representative of the spirit of Carmel and of its most ancient and quintessential mystical traditions, Elias would discern from that cloud four secrets from God concerning the birth of Our Lady:[2]

1. The Immaculate Conception – because the Virgin would arise as a cloud out of the salty water of a guilty humanity, having the same nature of that water but without its bitterness.

2. The Virginity of Mary similar to that of Elias – because, if she "arose out of Mount Carmel" and "like a man’s foot," this means she would follow the path of Elias, who ascended Carmel through voluntary virginity.

3. The time of the Virgin’s birth – because as Elias’s servant saw the cloud on his seventh try so would the world witness the advent of the Virgin in the seventh age of the world.

4. The Virginal Maternity – because, in that little cloud, God would come down like sweet rain, "without noise of human collaboration," that is, without violating her purity.

 

The Spirit of Elias and the Carmelite Order[3]

Elias led a hermetic life on Mt. Carmel with special veneration for the Most Holy Virgin. His disciple Eliseus, who received his mantle, and other followers, known as Sons of the Prophet as Holy Scriptures described them, participated in his solitude and became filled with his strength and spirit. In a holy hereditary succession, they passed on his spirit and strength to others.

Through the continuous propagation of the above practice, the foundation and development of the Carmelite order began to take root. This we learn from tradition, liturgy, works of various authors and several bulls addressed to the Carmelite Order by Popes John XXII, Sixtus IV, Julius II, St. Pius V, Gregory XIII, Sixtus V and Clement VIII.

One beautiful passage from a private revelation to a mystic relates that after the High Priest of Jerusalem had announced that St. Joseph was to be the husband of Our Lady selected by Our Lord Himself, "the young man from Bethlehem joined the hermits of Elias on Mount Carmel and continued to pray fervently for the Messias.[4]

 

The first church in honor of Our Lady in the Christian era

According to a long held and pious tradition, backed by Church Liturgy, a group of men devoted to the prophets Elias and Eliseus embraced Christianity on the day of Pentecost. They had been the disciples of St. John the Baptist, who prepared them for the coming of the Redeemer.

This band of faithful left Jerusalem and settled on Mt. Carmel. There they erected a church dedicated to Our Lady on the same spot where Elias saw the little cloud which symbolized both fertility and the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. They adopted the name of Friars of the Blessed Mary of Mount Carmel. [5]

 

 

Controversy still unsettled

However, in 1668 a Belgian Bollandist and Jesuit hagiographer, Daniel Van Papenbroek, dismissed the above story as fable or legend for lack of concrete evidence in the March volumes of the Acta Sanctorum. A bitter controversy arose that dragged on for years, eventually reaching Rome in 1698. Innocent XII issued a decree imposing silence over all concerned parties until a definitive pronouncement could be reached – which was never formally realized to date.

Nevertheless, in 1725 Benedict XIII granted permission to the Carmelites, in an apparent show of support and approval, to erect in St. Peter's among the statues of founders of Orders and patriarchs, one of Elias with his own inscription fashioned to the effect that the Carmelites have done so to honor their founder St. Elias the prophet. [6]

Be as it may, in spite of the cloud of mystery and controversy surrounding these beginnings, the Carmelite Order has always claimed Elias as its own and has seen in him as one who laid the foundations of the eremitic and prophetic life that formed part of its character.

 

Establishing spiritual continuity and Marian character

It would take several centuries before historical and documental proof could be gathered as to the existence of hermits on Mount Carmel with spiritual links to the prophet Elias. The first concrete text dates back to 1177 through the writings of the Greek monk John Phocas.[7]

The monastic-style spirituality were practiced and observed on Mt. Carmel through the pioneer efforts of St. Berthold of Mount Carmel, who may have come to the Holy Land from Limoges, France as a pilgrim to visit Elias’ cave, or as crusader who engaged in battle. He gathered other hermits from the West who were scattered throughout Palestine at that time to form a community imbued with the spirit of Elias. St Berthold organized them as cenobites, a monastic tradition that stresses community life under a religious rule.

These first monks who retired to Mount Carmel in 1150 made their center a chapel consecrated to our Lady and from the time of Saint Brocard, successor to St. Berthold and the first Prior General, the nascent Carmelites were to be known as Brothers of our Lady of Mount Carmel. Thus devotion to Our Lady formed a distinctive part of their character and spirituality. "Despite its historical inexactitudes L'Institution DesPpremiers Moines shows that the Order is dominated by the two great figures which represent, on different levels, its ideal: Elias and our Lady."[8]

 

The Carmelite Rule

St. Brocard championed the cause to have the monastic spirit which they had received from their predecessors be laid down in a holy Rule. Around 1210, it was given to the Order by St Albert, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, and later finally approved and authorized by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. The primitive Carmelite rule initially contained sixteen articles and later underwent some modifications.

 

St. Simon Stock and the Scapular

Any account on the story of Our Lady of Mount Carmel could not fail to mention the role that St. Simon Stock played especially in relation to the brown scapular. We could trace Simon Stock’s origin to the County of Kent in England where he was born around 1165. Being of English descent, he was also known as Simon Anglus.

In the thirteenth century, during the era of the Crusades, he joined a group of hermits on Mount Carmel who claimed to be the successors of Elias while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. As the situation became too precarious for them due to Saracen threats, the community moved and settled in Aylesford, England. In 1247, at 82 years old, Simon was elected the sixth superior-general of the Carmelites at the first chapter held there. He instituted reforms to best suit Western conditions and the cenobitical rather than the eremitical way of life. As such, the community came to be regarded eventually as a mendicant order along with the Dominicans and the Franciscans.

However, the order had difficulty gaining general acceptance and suffered much persecution and oppression from secular clergy and other orders which prompted the monks to have recourse to the Blessed Virgin in the year 1251.

Tradition says that Our Lady responded to their call through an apparition to Simon Stock on Sunday July 16th, 1251 as he knelt in prayer. She appeared holding the Child Jesus in one arm and the brown scapular in the other hand while uttering the following words: "Hoc erit tibi et cunctis Carmelitis privilegium, in hoc habitu moriens salvabitur" (This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.) On 13 January 1252 the Order received a letter of protection from Pope Innocent IV, defending them from harassment.

St. Simon Stock lived a holy life for 100 years and died in the Carmelite monastery at Bordeaux, France on May 16, 1265.

 

The Brown Scapular

The scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, also known as the Brown scapular, is one of the most popular and celebrated of Roman Catholic devotions. The sacramental as the lay faithful commonly use it is a miniature derivative of the actual brown scapular used by the Carmelites -the sleeveless outer garment falling from the shoulders which is worn as a sign of their vocation and devotion.

As was mentioned, Our Lady gave St. Simon a scapular for the Carmelites with the following promise, saying : "Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire …. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace."

 

The Sabbatine Privilege

Attached to the wearing of the Brown Scapular is the Sabbatine Privilege. The name Sabbatine Privilege originates from the apocryphal Bull "Sacratissimo uti culmine" of John XXII, 3 March, 1322. The papal document declares that the Mother of God appeared to him, and most urgently recommended to him the Carmelite Order and its confratres and consorores.[9]

According to Pope John XXII, the Blessed Virgin gave him the following message in a vision related to those who wear the Brown Scapular: "I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday (Sabbath) after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting."

Based on Church tradition, three conditions need to be fulfilled to obtain the benefits of this Privilege and the Scapular:

1. Wear the Brown Scapular,

2. Observe chastity according to one’s state in life,

3. And pray the Rosary.

In order to receive the spiritual blessings associated with the Scapular, it is necessary to be formally enrolled in the Brown Scapular by either a priest or a lay person who has been given this faculty. Once enrolled, no other Scapular need be blessed before wearing. The blessing and imposition are attached to the wearer for life.

 

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Feast Day

The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted by the Carmelites between 1376 and 1386 under the title "Commemoratio B. Marif Virg. duplex" to celebrate the victory of their order over its enemies on obtaining the approbation of its name and constitution from Honorius III on 30 Jan., 1226 (see Colvenerius, "Kal. Mar.", 30 Jan. "Summa Aurea", III, 737). The feast was assigned to 16 July, because on that date in 1251, according to Carmelite traditions, the scapular was given by the Blessed Virgin to St. Simon Stock; it was first approved by Sixtus V in 1587.[10]

 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel at Lourdes and Fatima

As if in a gesture of approval and blessing, the Queen of Heaven and Earth chose to make her last apparition at Lourdes on July 16th 1858, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Likewise, one cannot fail to recall Sister Lucia’s account while describing the vision of October 13, 1917 at Fatima: "…it seemed to me I saw Our Lady in a form similar to Our Lady of Mount Carmel." [11]

Thus through the centuries Our Lady of Mount Carmel kept a constant watch over her children, ever solicitous to intercede for them and lead them to Her Divine Son. Amidst the sea of chaos, confusion and impiety raging in the world today, may Our Lady of Mount Carmel grant us strength and fortitude so we may all remain faithful to Her Son and His Holy Church.

 


Notes:

[1] Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Preface and Epistle. [back to text]
[2] O’Toole, George, "The Religious Order that Defies History," Crusade for A Christian Civilization Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 1978, p. 20 [back to text]
[3] O’Toole, George, ibid, pp. 20-21 [back to text]
[4] Brown, Raphael, The Life of Mary As Seen By The Mystics, Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 1991, p.65 [back to text]
[5] Nossa Senhora do Monte Carmelo - Devoção mariana que remonta ao Profeta Elias, Pagina Marianas blog, last visited June 9, 2010 [back to text]
[6] Lea, Henry Charles, A History of Auricular Confessions in the Latin Church, Philadelphia: Lea Brothers and Co., p. 262. On-line copy accessed on June 10, 2010 at: http://bit.ly/aeNSJf [back to text]
[7] De la Croix, Paul Marie, O.C.D., "Carmelite Spirituality," http://carmelitesofeldridge.org/spirit.html, last visited: June 9, 2010. [back to text]
[8] Francois De Sainte-Marie, La Regle du Carmel et son esprit, Edition du Seuil, 1949, p. 33 [back to text]
[9] New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13289b.htm -  Last visited June 2010[back to text]
[10]New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10604b.htm -Last visited June 11, 2010 [back to text]
[11]Solimeo, Luiz Sergio, Fatima: A Message More Urgent then Ever, Spring Grove, PA: The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property-TFP, 2008, p. 82 [back to text


 

 

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Origin of the Devotion to Our 

DAILY QUOTE for May 23, 2017

Obedience is a virtue of so excellent a nature, that Our Lor...

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May 23

 

Obedience is a virtue
of so excellent a nature, that
Our Lord was pleased to mark its observance
upon the whole course of His life; thus
He often says, He did not come to do His Own will,
but that of His Heavenly Father.

St. Francis de Sales


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SAINT OF THE DAY

St. John Baptist de Rossi

A nobleman and his wife vacationing in Voltaggio, and impres...

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St. John Baptist de Rossi

Giovanni Battista de Rossi was born in the Piedmontese village of Voltaggio, in the diocese of Genoa, and was one of four children. His parents, of modest means, were devout and well esteemed.

A nobleman and his wife vacationing in Voltaggio, and impressed with the ten-year-old John Baptist, obtained permission from his parents to take him to live with them and be trained in their house in Genoa.

After three years, hearing of his virtues, John’s cousin, Lorenzo Rossi, Canon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, invited him to join him in Rome. Thus John Baptist entered the Roman Jesuit College at thirteen. Despite episodes of epilepsy, brought on by excessive zeal in imposing harsh penances upon himself, he was granted a dispensation and was ordained at the age of twenty-three.

From his student days he loved visiting hospitals. Now, as a priest there was much more he could offer suffering souls. He particularly loved the Hospice of St. Galla, a night shelter for paupers. There he labored for forty years. He also worked at the hospital of Trinita dei Pellegrini and extended his assistance to other poor such as cattlemen who came to market at the Roman forum. He had a great pity for homeless women and girls and from the little that he made in Mass stipends, and the 400 scudi sent to him by the Pope, he rented a refuge for them.

John Baptist was also selected by Pope Benedict XIV to deliver courses of instruction to prison officials and other state servants. Among his penitents was the public hangman.

In 1731 Canon Rossi obtained for his cousin a post of assistant priest at St. Maria in Cosmedin. He was a great confessor to whom penitents flocked, and as a preacher, the saint was also in demand for missions and retreats.

On the death of Canon Rossi, Fr. John inherited his canonry, but applied the money attached to the post to buy an organ, and hire an organist. As to the house, he gave it to the chapter and went to live in the attic.

In 1763 St. John Baptist’s health began to fail, and he was obliged to take up residence in the hospital of Trinita dei Pellegrini. He expired after a couple of strokes on May 23, 1764 at sixty- six years of age. He died so poor that the hospital prepared to pay for his burial. But the Church took over and he was given a triumphant funeral with numerous clergy and religious, and the Papal choir, in attendance.

WEEKLY STORY

The Rosary & True Beauty

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Cathe...

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The Rosary & True Beauty

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life.

Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty. So much so, that she was known to those in Rome where she made her home as “Catherine the Beautiful.” Sadly, Catherine’s beauty went only skin deep, and she led a very sinful life.

One afternoon, strolling the streets of Rome, Catherine heard the voice of St. Dominic. This was the early 13th century and it was not unusual to cross paths with this great man of God.

On this particular day, he was preaching on the devotion to the Mother of God and the importance of praying her most holy Rosary. Caught up in the moment, Catherine had her name inscribed in the book of the confraternity and began to recite the Rosary. Though praying the Rosary gave her a sense of calmness she had not known before, Catherine did not abandon her sinful ways.

One evening, a youth, apparently a nobleman, came to her house. Catherine invited the handsome young man to stay to dine with her. When they were at supper, she saw drops of blood falling from his hands while he was breaking a piece of bread. Moments later, she observed, much to her discomfort, that all the food he took was tinged with blood.

Gathering up some courage to appease her curiosity, she asked him what that blood meant. With a firm but gentle look in his eyes, the youth replied that a Christian should take no food that was not tinged with the blood of Jesus Christ and sweetly seasoned with the memory of His passion.

Amazed at this reply, Catherine asked him who he was. "Soon," he answered, "I will show you." The rest of their meal passed uneventfully, yet always the drops of red catching Catherine’s eye, causing her to wonder about this man she supped with.

After dinner, when they had withdrawn into another room, the appearance of the youth changed. To Catherine’s stunned gaze, he showed himself crowned with thorns, his flesh torn and bleeding.

With the same firm but gentle gaze he said to her: “Do you wish to know who I am? Do you not know me? I am your Redeemer. Catherine, when will you cease to offend me? See how much I have suffered for you. You have grieved me enough, change your life."

Catherine began to weep bitterly, and Jesus, encouraging her, said: "Now begin to love me as much as you have offended me; and know that you have received this grace from me, on account of the Rosary you have been accustomed to recite in honor of my mother." And then he disappeared.

Catherine went in the morning to make her confession to St. Dominic, whose preaching on the Rosary had brought so marvelous a grace into her life. Giving to the poor all she possessed, from that day forward Catherine led so holy and joyful a life that she attained to great perfection.

It could now be said of her among the inhabitants of Rome that Catherine was indeed beautiful, but her beauty was no longer skin deep; her loveliness radiated from the depths of her soul.

The Most Holy Virgin often appeared to her; and Jesus himself revealed to St. Dominic, that this penitent had become very dear to him.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty.

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