Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, the extraordinary saintly legacy of the Carmelite Orders, and the practice of wearing the Scapular are all topics explored in this article — in honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (July 16th).
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Mt. Carmel is the focus of prophetic battle, between the Prophet Elijah and 450 prophets of Baal plus 400 prophets of Asherah. Elijah proved the power of the one true God over these false gods, just as Moses later demonstrated to the Egyptian Pharaoh. The word “karmel” means garden land, fruitful place.
The Carmelite Orders trace their origin to two sources: St. Albert, who served as Patriarch in Jerusalem in the early 13th century, and Berthold, a crusader from England. The early Carmelites modeled the Order after the hermits. Eventually they helped build a monastery atop Mt. Carmel (which was destroyed but has been reconstructed). The monastery was endangered near 1376, and (and another Englishman) St. Simon Stock had a visit by Our Lady while he was in prayer. At Mt. Carmel she gave him the Scapular for protection. The monastery was saved, and Carmelites took to wearing the Scapular. They instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel. It took another 300 years for the Pope to recognize this feast.
The Carmelites are unique because of the central role of suffering to the Order’s rules. Their commitment to penance focuses on monks and nuns making sacrifices in redemptive suffering for the evils of the world.
There are a variety of Carmelite Orders. The two main branches are the Discalced vs. the Calced. Literally this refers to those who wear shoes (calced) vs. those who go barefoot (discalced). Various branches of this Order interpret the type and degree of penitential acts – some out in the world (active) and others through prayer (contemplative).
What a bountiful harvest in the Church from the sacrifices of the Carmelites. The long list of saints from Carmelite orders include: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux (all Doctors of the Cross) and St. Teresa-Benedicta of the Cross (aka St. Edith Stein). Wow – what a legacy!
Carmelites are distinguished by their brown robes. And the Scapular our Lady of Mt. Carmel gave to St. Simon Stock was made of similar brown wool. Today Scapulars come in many colors, which reflect the color of the habits of those orders. You can about the variety of orders and colors of Scapulars here.
When Our Lady of Mt Carmel gave the Scapular, it came with a big promise. The words recorded by St. Simon Stock from Our Lady:
“Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant.”
If you purchase a Scapular, get a priest to bless it first. This invests you. That investiture stays with you no matter how many Scapular you wear over your life-time. The Scapular rests on the bone that bears its name, extending discretely down the back and front.
The promise you receive upon wearing this sacramental faithfully is not hocus-pocus magic, or assured salvation, though this has circulated in some circles (against Church teaching).
What Our Lady promises is to intercede for those in Purgatory who die wearing the Scapular, and who:
- Wore the Scapular in good faith.
- Were chaste (faithful) according to their state in life.
- Daily recited either The Divine Office, the Little Office of Our Lady (with permission from one’s Confessor or Spiritual Director), or the Rosary.
- Died in charity with others.
Learn also about the Scapular Novena.
Whether you wear the Scapular or not, do remember Our Lady of Mt. Carmel,as well as the countless Carmelites who have helped us with their sacrifices, and who adorn the Choir of Heaven.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel
O, most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, blessed mother of the Son of God, immaculate virgin, assist me in my necessity. O, star of the sea, help me and show me herein, you are my mother. Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who turn to you.