There are many ‘Our Ladys.’ There is Our Lady of places like Lourdes and Guadeloupe, Our Lady of devotions like the Rosary. We also have many feasts of Mary, each celebrating God’s goodness to her. When we have ‘Our Lady of somewhere’ we usually concentrate on how she is honoured in a place the Virgin who invites us to repentance and healing at Lourdes, the Virgin of the poor and marginalised at Guadeloupe. When we speak of Our Lady of an Order or Congregation, we are alluding to the way in which she is honoured in that institute.
The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated on 16 July. It draws our attention to the way in which Carmelites see her. We know that the hermit brothers on Mount Carmel dedicated an oratory to St. Mary early in the 13th century. In medieval times that was the equivalent of their declaring that she is their Patron who will look after them, and whom they in turn will serve ….
Later when the Carmelites came to Europe and joined the ranks of mendicant friars, other images of Mary arose among them. They took, of course, the notion of Mother common to all Christians of the East and West. They also saw her as Sister, and honoured her as the Most Pure Virgin, that is the Virgin of undivided heart. From this time, too, Carmelites were much taken by the beauty of Mary, so that a favourite invocation was, ‘Mother and Beauty of Carmel.’
In the late Middle Ages the relationship of the Carmelites to Mary was represented by the Brown Scapular; the symbol here is of Mary’s protection and of people honouring her in the Carmelite tradition. This symbol of the Scapular has been officially recognised in the Church as a way of being consecrated to Mary and as a way of seeking her help and protection.
Contemporary reflection on Our Lady of Mount Carmel is rediscovering riches in the ancient tradition. A typical Carmelite vision would be of Mary, the gentle presence, the one who is always around, like a Mother or an Elder Sister who is watchful and caring for those who come to her.
- Chris 0 ‘Donnell, O. Carm
(Flower of Carmel)
O beautiful Flower of Carmel,
most fruitful vine,
splendor of heaven,
holy and singular,
who brought forth the Son of God,
still ever remaining a pure virgin,
assist us in our necessity!
O Star of the Sea,
help and protect us!
Show us that you are our Mother!
The prayer Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel) was composed by the Carmelite Saint Simon Stockand in answer he received the Scapular from Our Blessed Mother.