Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Zechariah 2:14-17 + Matthew 12:46-50
“Here are my mother and my brothers.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary has many feasts throughout the course of the year. Some honor events in her life: for example, her Immaculate Conception on December 8, her birth on September 8, her Assumption on August 15, and her Coronation on August 22.
Other feasts of Our Lady honor her under various titles that she holds. Many of these titles come from places throughout the world where she has appeared to the faithful: for example, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Today’s feast is different. Today’s feast honors Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is a mountain in northern Israel, on which, in the late 12th century, Christian hermits began to live. In time, these hermits formed a religious order known today as the “Carmelites”. The rule—which is to say, the order of life—of the Carmelites fosters devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Each major religious order within the Church—for example, the Dominicans, the Franciscans, and the Benedictines—has its own unique approach to Christian spirituality. Each of these approaches holds to the essentials of Christian spirituality, but each differs in ways similar to how different children within a family develop different personalities and temperaments, even though they all have the same parents.
One might say that Carmelite spirituality is best understood by means of the greatest saints of the Carmelite order. Three Carmelite saints stand out: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Thérèse the Little Flower. Both the writings of these saints as well as their biographies—that is, their living out the Carmelite understanding of the Gospel—helps us understand Carmelite spirituality. On our parish website I posted a playlist of videos made by Carmelite friars about Carmelite spirituality. I hope that you’ll watch one of more of these. I hope that our parish family will grow in devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The Hebrew word “Carmel” literally means “garden of God”. Carmelite spirituality helps us cultivate our soul the way that a gardener cultivates the earth. Rain comes down from Heaven to allow seeds to blossom. Likewise, God’s grace from Heaven nurtures the soul, and the Christian in turn cultivates the life of Christ within the Christian soul.
St. John Paul II, in a 2001 letter to the Carmelite family wrote some words for you to reflect upon throughout this blessed feast day:
“Contemplation of the Virgin presents her to us as a loving Mother who sees her Son growing up in Nazareth, follows him on the roads of Palestine, helps him at the wedding at Cana and, at the foot of the Cross, becomes the Mother associated with his offering and given to all people when Jesus himself entrusts her to his beloved disciple. As Mother of the Church, the Blessed Virgin is one with the disciples in ‘constant prayer’; as the new Woman who anticipates in herself what will one day come to pass for us all in the full enjoyment of Trinitarian life, she is taken up into heaven from where she spreads the protective mantle of her mercy over her children on their pilgrimage to the holy mountain of glory” [St. John Paul II, Message to the Carmelite Family, March 25, 2001; 3.]