OUR LADY OF MT. CARMEL.
EXCERPT FROM THE MEDITATION IN
IN CONVERSATION WITH GOD VOL. 7, 3.
Dear brethren in Christ, Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Below you have a partial account of a wonderful meditation for today’s feast for your personal prayer.
May the venerable intercession of the glorious Virgin Mary come to our aid, we pray, O Lord, so that, fortified by her protection, we may reach the mountain which is Christ. Who lives and reigns with you.
Collect prayer of July 16.
3.1 Love for the Virgin and the scapular of Mount Carmel.
Devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel began with the Carmelite Order whose oldest tradition connects it with the following apparition in the Book of Kings: Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising out of the sea (1 Kings 18:44). People could see it from the summit of Mount Carmel while the prophet Elizah was beseeching the Lord to put an end to a long drought. The cloud quickly spread to cover the sky and brought abundant rain to the parched earth. Scripture scholars see this rain cloud as a type of the Blessed Virgin Mary (cf Professors of Salamanca, Bible Commentary, Madrid 1961). By bringing the Saviour into the world she bore the living water to quench the thirst of all humanity, and she continually brings us countless graces.
The Blessed Virgin appeared to St Simon Stock on July 16, 1251. At that time she promised special graces and blessings to those who would wear the scapular. This devotion has brought down a copious stream of spiritual and temporal graces upon the earth (Pius XII, Address, 6 August 1950). The Church periodically renews her approval of this powerful devotion besides granting numerous other spiritual benefits. For centuries, Christians have sought refuge in this special protection of Our Lady. Wear on your breast the holy scapular of Mount Carmel. There are many excellent Marian devotions, but few are as deep-rooted among the faithful and so richly blessed by the popes. Besides, how motherly is the sabbatine privilege (St. Josemaria. Escrivá, The Way, 500).
Our Lady promised the grace to repent during the final moments of life to those who live and die wearing the scapular, or the blessed medal with the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Virgin of Carmel that can stand in its stead (cf Innocent IV, Bull, Ex parte dilectorum, 13 January 1252). Among the other graces and indulgences, the so-called sabbatine privilege consists in our release from Purgatory on the Saturday following our death (cf John XXII, Bull, Sacratissimo uticulmine, 3 March 1322). Truly, by her maternal charity Mary cares for the brethren of her Son who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties until such time as they are led into the eternal happiness of their true homeland (Second Vatican Council, Lumen gentium, 62)… May we not forgo approaching Our Lady many times each day so that she may help and protect us. The scapular itself can frequently remind us that we are under the watchful vigilance of our heavenly mother, and that she is our own since we are her children who have cost her so dear.
3.2 The special help and graces from Our Lady at the hour of death.
In this devotion we express a personal dedication of ourselves and all that is ours to Our Lady, since during the apparition in which the most Holy Virgin gave the scapular to St Simon Stock the Mother of God manifested herself as ‘Mother of divine grace’ and also as ‘Mother most lovable’ who protects her children throughout We and at the moment of death.
The Christian faithful are accustomed to venerating Our Lady of Mount Cannel through devotion to the holy scapular. She, the Mother of God and our mother, offers us the following pledge in reward for our commitment to her: ‘Throughout life I protect; at the hour of death I lend assistance; and after death I save (Card. Goma, The Blessed Virgin Mary, Barcelona 1947).’ She is our life, our sweetness and our hope as we have so often recited in reciting the Hail Holy Queen.
The scapular devotion is a manifestation of our confidence in the maternal aid of the Blessed Virgin. In the same way that trophies and medals are used to signify friendship, remembrance or triumph, we give a heartfelt significance to the scapular so as frequently to remind ourselves of our love for our Mother Mary and of her watchful protection. She takes us by the hand and leads us along by a sure path every day of our life. She helps us to overcome every difficulty and temptation and will never abandon us since it is her practice to favour those who long to be protected by her (St Teresa of Avila, Foundations, 23, 4).
Some day the hour of our definitive encounter with God will arrive. Then we will need her protection and help more than ever. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and to her holy scapular is a sure sign of hope in heaven since our Blessed Mother prolongs her maternal protection after our death. Such a broad privilege fills our hearts with consolation. Mary guides us toward the eternal future; she helps us desire and discover it. She gives us her hope, assurance and desire. Inspired by such a splendid reality and with unspeakable joy we can persevere in our humble and perhaps wearisome earthly pilgrimage. Mary will light up our way and transform it into a sure path to Paradise – ‘iter para tutum’ (Paul VI, Address, 15 August 1966). There with the grace of God we will one day see her.
When Cardinal Medici was elected Pope in 1605 he took the name Leo XI. While vesting him in the papal garments his attendants wanted to remove a large scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which he wore with his clothes. At that moment the Pope told those who were helping him to vest: ‘Leave me Mary, so that Mary won’t leave me.’ We do not want to leave her either since we are so much in need of her help. That is why we always wear her scapular. Let us tell her now that whenever the final moments of our life arrive we will abandon ourselves into her loving arms. We have so often asked her to pray for us now and at the hour of our death that she will never forget to grant our request.
… Hand in hand with Mary we will arrive in her Son’s presence. If we need further purification she will hasten us toward the moment when we are completely purified and can enjoy the eternal vision of God.
In the Middle Ages Our Lady of Mt. Carmel used to be shown surrounded by souls engulfed in the flames of Purgatory, in order to depict her special intercession for those undergoing the purification they need (cf M. Trens, Mary: Iconography of the Virgin in Spanish art, Madrid 1946). The Virgin serves the souls in Purgatory well because she secures them relief (St Vincent Ferrer, Sermon on the Nativity, II), as St Vincent Ferrer frequently preached. Our love for her will help us to be purified in our present life so we can be with her Son immediately after death.
3.3 The scapular is a symbol of the wedding garment.
The scapular is also an image of the wedding garment, divine grace, that must always clothe our soul… This is the wedding garment that we will one day present for our final espousal to enter everlasting life….
St. John Paul II reminded his listeners that the mission of Our Lady, the one prefigured long ago in the Old Testament and which begins on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, is associated with a piece of clothing. This garment is called the holy scapular. I owe a great deal in my early youth to my devotion to the Carmelite scapular. A mother’s constant diligence and concern for the clothes of her children is beautiful to see. She always wants them well-dressed. When her children’s garments are torn the mother makes an effort to repair them. The Blessed Mother of Mount Carmel and of the holy scapular speaks to us of her maternal care, her concern to clothe us spiritually with the grace of God and to help us always keep our garments white.
The Pope made mention in his Address of the white garment the first-century catechumens wore as a symbol of the sanctifying grace they would receive with Baptism. After exhorting the young people to strive always to keep their souls clean, he concluded: Be vigilant to correspond to your good Mother who is concerned about how you go about dressed, especially with respect to the garment of grace that her daughters and sons should always wear (John Paul II, Address, 15 January 1989). This is the wedding garment that we will one day present for our final espousal to enter everlasting life.
The scapular of Mount Carmel can help us to love our Mother in heaven more. It is a special reminder for us that we are dedicated to her and that in whatever moment of trouble, in the midst of temptation, we can count on her help. Having her so close to us will permit us to be strong. In the words of the Opening Prayer for today’s feast, we ask Our Lord: ‘Recordare, virgo Mater Dei… ut loquaris pro nobis bona‘. Remember, Blessed Virgin Mother of God. to speak well on our behalf before the Lord (Graduate Romanum, in loc, p.580), especially on the days when we have not been as faithful as God expects his children to be.
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