Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Pray for Us

By Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC

Every year on July 16, the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The novena leading up to her feast is one of the most popular here at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. So what makes Our Lady of Mount Carmel so popular among Marian Helpers?

History credits her with appearing to the Carmelite St. Simon Stock in the 13th century and giving him the Brown Scapular, among the Church's most popular sacramentals.

Though the Marian Fathers wear the Blue Scapular, which represents a special dedication to the Immaculate Conception, I, myself, wear both the Blue and Brown Scapulars, for reasons I'll explain. But first, as we approach the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, let's acquaint ourselves with some history.

Mount Carmel, itself, located in Israel, had become a home to the Carmelites by the 12th century. They had a particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, due to political and social upheaval, the Carmelites were forced to leave by the end of the 13th century. They settled in Europe, including in England, where Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, appeared to St. Simon Stock.

According to tradition, the Blessed Mother told St. Simon that whoever dies wearing the Brown Scapular would be saved. Of course, at the time people believed that Our Lady meant that Carmelites who wear their habit (with the scapular) and remain faithful to their way of life and prayer as given in their Rule and Constitutions, would attain salvation. Over time, with the popularization of devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the wearing of the Brown Scapular, it became widely understood that such a promise also extended to laity.

Many miracles have been attributed to the Brown Scapular. However, wearing the scapular out of a sense of superstition - believing that all one needs to do is to wear it without conforming one's life to the Gospel - cannot sufficiently lead us to salvation (and can be a sin). Indeed, a scapular symbolizes devotion and obedience to Our Lady. It is not a talisman.

I came to wear the Brown Scapular shortly after my reversion back to my Catholic faith around the year 1995. I was a graduate student at Stanford, studying electrical engineering. Some friends of mine, in addition to teaching me to pray the Rosary, also taught me the tradition of the Brown Scapular and gave me one to wear. Thus began my Marian devotion, which would eventually lead to my vocation with the Marians.

Before I entered the seminary, however, I was dating a young woman whom I introduced to the Brown Scapular. When she asked me why one should wear it, I thought of the following analogy: Through our Baptism, we "put on Christ," which the baptismal garment symbolizes. In a similar way, with the Brown Scapular, we "put on Mary." We entrust ourselves to her, and she grants us favors and protection, especially at the hour of death.

Obviously, my relationship with my former girlfriend didn't last, but my relationship with Our Lady continued to grow. In 2001, I made my Marian consecration for the first time and entered the seminary in 2003. When I made my first vows in 2006, I received the Blue Scapular. What to do, then, with my Brown Scapular? I found that I could continue wearing the Brown Scapular in addition to my Blue Scapular as an expression of love and devotion to Our Lady. Thus, I still wear the cloth version of the Brown Scapular and the medal version of my Blue Scapular, which I received from the hands of Fr. Mark Garrow, MIC, my novice master and an extraordinarily holy priest.

Beyond that little story, a couple of significant events have unfolded in my life in connection with the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

In 2002, I had been praying for some dear friends of mine in Colorado, a married couple who desired to conceive a child but had not been able to do so up to that point in time. They told me the joyful news that they were expecting a baby, and they asked me to be the godfather. That day was July 16, the feast day. And the next year, one of my best friends from grammar school got married on July 16. It was a beautiful Catholic Mass with devoted family members on both sides of the family, and I was blessed to be in the wedding party.

So, the annual celebration of this memorial causes me to reflect on these happy memories, which, in turn, remind me of Our Lady's special favors and protection for all who devote themselves to her, especially through Marian consecration and the wearing of the Brown Scapular. I pray that you, too, may grow in your devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and experience ever more deeply her special love and protection in your life.

Father Jim McCormack, MIC, serves as the Marians' novice master, prefect of formation, and local superior in Washington, D.C.

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Saint John Paul II once said, "Amongst many devotions that captivated my child's soul, I participated the most ardently in the novena before the Feast of Our Lady of the Scapular [Our Lady of Mount Carmel]."

The Marians at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy will offer a Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel from July 7-15 with a Holy Mass on her feast day, July 16.

Visit marian.org/b38 to have your intentions remembered during the novena.


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