Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Maybe you have read about Mount Carmel in the Old Testament or have a devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Edith Stein, St. Teresa of Avila, or St. John of the Cross. Maybe you have a monastery of Carmelite brothers or sisters near you. Maybe you have no idea what Carmelite spirituality is, but reading this post has given you a sudden craving for salted caramels, caramel corn, or caramel apples.
Mount Carmel: The Place
I am currently in the middle of a solo pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I strategically arranged my itinerary so that I would be on Mount Carmel for Our Lady’s feast.
Mount Carmel is located near the city of Haifa which is on the Mediterranean coast, north of Tel Aviv and west of the Sea of Galilee. There are several caves on this mountain where hermits have been praying for centuries in the spiritual tradition of the prophet Elijah. In the thirteenth century, some of the hermits created the Carmelite Order, devoting their hidden lives to contemplative prayer within the solitude of the cloister.
If you ever have the chance to visit Mount Carmel, several religious communities offer accommodations for pilgrims. This is such a privileged way to witness their life more closely.
Here on Mount Carmel, there are a few places of pilgrimage which you can explore.
- Cave of Elijah // The place where Elijah lived and prayed before God triumphed over the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:1-40).
- Muhraka Monastery on the summit of Mt. Carmel // The place of Elijah’s competition with the prophets of Baal.
- Stella Maris Monastery // A monastery and lighthouse dedicated to Our Lady, Star of the Sea.
The Rule of Carmel
There are thousands of Carmelite communities throughout the world (Carmelite priests, brothers, sisters, nuns, and third order members) and you can encounter their spirituality by praying with them. The Rule of Carmel is based on these four points:
- Encounter with Christ takes place through the Sacraments and the Liturgy.
- Mutual knowledge and love deepen through intensified mental prayer.
- Presence of the Beloved becomes real through Eucharistic Adoration and common life in the mystery of fraternal charity.
- Conformity of the will grows through self-discipline and prudent self-denial.
The Brown Scapular
There is also the popular Marian devotion of being enrolled in the brown scapular. In the 13th century, after a Crusader’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land, St. Simon Stock had a vision of Our Lady and encouraged people to wear a scapular (little square pieces of brown fabric worn under your clothing around the neck) to symbolize Mary’s loving mantle of maternal protection and her mediation of grace. Today is a great day to ask your priest to be enrolled in the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Resources for Carmelite Spirituality
If you are interested in learning more about Carmelite spirituality, consider reading some of these books:
- The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila
- The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross
- The Impact of God (Soundings from St. John of the Cross) by Iain Matthew
- The Complete Works of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity
- The Hidden Life by St. Edith Stein
- Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux
- The Way of Trust and Love: A Retreat Guided by St. Therese of Lisieux by Fr. Jacques Phillipe
- I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux by Jean C.J. d’Elbee
On this feast, you may want to celebrate by listening to some Carmelite music. The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles have music here.
Also, many Carmelite Communities live on Divine Providence, living their vow of poverty by relying on the generosity of others to provide for their material and financial needs. On this Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, consider using some of your tithing money to make a donation to a local community.
Most Carmelites observe a simple diet, so sometimes it is helpful to call the monastery and ask if there is anything in particular they are in need of.
Simple practical items include: fresh fruit and vegetables, flour, oil, fish, toilet paper, and postage stamps.
The Carmelites are powerhouses of prayer! My grandma frequently calls the Carmelites and asks them to get on their knees for particular intentions. In fact, the Carmelites sustained her in prayer during a difficult pregnancy, and so I have an aunt named Marycarmel.
On this feast today, consider sending your prayer requests to the Carmelites via snail mail, voicemail, or online request.
Hymn to Our Lady of Mount Carmel
I’ll leave you today with the words of this Carmelite hymn to Mary, Flos Carmeli.
Flower of Carmel,
Tall vine blossom laden;
Splendor of heaven,
Childbearing yet maiden.
None equals thee.
Mother so tender,
Who no man didst know,
On Carmel’s children
Thy favors bestow.
Star of the Sea.
Strong stem of Jesse,
Who bore one bright flower,
Be ever near us
And guard us each hour,
who serve thee here.
Purest of lilies,
That flowers among thorns,
Bring help to the true heart
That in weakness turns
and trusts in thee.
Strongest of armor,
We trust in thy might:
Under thy mantle,
Hard pressed in the fight,
we call to thee.
Our way uncertain,
Surrounded by foes,
You give to those
who turn to thee.
O gentle Mother
Who in Carmel reigns,
Share with your servants
That gladness you gained
and now enjoy.
Hail, Gate of Heaven,
With glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety
Where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.
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Rose Coleman is a contemplative in action who delights in all things beautiful. Her adventurous heart has traveled many places—from circumnavigating the globe on a ship during college to some years in the convent as a religious sister. Exuberant from her childhood, she is an elementary school teacher who learns so much from her students. You can find out more about her here. She is the author of our Blessed Conversations: Ways to Pray study found here.