Flos Carmeli is Latin for “Flower of Carmel.” As a child, I was under the impression that Our Lady of Mount Carmel was actually pronounced "car-a-mel." It made sense to me that Our Lady would be named after a delicious, smooth, and decadent rich candy. After all, she is the sweetest mother.
Sweet as Caramel
Instead of enrolling me in summer camp or something else that I deemed worthy of my time as an adolescent, my mom took me to church with her for nine straight days during the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. We sang hymns to our Blessed Mother, prayed the Rosary, attended Mass, and at the conclusion of the novena, we enjoyed a parish-wide potluck.
Those hymns still awaken my inner child. I can still see the printed novena booklet with the stamp on the back that says not to remove it from the church.
That time spent praying to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and getting to know her more intimately each summer is one of my most treasured memories now. I was able to savor the Faith in a way that I didn’t know would impact me later in my adult life.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized my mom’s commitment to the novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is because she was named after her, as was her mom. Both of them have Carmen in their names. My Grandma’s full name (God rest her soul) was Maria del Carmen and my mom is Carmen Elizabeth. Again, I never really connected the dots in my youth.
Maybe you have a devotion in your family with a connection like that, too?
My Grandma had a great love for this title of Our Blessed Mother and passed it on to my mom who passed it onto my siblings and me. What a priceless family heirloom prayer can be! Our family hasn’t been one to pass down handkerchiefs that great grandparents wore tucked into their suits or wedding rings that belonged to great, great grandmothers, but devotions like the one to Our Lady of Mount Carmel have remained.
Everything that has been passed onto us is in the form of prayers, traditions of the Catholic Faith, and family celebrations (with the exception of tamale recipes).
O gentle Mother, who in Carmel reigns, share with your servants that gladness you gained and now enjoy. // Flos Carmeli
The Brown Scapular
Our priest held the tradition of enrolling all the first communicants in the brown scapular. I have worn one ever since. My brown scapular has been an armor for me through some of my most trying moments as a teenager, young adult, and now as a wife and mother.
I remember reading in the Pieta book that was given to me as a first communion gift, “whosoever dies clothed in this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire. This is Mary’s Promise made to Saint Simon Stock, July 16, 1251.”
Those words aroused a great fear within me. Did that mean I could never take it off? What about when I showered? Did it have to wear it then, too?
Clothed in Grace
As my knowledge of the brown scapular grew I realized that Our Blessed Mother wasn’t after the nuances I was hung up on as much as wearing it reverently as a way to be clothed in her maternal intercession. For example, in my early twenties when I wanted to enjoy a night out on the town, Mama Mary would remind me not to wear clothing that didn’t honor my feminine dignity. There was no way to hide my scapular with a tube top or spaghetti strap shirt, so I ditched the outfit. Just that subtle brown cord sticking out of my clothing reminded me to be respectful towards myself and honor Our Blessed Mother.
In a way, wearing the brown scapular has reminded me to WhomI belong. My brown scapular is a hidden sign to the world but a visible sign to me of my relationship with Mama Mary.
A famous 18th century preacher once said, “The scapular is a bone fire set ablaze by a spark from the heart of Mary.”
Our Blessed Mother stops at nothing for us to be close to her just like her Son. Some people get tattoos to demonstrate their love for Mary, but when you look closely, the scapular is more than that and is given freely.
Enrolling in the Brown Scapular
If you have never been enrolled in the brown scapular or are unclear about how to wear it (as I was when I was first enrolled), the Sisters of Carmel have an extensive FAQ that will provide you with peace of mind.
If you would like to learn more on how to incorporate Carmelite spirituality into your daily prayer life or read the lives of Saints that practiced the Carmelite way, check out this blog post.
One day through the rosary and the scapular, I will save the world. // Our Lady to Saint Dominic
Third Order Carmelites
One of my favorite aspects of our parish-wide novena was seeing the new third order Carmelites become enrolled in what looked like a very oversized brown scapular. Each year, a new group of women would line up in front of the altar and profess their vows, committing themselves to live out Carmlite spirituality. It was very powerful for me to see these women witness their desire to grow in holiness despite already being married and some of them being grandmas, too.
Here is some additional information about third order Carmelites:
- Questions and answers about lay Carmelites
- What does "third order" mean?
- Discerning the third order Carmelites
What is the life of a Carmelite if not one of contemplating, adoring, and loving, God incessantly? // Saint Teresa of the Andes
More about the Flos Carmeli
Want to learn even more about Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Carmelites, and the brown scapular?
If you are a visual person and enjoy a quick video or two these will help you understand various aspects of the brown scapular.
- Fr. Mark-Mary and Fr. Gregory Pine explain how the scapulars work and the different types that exist.
- Learn about the origins of the brown scapular.
Flos Carmeli Prayer
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 me in this necessity.
O Star of the sea, help and protect me!
Show me that Thou art my Mother.
O Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to Thee!
Mother and Beauty of Carmel, Pray for us!
Virgin, Flower of Carmel, Pray for us!
Patroness of all who wear the Scapular, Pray for us!
Hope of all who die wearing the Scapular, Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Friend of the Sacred Heart, Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Chaste Spouse of Mary, Pray for us!
St. Joseph, Our Patron, Pray for us!
O sweet Heart of Mary, Be our salvation!
Do you have a devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel? How did that come about in your life?