“Devotion to our Lady of Mount Carmel indicates a strong call to the interior life, which, in a very special way, is Mary’s life. The Blessed Virgin wants us to resemble her in heart and mind much more than in externals. If we penetrate into Mary’s soul, we see that grace produced in her a very rich interior life: a life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted giving of herself to God, and of constant contact and intimate union with Him… Every interior soul, even living in the tumult of the world, must strive to reach this peace, this interior silence, which alone makes continual contact with God possible…This is the grace we ask of Our Lady today when we choose her to be the Queen and Mistress of our interior life.”
– Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, OCD, Divine Intimacy
Dear Friends of Carmel,
Blessings to you on this glorious Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. With the Carmel’s preeminent feast of Our Lady landing on Sunday this year, we did not want to wait to send you our greetings and prayers for this magnificent feast. For Carmelites, this is a first class feast, the day that honors our Mother and our Queen and all her gracious kindness to her children!
This week, we are making our customary novena in preparation for the Feast, and we invite all of you, especially those who are part of the Carmelite family through the Brown Scapular, to join us in praying for the Church and Our Lady’s Order of Carmel.
In the book The Liturgical Year (a book we have often recommended), Abbot Gueranger offers beautiful reflections for the Feast. He begins by recalling the origins of the Order and St. Elias’ vision of the cloud covering the earth, long interpreted as a symbol both of the promised Messias and of Our Lady, the Mother of the Messias to come. The holy Abbot’s reflections then turn into a prayer that we make our own in these days of the world’s history, days that are yet more difficult and challenging than were his:
“Queen of Carmel, hear the voice of the Church as she sings to thee on this day. When the world was languishing in ceaseless expectation, you were already its hope.
And when He who makes His chariot and His dwelling in the obscurity of a cloud had in this way shown Himself, in a nearer approach, to the practiced eye of the Father of Prophets, a chosen band of holy persons gathered in the solitudes of the blessed mountain, as in past times Israel did in the desert. They did this to watch the least movements of the mysterious cloud and to receive from it their guidance in the paths of life, and their light in the long night of expectation.
O Mary, who from that hour presided over the watches of God’s army, without ever failing for a single day, now that the Lord has truly come down through thee, it is no longer the land of Judea alone, but the whole earth that you cover, as a cloud, shedding down blessings in abundance. Your ancient clients, the Sons of the Prophets, experienced this truth when, the land of promise becoming unfaithful, they were forced to transplant into other climes their customs and traditions; they found that even into our far West the cloud of Carmel has poured its fertilizing dew, and that nowhere would its protection be wanting to them. This Feast, O Mother of our God, is the authentic attestation of their gratitude, increased by the bounty of fresh benefits which accompanied the new exodus of the remnant of Israel. We, the sons of ancient Europe, we too, have a right to echo the expression of loving joy; for since their tents have been pitched around the hills where the new Sion is built upon Peter, the cloud has shed all around showers of blessings more precious than ever.
While, then, we join with them in thanksgiving to you, do you yourself, O Mother of divine grace, pay our debt of gratitude to them. Protect them ever. Guard them in these unhappy times, when the hypocrisy of modern persecutors has more fatal results than the rage of the Saracens. Preserve the life in the deep roots of the old stock, and rejoice it by the accession of new branches, bearing, like the old ones, flowers and fruits that shall be pleasing to you, O Mary. Keep up in the hearts of the sons that spirit of retirement and contemplation which animated their fathers under the shadow of the cloud. May their sisters, too, wherever the Holy Spirit has established them, be ever faithful to the holy traditions of the glorious past, so that their holy lives may avert the tempest and draw down blessings from the mysterious cloud. May the perfume of penance that breathes from the holy mountain purify the now corrupted atmosphere around; and may Carmel ever present to the Spouse the type of the beauties He loves to behold in His Bride!”
Through the centuries there have been many artistic representations of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Perhaps the most recognizable for our days are the images depicting the Blessed Mother in the Carmelite habit, holding the Divine Child and the holy Scapular, often with the Poor Souls in Purgatory pleading at her feet. But the Order had an image of Our Lady that it cherished and venerated long before the Scapular was even given to the order. Most of the modern day representations contain elements of this original image.
The Order of Mount Carmel started in the East, and so the original image of Our Lady is an icon. Said to be one of St. Luke’s paintings of the Madonna (as is also the case with Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of Czestochowa), the icon of Santa Maria della Bruna was brought to Naples by the Carmelite, St. Angelus of Jerusalem, around the year 1223. It had long been the prized possession of the Carmelite Order, venerated by them in their hermitages on Mount Carmel. When they traveled west to escape persecution, they brought their beloved icon with them.
When settled, their first concern was to place the painting above the high altar in their Monastery church, where it secured countless miracles for the people venerating it. It hung there for more than 100 years, until placed in a side chapel at the order of the Empress Margaret. Then, in the jubilee year of 1500, the ancient picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was carried in procession to Rome by the pious Neapolitans. During the pilgrimage, several people were miraculously cured, including Thomas Saccone, who had been blind and lame. Eventually the image was returned to Naples.
The attitude of the Divine Infant in the painting is most touching: His tiny right hand rests affectionately under His Blessed Mother’s chin, while His left hand sweetly grasps the edge of her veil. He seems to say, in expression and attitude, “See how I love My Mother.” A large veil envelops Our Lady, the color of blue to symbolize motherhood, while her tunic of red, which also wraps around the Infant, signifies her maternal love.
The Infant Himself is clothed in a lambskin color, representing “the Lamb of God”. The faces of the Mother and the Son are close to each other in an expression of tender intimacy, a sweet, affectionate moment shared between Mother and Son. Yet the gaze of Jesus and Mary is turned outwards, to us who behold them, and thus they express His redemptive mission on our behalf and the co-redemptive participation of Mary with Him. It is as if they are looking upon us, inviting us to share in that close and loving friendship between the two of them.
This brings us to the star on Our Lady’s mantle. It is the origin of another title of Our Lady, which frequently appears in Carmelite hymns and prayers, Star of the Sea. This star has been said to symbolize many things – her virginity, her virtue – but perhaps more precisely, Our Lady as the guiding star rising from the tempest of the sea to lead us through difficult waters, our model that is continually showing us the way to her divine Son, the Light of the World.
Pope Pius IX ordered the original icon in Naples to be crowned on July 11, 1875. Numerous copies of the image have been made, including the one that is kept by the Carmelites in Rome. In fact, many images of Our Lady of Mount Carmel contain the essential elements of this icon: the star on her shoulder, Our Lord holding her chin in His hand, etc. The image we use for our handmade relic badge, as well as that on the framed print we offer, is essentially a western art version of this original icon.
When the Community discussed printing a version of the original icon on wood to offer on our website – there was a debate! The original icon is, of course, the original, and there is something very special about that. It is also the miraculous image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. But the Eastern icon art is not to everyone’s taste, and for devotional use, several of the Sisters preferred offering some of the later forms of the image. In the end, we couldn’t decide and so present both, so you can see them and decide as YOU prefer.
Sometimes referred to as “Our Lady’s livery” or “the little habit,” the brown scapular that so many of you wear is just a smaller version of the one we wear as part of our religious habit. When a person is enrolled (and it is important to be enrolled), the Scapular is placed upon them by the hands of the priest, not unlike that habit that is bestowed upon a Sister at her Clothing Ceremony. You become part of the family of Carmelites.
The scapular has a long and rich tradition – full of miracles, the promotion of the Saints, and approval of many popes. Even Our Lady Herself reaffirmed this practice when at the final apparition at Fatima, during the Miracle of the Sun, she appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding the Scapular. Despite this, there has been a more recent and modern effort on the part of some to diminish her message and dampen the devotion. To do this, of course, is to diminish devotion to the Blessed Mother herself, since the scapular is a symbol and sign of consecration to her and reliance on her help and protection. (See our past newsletter “A Pledge of Her Protection” to read more.)
Several months ago, we added to our scapular selection the option of including the Miraculous Medal and/or the St. Benedict medal attached to the scapular. Some have requested this, having mentioned the desire to simplify the sacramentals they wear – and this omits the need for wearing an additional neck chain. We use strong rings to hold these cherished medals to the scapular.
We share with you one final thought about the holy Scapular. Each morning, when a Sister puts on her scapular, she kneels and says the same prayer that the priest said when he first imposed it on her at her clothing ceremony – all about taking up the Cross, whose burden is light and sweet. Most people wear their scapular 24/7, but a Morning Offering with the scapular in mind is a wonderful way to begin each day, renewing one’s Marian consecration. It is also a small but important reminder every morning of what the Scapular represents: the dedication of one’s life, with its thoughts, words and deeds, to Jesus through Mary.
The Scapular leaflet we send with our scapulars has a beautiful Morning Offering. But in addition, to have this prayer nearby, we have produced a small folding easel that can easily sit on one’s desk or nightstand. It can be an ideal visual reminder to make a generous prayer as you rise and plunge into a new day!
GROW IN FAITH – I bought this book on a whim three years ago, and have read and used it to start prayer every day since. It helps me gain a deeper understanding of the Catholic Faith in general and has helped me deepen my own relationship with the Lord. The systematic themed meditations, built around the Liturgy and seasons of the Church open up the treasury of the Faith page by page. I’ve purchased at least 7 copies to give away to family and friends as gifts. The book is beautifully made, leather cover and gilt edged paper, lovely for ordinations, religious Profession or those who are looking for solidly Catholic daily meditations. – Shana
TRULY TIMELESS – I have purchased this book for at least a dozen kids over the years. Without fail, it has inspired them to rethink their faith! Whether they were 12 or 20 years old, if they needed something to ignite their soul, this worked! Make no mistake…the Little Way is equally compelling for adults, even us old guys! – Brad
PROFOUND THEOLOGY AND HISTORY – This book delves deeply, not just into the history of the Scapular devotion (with several fascinating detours into Carmelite history and roots), but also the theology. Any Catholic who is not fond of the Scapular will be after reading this book, and those who do appreciate it will do so even more, as Our Heavenly Mother’s personal gift to her children in exile. – Thomas
EXCELLENT GUIDE TO A CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE – I have read this book multiple times and keep coming back to mine its riches. Fr. Gabriel does an excellent job of helping to understand and apply the wisdom of St. John of the Cross. It is very helpful in understanding the various stages of prayer and how to cooperate with what God is doing in your soul. I highly recommend it. – Tesa
JUST GOT STARTED AND GREAT ALREADY – It has left me mesmerized, difficult to stop reading and put it down. If I could find how to enroll in the Archconfraternity of the Holy Face, it goes well with all the other prayers and the Holy Face medal and the Chaplet of the Holy Face, Thank You – Margarita
VOLUME I – A wonderful way to begin or end the day. The Saints from Carmel offer inspiration and deep insight into the love of God for His children. This is a great way to learn about these saints and to deepen your understanding of their struggles and triumphs. The small size of this booklet allows you to take it with you anywhere. – Louis
VOLUME II – This little booklet is a continuation of the thoughts of the Saints of Carmel. In it you will find great wisdom and practical ideas to increase your faith, love and witness to God and His love for us. I highly recommend this little book to anyone seeking to learn from the Saints how they put their faith into practice. – Louis
Words cannot express what an excellent book this is. Everybody should read this book at least once in a lifetime. It is definitely one of my favorite books. – Mary
Joy in Suffering is a Novena. At the end of the “3×5” booklet there are other Novena prayers that you may like. I have only recently started praying daily Novenas and I found this booklet to especially be a blessing with the longer daily prayers. St Therese suffered anguish in her heart and mind, more than a physical suffering. Catholics who suffer either mentally or physically will be able to connect with her writings and be blessed knowing they are not alone in their situation. – Nellie
At last! We have found a new and more efficient shipping/tax service for international customers. Ever since VAT tax laws changed a few years ago, especially in the United Kingdom and European Union, it has been difficult to ship orders to these countries. Difficult, that is, without becoming international tax law experts and an official tax collection agency (Heaven forbid!). As many of you know, we found a way through eBay. But we do not hesitate to admit that this has been a bit of a nightmare for both you and for us! However, this new application integrates directly into our website. Taxes/duties and shipping rates are calculated real time, and they are guaranteed. No more hidden surprise charges on your end of things. (Some of you have shared unhappy stories about those charges, for which we are sorry, and about which we could do nothing!). No more negotiating attempts with border agents. And we hope – no more worries. So we are very pleased to re-open our doors to Europe and UK. We also trust that our shipments to Canada will be worry-free, as well as those to our friends in Australia and New Zealand.
On a not-as-happy note, it appears that over the past several weeks, the old Build a Custom Rosary feature – glitchy now for a while, and already being re-designed (as we mentioned in our last newsletter), finally “bit the dust” and gave out entirely. We had wondered why rosary orders were so few, when someone finally emailed to tell us that the “add to cart” button no longer worked. We are trying to fix the problem, as well as get our new system off the ground more quickly – but there are only so many hours in a day and we are not a big business with unlimited IT resources. All the same, we want to assure you we are working on it. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to email us the list of options you have chosen for a rosary (you can still view the options, you just can’t add them to your cart), and we can process your order via another link. The Partly-custom Rosary feature is also up and running well, with many more options for the new and different beads we are introducing. So we once again ask your good patience as we work together to limp through this phase of our website. God willing, it won’t be long until we get everything up and working again – better than before!
We must not close this newsletter without a brief update on our Community projects. As ever, our days pass swiftly, and your Sisters in Carmel don’t (and couldn’t if they wanted to) let the grass grow under their sandals!
The greenhouse we have dreamt and talked about at recreations as a Wouldn’t-It-Be-Nice-If project for years – now actually became a reality. This, in large part with thanks to the efforts of several generous volunteers among our family and friends. In fact, the greenhouse that they built is so nice we joked that we couldn’t possibly use it to grow things and get it all dirty that way – perhaps instead we should put up a cross and call it a hermitage? Or maybe use it as the Novitiate quarters? (Our Novitiate did not like that idea too much…)
We inaugurated the new green house with quite a few tomato plants, as well as cucumber, zucchini and pepper plants, many which were started for us by our Carmelite greenhouse founders. A relative of one of the Sisters also sent us a lemon tree to try in our greenhouse. Citrus trees at the base of the Rockies, elevation 7000 feet? We are determined to give it a try!
In other garden beds, we have corn, beans, many herbs, beets, carrots, and the last of the spring lettuce. Many thanks to all who have helped us turn this dream into a reality, especially two experienced gardeners, who continue to share their food-growing wisdom with us. They both remind us to be patient and ready to experiment and accept that we will make mistakes along the way as they have!
Of course, being the sort that never do things in half-measure, we decided this summer to take on yet another “Long-Term-In-The-Works-Probably-Never” project: starting a beehive! This is due, with our thanks, to one of the farmer mentors mentioned above. The timing was perfect. Our north field is usually a dusty, crunchy, brown piece of prairie with pretty much only spear grass and weeds, along with a very few wildflowers. One walk around the perimeter fills your socks with sand! But this year, thanks to the El Nino weather pattern and plentiful rain, our field is full of bushy stalks of wild flowers, several new trees were full of blooms, and our new buzzing residents have had plenty to keep them busy. Our new Sister Beekeeper opened the hive to check on their progress, and found larvae, baby bees, honey, wax and everything else you would expect to see in a thriving bee colony. It’s been fascinating to learn about all the different roles of the different bees, how organized and deliberate is their every action – truly a marvel of God’s design!
As we close this letter, we send our promise of continued prayers. May we all rejoice in peace of soul as we celebrate and honor Our Mother of Mount Carmel!
In Our Lord and Our Lady,
Your Carmelite Sisters
True devotion to Mary consists in three things:
VENERATION, CONFIDENCE, AND LOVE.
Without saying to Mary that we venerate her,
love her, and trust in her protection,
we tell her these things every moment of the day
by simply wearing the Scapular.
Copyright SistersofCarmel 2023