OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL
In this novena, we are offered the protection afforded us from being a member of a family. The more extensive our family, the more safely we are able to walk through the world. Our Lady of Mount Carmel represents the role of Mary as mother of the family of man and honors Mary’s protection of the ancient sect of contemplatives who settled Mount Carmel, as well as the symbol of this protection, the scapula. Those who wear this religious picture in present day declare their commitment to Jesus. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is extremely widespread throughout the world. This novena is particularly effective when we are feeling vulnerable and in need of protection. All are welcome to recite it. In saying this novena, one accepts a role in the extended spiritual family of the Carmelites.
The spiritual legacy of Mount Carmel goes back to 800 BC, when the prophet Elijah ascended the holy mountain of Carmel in Israel and began a life of contemplation and prayer. In his prophetic visions, Elijah became aware of the coming of the Mother of God. He and his followers mystically dedicated themselves to her, and it was the descendants of the followers of Elijah who were the first to be baptized by the Apsotles. Upon meeting Mary, they were overcome with her majesty and sanctity and they returned to the mountain of Carmel to build the first chapel ever dedicated to the Madonna.
Mount Carmel continued to be a place of pilgrimage and spiritual retreat, housing many hermits who devoted themselves to prayer and contemplation. These hermits became the first order of Carmelite friars. During the Crusades, the Saracens began making it difficult for these monks to continue these holy practices. A young English pilgrim, Saint Simon Stock, had joined the group while on a visit to Jerusalem. This ultimately resulted in the order’s move to England in the year 1241. The Baron de Grey gave the monks a manor house in the town of Aylesford. In England, the Carmelites developed from a loose-knit group of monks into a traveling society of mendicant friars, opening schools and mission houses in the major capitals of Europe. In 1251, Saint Simon Stock had a vision of Mary in the house in Aylesford. She handed him the first scapular and said, “This shall be the privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.” This scapular consisted of two brown wool panels joined by strings, to be worn over the shoulders. On one panel was a woven image of Mary holding the baby Jesus. Today, the scapular has this image on one panel and an image of Mary handing the scapular to Saint Simon Stock on the other. The word “scapular” comes from a form of clothing worn over the shoulders as an apron; it is part of the religious habit of monks, nuns and friars.
Through the years the scapular given to Saint Simon Stock became the symbol of a way of life and an expression of being open to God and his will. It also honors Mary by asking her for her protection, and it establishes a bond between us and the original saints of Mount Carmel.
Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: July 16
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is invoked for: Protection, Universal Family
Novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel
O most holy mother of Mount Carmel, when asked by a saint to grant privileges to the family of Carmel, you gave assurance of your motherly love and help to those faithful to you and to your Son. Behold us, your children. We glory in wearing your holy habit, which makes us members of your family of Carmel, through which we shall have your powerful protection in life, at death, and even after death. Look down with love, O Gate of Heaven, on all those now in their last agony! Look down graciously, O Virgin, Flower of Carmel, on all those in need of help! Look down mercifully, O Mother of Our Saviour, on all those who do not know that they are numbered among your children! Look down tenderly, O Queen of All Saints, on the poor souls!
(Pause and mention your request).
(Recite one Our Father, one Hail Mary, one Glory Be).
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.
Excerpted from the book “Novena: The Power of Prayer” by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua