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Our Lady of Mount Carmel

History and Novena
by Dr. Virginia M. Kimball | Source:

The feast day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel falls on July 16.  The connection of Mary, the mother of Christ, and the renowned mountain of biblical times is a long story and filled with insights into the motherhood of Mary as she prays and cares for her Son’s faithful in the world.

   Let’s start at the very beginning of the story.  Mt. Carmel’s importance extends far back into history.  The mountain is located in a richly  forested area at the southern end of a long fertile valley known from ancient times for its wine and oil production. At the top of the mount, there is a view of the Mediterranean’s shore, making it a strategic site for defense of the rich land below it. There are indications that stone-age man once lived in caves on the side of Mt. Carmel. The mount is known as the place of a contest between Elijah and 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (both false gods.) [1 Kings 8]  [See:  Paul J. Achtemeier, Editor, Harper's Bible Dictionary] 

   The area is known for its cover of flower blossoms, flowering shrubs, and fragrant herbs. The beauty of the bride in Solomon’s song [Song of Songs 7:5] is compared to the beauty of this mountain.  On the mountain’s slopes there are plentiful pastures [Isaiah 33:9, Jeremiah 50:19, Amos 1:2.]  Caves on the mountains often provided shelter for monks through the ages, in which Elijah and Elisha took refuge (1 Kings 18:19, 2 Kings 2:25.)  [ See: M.G. Easton, Easton's Bible Dictionary.]  An abiding sense of the reference to Mt. Carmel suggests God’s care and copious giving of life and care. Its Hebrew name “karmel” means “garden land” and “a fruitful place.”  [See: D.R.W. Wood, and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary.]
   The feast day we now celebrate on July16 recalls the foundation of the Carmelite religious order in the 12th century.  The founder, Berthold, may have been a pilgrim to the area (perhaps to cave of Elijah), or a crusader.  Tradition says that he came from southern France but when venturing in the Holy Land came to encounter fierce soldiers.  After a vision of Christ, he went to Mt. Carmel and built a small chapel there, soon joined by hermits who all lived there in community in imitation of Elijah. After his death, it seems that St. Brocard became leader of the hermits eventually leading to the establishment of the Order of Carmelites in the 12th century.

   In Carmelite tradition, Mt. Carmel had been a place devoted to monastic-style prayer since the time of Elijah. They built a  monastery and it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as she was “Star of the Sea” – a medieval title describing the mother of Christ as the cloud of life that dwells over the sea promising rain and fertility [1 Kings 18:41-45.]  (Remember that the Mediterranean is seen from Mt. Carmel and is a garden of life.) Throughout the monastery’s long history, there were periods of sadness, especially when it fell under Islamic control, becoming a mosque known as El-Maharrakah (the place of burning, referring to Elijah’s challenge to the pagan prophets.)  In the 18th century, Napoleon established the location as a hospital,  but this was destroyed in 1821. Funds were collected by the Carmelites, an order worldwide by this time, and they restored the monastery.

   Continuing the story, we come to the scapular of Mt. Carmel.  According to Carmelite tradition, this scapular – a small piece of rough wool cloth – was given in a vision by Virgin Mary to the monastic Simon Stock, living in England in the 13th century. On July 16, 1251, he prayed to Mary that his order could be saved from its oppression. She appeared with the scapular in hand, and told him:  "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant."  Promises associated with the scapular are: Mary’s protection of the Carmelite order and all those who wear the scapular (including laymen of its Third Order); special help at one’s hour of death for all who wear the habit (or scapular) in Mary’s name; and the so-called “Sabbatine Privelege” which Pope John XXII declared in 1322 meant early release from Purgatory for those who died in Mary’s care.

   The history of the Carmelite order is itself long and full of blessings. Monasteries were built throughout Europe and other parts of the world throughout  the ages.  Both nuns and monks often received special visions from Mary and Jesus.  Until this day, it seems that Mary shines like a star over the sea leading the faithful to her Son and to the fruit-bearing life God provides now and eternally.

Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel

O, most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel,

fruitful vine, splendor of heaven,

blessed mother of the Son of God, immaculate virgin,

assist me in my necessity.

O, star of the sea,

help me and show me herein,

you are my mother.

Mary conceived without sin,

pray for us who turn to you.

Scapular Novena

This is a powerful Nine Day Novena honouring Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Wearing the Brown Scapular promises the wearer a share in the prayers and good works of the entire Carmelite Family. It is a privileged sign of affiliation to the Carmelite Order and is a highly endowed sacramental.

   A sign of dedication to Mary, it reminds us to walk in her footsteps in the following of her Son.

   The Brown Scapular as well as the Rosary is also linked to the appearance of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima. Her final appearance there was on the 13th of October, 1917, when she appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel with the Scapular.

   Each day, for nine days, make you petition to Our Heavenly Mother for all your very special needs. It is a time of prayer and reflection that will bring you closer to her heart and that of Jesus, her son.

   Trust in Our Lady’s motherly love and compassion. Come to her with confidence!

First Day

The prayer Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel) was composed by St. Simon Stock and in answer he received the Scapular from Our Blessed Mother.

O Beautiful Flower Of Carmel,
most fruitful vine,
splendour of heaven,
holy and singular,
who brought forth the son of God,
still ever remaining a pure virgin,
assist us in our necessity!

O Star of the Sea,
help and protect us!
Show us that you are our Mother!

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.


Second Day

Most Holy Mary, Our Mother,
in your great love for us you gave us

the holy Scapular of Mount Carmel,
having heard the prayers of your chosen son St. Simon Stock.
Help us now to wear it faithfully and with devotion.
May it be a sign to us of our desire to grow in holiness.

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Third Day

O Queen of Heaven,
you gave us the Scapular as an outward sign
by which we might be known as your special children.
May we always wear it with honour

by avoiding sin and imitating your virtues.
Help us to be faithful to this desire of ours.

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Fourth Day

When you gave us, Gracious Lady,
the Scapular as our Habit,
you called us to be not only servants,
but also your own dear children.

We ask you to gain for us from your Son
the grace to live as your children in joy, peace and love.

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Fifth Day

O Mother of Fair Love,
through your goodness we are not only your children
but persons called to live in the spirit of Carmel.

Help us to live in charity with one another,
prayerful as Elijah of old,
and mindful of our call to minister to God’s people.

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Sixth Day

With loving provident care, O Mother Most Admirable,
you covered us with your Scapular
as a shield of defence against the Evil One.
Through your assistance,
may we bravely struggle against the powers of evil,
always open to your Son Jesus Christ.

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Seventh Day
O Mary, help of Christians,
you assured us that wearing your Scapular
worthily would keep us safe from harm.
Protect us in both body and soul
with your continual aid.
May all that we do be pleasing to your Son and to you.

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Eighth Day
You give us hope, O Mother of Mercy,
that through your Scapular promise
we might quickly pass through the fires of purgatory
to the Kingdom of your Son.
Be our comfort and our hope,
grant that our hope may not be in vain but that,
ever faithful to your Son and to you,
we may speedily enjoy after death
the blessed company of Jesus and the saints.

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

Ninth Day

O Most Holy Mother of Mount Carmel,
when asked by a saint

to grant privileges to the family of Carmel,
you rather granted an

assurance of salvation to the whole world.
Behold us your children, kneeling at your feet.

We glory, dearest Mother,
in wearing your holy habit,
that habit which makes us

members of your family of Carmel,
that habit 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!

(here pause and mention petitions)

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

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