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Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Mary, the Blessed Mother, is known by many different titles within the Christian tradition. Among these exalted names, Our Lady of Mount Carmel has become one of the most-recognized and most-venerated through the centuries.

At least 40 cities and towns around the world are named Mount Carmel in homage to Our Lady, including 27 in the United States. Dozens of churches, schools, and burial grounds in nations from Chile and China to India and Russia also bear the name. In some parts of the world, Our Lady of Mount Carmel—through her brown scapular—has become an integral component of the traditions surrounding First Holy Communion.

The origins of this remarkable devotion can be traced to a biblical worship site in present-day northwestern Israel, as well as historical descriptions of a Marian apparition experienced by a 13th-century English priest.

Today, the original Mount Carmel rises 1,724 feet above Israel’s Mediterranean coast overlooking the city of Haifa and numerous smaller towns. In biblical times, it was the place where the prophet, Elijah, lived among a group of hermits, who prayed to God for salvation.

The Book of Kings in the Old Testament indicates that during a severe drought, Elijah instructed his servant to ascend the mountain and pray for rain. Six times, the servant climbed the mountain, but saw no rain. On the seventh try, however, the servant observed a cloud like a man’s hand rise from the sea; and rainstorms soon followed, saving the people of Israel. Elijah is said to have interpreted this cloud as a sign from the Lord that a virgin mother would give birth to a son, who would be the Messiah.

Following in the footsteps of the early Carmelite hermits, a group of monks formed the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in the late 12th century during the Third Crusade. They identified Elijah and Our Lady of Mount Carmel as their patron saints.

Since then, apparitions of Our Lady of Mount Carmel have been reported in Italy (1841), Portugal (1917; as one of the titles claimed by Mary at Fatima), and Spain (1961-65). But perhaps the most renowned instance is said to have occurred in England in 1251 involving Simon Stock, a prior general of the Carmelites. Later accounts described the appearance of Mary, who held the child, Jesus, in one arm and a brown scapular in the other, stating “anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.” Simon was canonized in 1664.

As such, the brown scapular is an essential element of the Carmelite habit and has become a sacramental garment worn by laity. Even in modern times, a miniature version of the garment is routinely bestowed upon Catholic children in conjunction with their preparations for First Holy Communion. The modern version consists of two small pieces of brown cloth joined by two straps or strings. Religious images may be sewn onto the cloth pieces, often depicting Our Lady as she appeared to St. Simon.

Those seeking Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s intercession for a special intention may request her graces through this prayer:

O most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel,
fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me herein and show me here you are my Mother.
O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in my necessity.
There are none that can withstand thy power.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
 (recite three times)
Holy Mary, I place this cause in your hands.
(recite three times)