Feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Liturgically today, Friday July 16 2021, is the feast day of Our Lady of Carmel. This feast has long and deep historical roots.


To begin with, Mount Carmel is found in modern day Israel, precisely in Haifa. It is the place wherein Elijah the prophet lived. This important biblical location is situated some 1,742 feet above sea level and looms above Israel’s Mediterranean coastline. At this venue Elijah prayed fervently to God for Israel’s salvation particularly as God’s people was painfully struggling the terrible drought in those days. The prophet Elijah kept praying and dispatched his servant up the mountain six times to look for rain. However, on the seventh attempt, Elijah’s servant finally came back to his master with good news. In 1 Kings 18:44 the servant said at the seventh time: “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising out of the sea.” Immediately after that, torrential rains poured heavily upon the parched land and the people of Israel were delivered.


Elijah interpreted the cloud as being the symbol of the Virgin spoken of in the prophecies of Isaiah (Is 7:14). As time went on, the hermits who dwelt on Mount Carmel who emulated Elijah’s example and prayed for the coming of the much-awaited Virgin Mary, who would become the Mother of the Messiah. The root of the Carmelite Order can be easily go back to Elijah and his hermited followers.

It was in the 13th Century, especially within the time of the Crusades, when St Simon Stock became a part of a group of hermits on Mount Carmel while doing a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Moreover, in 1247 in the first chapter which was held in Aylesford, England, he was elected as the 6th superior-general of the Carmelites. Due to the great persecution the order suffered from secular clergy and other others the friars were compelled to seek the Virgin Mary’s help in 1251.

History says that it was Sunday July 16, 1251, that Our Lady appeared to Simon Stock as he was praying. In her arms the Blessed Virgin held the Child Jesus and the Brown Scapular in the other arm. The spoke the subsequent words:  Hoc erit tibi et cunctis Carmelitis privilegium, in hoc habitu moriens salvabitur (This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved).  


The year 1252 had been an important year in the history of the Carmelite Order. In fact, on January 13 of this year the Order benefitted from a letter of protection from Pope Innocent IV, safeguarding them from persecution. St Simon Stock led a holy life for some 100 years and passed away in the Carmelite monastery at Bordeaux, France, on May 16, 1265.


A very popular sacramental connected with Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the Brown Scapular. The sacramental of the Brown Scapular is a miniature which comes from the actual brown scapular used by the Carmelites – the sleeveless outer garment falling from the shoulders that is worn as a symbol of their vocation and devotion. It was Our Lady who handed St Simon a Scapular for the Carmelites with the attached promise: Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire…It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.

Our Lady gave St. Simon a scapular for the Carmelites with the following promise, saying, Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire…It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.


Deeply connected with the wearing of the Brown Scapular there is the Sabbatine Privilege. Its name comes from the apocryphal Bull Sacratissimo uti culmine by John XXII, of March 3, 1322. As reported by Pope John XXII, the Blessed Virgin delivered him the subsequent message concerning those who put on the Brown Scapular: I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday (Sabbath) after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting.


Founded on Church tradition, three conditions need to be met to achieve the profits of this Privilege as well as the Scapular. First, wear the Brown Scapular. Second, observe chastity according to one’s state in life; and pray the Rosary.


Why don’t you get a Brown Scapular and have it blessed by a priest?


Let us praise Our Heavenly Mother Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, by the famous sequence dedicated to her by St Simon Stock (ca 1165-1265).


FLOWER of Carmel,

Tall vine blossom laden;

Splendor of heaven,

Childbearing yet maiden.

None equals thee.


Mother so tender,

Who no man didst know,

On Carmel’s children

Thy favors bestow.

Star of the Sea.


Strong stem of Jesse,

Who bore one bright flower,

Be ever near us

And guard us each hour,

who serve thee here.

Purest of lilies,

That flowers among thorns,

Bring help to the true heart

That in weakness turns

and trusts in thee.


Strongest of armor,

We trust in thy might:

Under thy mantle,

Hard press’d in the fight,

we call to thee.

Our way uncertain,

Surrounded by foes,

Unfailing counsel

You give to those

who turn to thee.


O gentle Mother

Who in Carmel reigns,

Share with your servants

That gladness you gained

and now enjoy.


Hail, Gate of Heaven,

With glory now crowned,

Bring us to safety

Where thy Son is found,

true joy to see.



Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap