November 1, 2001
Visions of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Saint Bernadette tells us that when Our Lady appeared to her on July 16th, 1858, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, she appeared as a young woman without the Child Jesus. She had never looked so beautiful. It calls to mind some of the early Carmelite Icons of Mary portrayed as youthful and beautiful, icons bearing the title “Tota pulchra es, Maria” (You are all beautiful, O Mary). It seems appropriate that in the context of Mary’s revealing herself as the Immaculate Conception she should acknowledge the traditional Carmelite devotion to her as the Most Pure Virgin, the Immaculate One.
Fifty-nine years later Mary appeared at Fatima. There the emphasis moved from the Immaculate Conception to the Immaculate Heart. Among the promises made by her at Fatima was the following: I promise salvation to those who embrace devotion to my Immaculate Heart . . . My Immaculate Heart will be their refuge, the way that will lead them to God. The promise recalls the traditional privileges associated with the wearing of the Brown Scapular of Carmel. The Scapular is a special sign of a privilege, which I have obtained for you and for all God’s children who honor me as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Those who die devotedly clothed wit this scapular shall be preserved from eternal fire.
As is well known, on October 13th, 1917, the day of the final apparition at Fatima, Mary appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding out the Scapular to the world.
On August 15th, 1950, Lucy, the only surviving visionary, in reply to the question as to why Our Lady held the Scapular in her hand on that occasion said, Because Our Lady wants everyone to wear the Scapular . . . The reason for this is that the Scapular is our sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
On July 2nd, 1961, Mary appeared for the first time to four children at Garabandal. She appeared as a young woman again without the Christ Child. A brilliant light surrounded her and she held a large brown Scapular in her hand. I am the Lady of Carmel, se said. It was the Feast of the Visitation in those days, a Feast that recalls St Luke’s presentation of Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant before which John the Baptist danced, as did King David before him. It was as if Our Lady of Mount Carmel was portraying herself as the New Ark of the Covenant: the Immaculate Heart as the seat of the presence of the Heart of God. That makes sense in the context of what Mary said to Conchita on November 13th, 1965: Conchita, I have not come for your sake alone. I have come for all my children, so that I may draw them closer to Our Hearts.
And one is tempted to see the Scapular medal in this light bearing as it does the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on one side and that of the Sacred Heart on the other.
In this Carmelite Marian Year, as we celebrate the 750th anniversary of the giving of the Scapular, we need to give our people more than Carmelite scholarship. We need to give them Carmelite wisdom. We need to give them the wisdom of consecration, or entrustment, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we need to give them the wisdom of living in allegiance to the Heart of Jesus by means of enrolment in the Carmelite Scapular. The visit of the Relics of St Thérèse would teach us something of the hunger in people’s hearts for authentic traditional spirituality.
The Holy Father assures us in his letter to the Carmelites on the occasion of the 750th anniversary, that the most genuine form of devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the Scapular, is the consecration to her Immaculate Heart (Par 4). And he also assures us that the Scapular of Carmel configures us to Christ and is not unrelated to mystical union with God. All that seems to be implied in paragraph 6 of the Letter:
The witness of holiness and wisdom of so many Saints of Carmel who all grew up under the shade and care of their Mother, is a splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which forms us and configures us to Christ, who is the first born of many brothers and sisters.
John Lawler O. Carm.