Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Sisters, may I walk a path of thought and reflection on your vocation which you know so well, but I wish to recall in order to honour this occasion.

As you are very aware, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is related to a particular event. It is the commemoration of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Carmelite friar, St Simon Stock, on July 16, 1251. This apparition led to the promotion of the wearing of the brown scapular.

This feast has become the patronal feast of the Carmelite Order and it reflects the close association between the Carmelite Order and devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
The Order has another very important point of reference and that is the prophet Elijah – hence our first reading today.
There are thus two themes for our consideration: devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the inspiration of the prophet Elijah. I will take the second theme first.

Links to the prophet Elijah
The Carmelite order has origins to hermits dwelling on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. These hermits felt a close spiritual kinship with the prophet Elijah whose cave is on the mountain. The Carmelite Order, thus, has a long and rich history. It reflects one particular and most important stream of Catholic spirituality – that of the hermit or the contemplative. Hermits were present in the Church from its earliest times. The life of a hermit takes one dimension of the life of Jesus and develops it into a vocation.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus withdrew to solitude on many occasions. He spent forty days in the desert before commencing his public ministry. The Gospels record that he went off into the mountains to pray on prior to important moments, like the naming of the Twelve. His withdrawal to Gethsemane prior to his passion gives testimony to his practice of seeking times of silent communion with his Father.

From this witness of the Scriptures Christian men and women have felt a calling to imitate this dimension of the life of Christ by embracing a life of solitude and prayer.
The hermits on Mount Carmel were inspired by the great prophet Elijah, regarded as the model of Old Testament prophets. He dwelt on the mountain.

While he was very active as a prophet, he also withdrew to mountains to seek the Lord. He was shown that he would meet the Lord not in powerful manifestations of the Lord’s presence – as occurred on Sinai to Moses – but in the silence of a gentle breeze. Interior quiet is necessary to hear the voice of God and to sense the subtle movements of the Spirit.

Elijah heard the voice of the Lord. He conformed his life and ministry around the guidance and instruction he received. As in the reading today he was alert to the purposes of God. As such he was able to be an instrument of the Lord’s plans. He was a prophet in that he was attuned to the mind and heart of God.

This is the vocation of a contemplative. In silence and attention the contemplative listens to the Lord. The contemplative waits on the Lord. The contemplative comes to know the will and intentions of the Lord. The contemplative thus becomes a prophetic presence in the Church.

The contemplative stands before the Lord for the Church. The contemplative, thus, has a clear ecclesial vocation. This ecclesial vocation includes carrying a burden in their heart for the Church. While most in the Church are busy about the Lord’s affairs, the contemplative has chosen – as the Lord said to Martha – the better part sitting at the Lord’s feet.  
The contemplative is like Moses holding his arms aloft in prayer as battle was engaged with the Amelkites.

Devotion to Blessed Virgin
The Carmelite tradition has had a close association with the Virgin Mary -  the chapel of the hermits on Mount Carmel was dedicated to her. The hermits were sometimes called “Brothers of our Lady of Mount Carmel”. The second reading reflects the theme of the motherhood of the Virgin Mary and the Gospel reading reveals how the Lord extended the motherhood of Mary to all his disciples.

Carmelites have always had a special devotion to the Virgin Mary. St Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.”

St Simon Stock was 90 years old when he cried out to the Virgin Mary seeking her intercession for the grave challenges facing his order. The Mother responded to the pleas of her spiritual son and appeared to him surrounded by angels.
We notice two things. St Simon Stock appealed to the Virgin Mary deeply aware of her maternal care for the Order. He knew that it was to her that he must cry. Secondly, we notice simply that his prayer was heard in a most extraordinary way. The Virgin Mary not only appeared to be a consolation to him, but she offered a spiritual weapon which has continued to this day to be a powerful tool of grace. The scapular speaks of a consecration to Our Lady. The scapular as a traditional form of monastic dress speaks of the blessings that come from a life consecrated to God.

The promises associated with wearing the scapular speaks of the assurances of grace offered to those who preserve a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Those who wear the scapular faithfully and remain devoted to the Blessed Virgin until death will be granted the grace of final perseverance and be delivered from Purgatory early.

The custom of wearing the brown scapular has continued to this day. It has also meant that the Carmelite vocation has been shared with many who, while living in the world, have found a path of spirituality linked to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Our feast day today
I have rehearsed things that you already know and recalled inspirations to the life you lead here at Carmel in Launceston. However, this feast day is a day to recall what is of essence in your life and vocation.

Sisters, Jesus, from the cross, offered his mother as our mother. Today you can take consolation in the fact that the Blessed Virgin is your mother and watches over you with maternal love and affection.

As I have said before and I say again today: your presence here on this mountain overlooking the city of Launceston is important for the Church throughout Tasmania. You are like Elijah – listening and attentive to the Lord and his purposes.
Happy Feast Day.

Archbishop Julian Porteous