Mary has many titles in the Church and is honored as Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin, Queen of All Saints, and Our Lady of the Rosary. Some of her titles are related to her apparitions, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe; others are given because of her attributes, such as Our Lady of Good Counsel; and other titles are related to a particular place where she is honored, such as, Our Lady of Czestochowa (in Poland). The origins of the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel probably date back to the Carmelite order’s beginnings as a group of monks living on Mount Carmel in Israel during the 12th century; their church was dedicated to the Blessed Mother.
Every year on July 16, the Catholic Church honors Mary as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This feast day was instituted by the Carmelite order in the 14th century to celebrate the approval of their rule by the Pope in 1226, and it was added to the Church’s calendar in 1726. July 16 was chosen as the feast day because according to Carmelite tradition, it was on that day in 1251, that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon Stock, the General of the Carmelite order, and gave him the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Our Lady said to him: “Receive, my beloved son, this habit of your 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 and of my special protection…”
The Scapular is part of the Carmelite habit. However, lay people can receive the promise too, by continually wearing a small brown wool scapular, after enrollment by a priest, who does the investiture rite. This investiture also makes the person enrolled a member of the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular and affiliated with the Carmelite order. While the Brown Scapular is a wonderful sacramental, people should not assume they will go to Heaven when they die just because they wear it. They still must have faith in Jesus and lead a holy life. Wearing the Scapular can help people do that by reminding them to stay devoted to the Blessed Mother and to follow her example.
Two of the Blessed Mother’s later apparitions seem to confirm this devotion to her in the Church. Mary’s last appearance in Lourdes was on July 16, 1858, the feast of Our lady of Mount Carmel. In Mary’s last apparition at Fatima on October 13, 1917, she came as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding out a Brown Scapular.
The Opening Prayer in the Mass for this feast day conveys the real meaning of the devotion to Mary as Our lady of Mount Carmel. “May the venerable intercession of the glorious Virgin Mary come to our aid, we pray, O Lord, so that, fortified by her protection, we may reach the mountain which is Christ. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.”
~ Louise Merrie