Circular Letter No. 7/2010
July 26, 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the MMP,
Is it possible for Our Lady to be manifested even before her birth? By human standards, this is perhaps too much to assume. But, since nothing is impossible to God, I would believe so. God, in his eternal and absolute power, could allow such manifestation. He already foretold her as the woman in enmity with the serpent (Gen. 3:15), a clear manifestation of her role even before she was born.
Such was the story of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. In the Old Testament period, long before she came into existence, a manifestation alluding to her had occurred. This happened in the mountain of Carmel, and the prophet Elijah experienced it. According to the most ancient Carmelite chronicles, the prophet used to stay in this coastal mountain range in northern Israel. During the time of a terrible drought, while praying for deliverance, he saw a cloud which grew in size and overshadowed the sky. Rain came, which saved the Israelites.
Elijah believed that the cloud was a heavenly sign for the Virgin whom Isaiah prophesied to give birth to the Messiah. Many people shared his belief and joined him in the mountain to pray for her coming. So deep was their inspiration that it evoked in them a strong devotion to the Virgin, enough to label them as the first devotees of Our Lady in history. Popularly known as hermits of Carmel, they were indeed the first group of Carmelites.
The story of Carmel continued during the New Testament period. Popularly known followers of Elijah were John the Baptist and apostles like James and John. During the time of our Lord, they certainly had the privilege to see Our Lady in person, the Virgin-Mother whom their ancestors had long waited for.
With the birth of Christianity, the hermits of Carmel embraced the faith and remained in Israel. But, Christendom entered into decadence. And, as some sort of punishment, the Christians absorbed the devastating invasion of the Muslims. Terribly affected were the hermits of Carmel. They were almost annihilated in defense of their faith. With the help of the Crusaders in the 12th century, they moved to the West as an almost unknown religious order, waning and without supporters.
Now based in Europe, they elected St. Simon Stock as General of the Order in 1247. He asked for Our Lady’s protection from the persecution. As he knelt in prayer on July 16, 1251, in the White Friars’ Convent at Cambridge,our Blessed Mother appeared before him and presented him with the now well-known brown scapular, a loose sleeveless garment designed for the Order. It was given as an assurance of Her protection. The Order bloomed again. Thanking and honoring Our Lady for this blessing, she was acclaimed as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, tracing her roots from the mountain in northern Israel where Elijah got the heavenly sign.
Devotion to the blessed habit spread quickly throughout the Christian world. Popes enriched it with indulgences; innumerable miracles put their seal upon its efficacy. Gaining much popularity, it became associated with the recitation of the Holy Rosary. The Catholic Church recognized the importance of these outward expressions of faith through the intercession of the Blessed Mother.
By historical accounts, the devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel must be the earliest and can be considered the mother of all Marian devotions. It was not a coincidence that she figured in other Marian apparitions. At Lourdes in 1858, the Virgin chose July16, the feast of Carmel, as the date of her last apparition to Bernadette. And, at Fatima on October 13, 1917, when the miracle of the sun occurred, she appeared wearing the brown Carmelite habit, bearing the glorious mysteries of the rosary to announce her victory: ‘In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.’
Throughout the ages, our Blessed Mother manifested herself, and still continues to do so. Her apparitions, attributing her with various titles, should not confuse us in the understanding of her identity. She is the one and same ‘virgin’ and ‘woman’ as mentioned in the Scriptures. Given a unique role in God’s saving plan, she keeps faithful watch over all the events in human history, interceding and protecting us, her beloved children, and the whole of humanity.
The month of July highlights the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. As she manifested herself to Elijah as a sign of salvation for Israel, she remains in our time to be the sign of hope and triumph for the Church and mankind. In this critical period, we need her more than ever. Let us continue to pray and seek her maternal help. May her scapular cover us with the mantle of her protection and her rosary obtain for us her powerful intercession.
Viva Maria de Monte Carmelo!
Yours in the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
REV. FR. ROMERICO A. PRIETO
Marian Movement of Priests - Philippines