Love those mountains
There is something very refreshing about going to the mountains. Perhaps it is the combination of fresh air, breathtaking views, being closer to the clouds, and the feeling of being on top of the world. The ascent up steep terrain is often difficult where the air is often colder and has less oxygen. Usually the path has fewer travelers. Sometimes the trail is not even cut at all. However, reaching the summit is a reward in itself.
Close to God on the mountain top
Many say that they feel closer to God on the mountain top. This is not pure coincidence as even the ancients believed that elevated places were holy. One doesn’t have to look far to find a Temple or a Church located on a hill. A trip to a place like Rome, Italy or Athens, Greece confirms this. Rome is a city of hills. Greece is known for the Acropolis. In some countries various faiths even claim the same mountain.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition all hold ties to some of these places. One such example, Mount Carmel, is located in Northern Israel and goes back thousands of years. Mount Carmel was climbed by the Old Testament prophet Elijah. He did this to pray for rain from the heavens when the countryside around him was dry and barren. As a result, a swirling cloud formed from the sea which poured life-giving water onto the land. Other Old Testament prophets lived in caves near the Fountain of Elijah on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. They honored the Queen of Heaven as the “Virgin who was to give birth to the Savior.” They gave devotion to the Mother of God even before Jesus was born.
Twelfth Century Christian hermits came to live and pray on this same holy mountain. They honored the Mother of God under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. From this, the Carmelite order was established and spread throughout Europe.
The brown scapular
July 16 marks the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, as it commemorates the anniversary that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, leader of the Carmelites, in 1251. She gave him the famous Brown Scapular, also known as the Garment of Grace. The scapular is an external sign of one’s relationship to the Mother of God. Those who wear it entrust themselves to her protection and maternal intercession. It is a statement of love.
The Blessed Virgin Mary told St. Simon: “Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”
The first brown scapulars were worn as aprons, matching the brown habits of the Carmelite order. After many of the faithful, lay and religious, desired to wear the scapular, a smaller version was adapted. Made up of felt and string, the brown scapular can be easily worn under regular clothing. It bears an image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There are many different versions. Some other types of scapulars also have an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and/or the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
There are many saints of the Catholic Church from the Carmelite Order. St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Therese, the Little Flower were Carmelites . The writings of these saints are quite profound and mystical. At Lourdes in 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary made her last apparition on July 16th the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. At Fatima she appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel on October 13, 1917 to say farewell to the Fatima children.
In our everyday life
It is refreshing to go to the mountain top. Many go for vacation. Some even go to live. During our days of muddling around in the valley, the climb up the mountain may be tough. We might even find ourselves having to be trail blazers. But in the barren desert of our lives, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel can come to our aid and help bring the life-giving help that we need. Through her intercession we can indeed ascend to the top where we can be closer to God.