no. 3 july - september 2005
Celebration of Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Around the World Today
Variety of Celebrations Witness to the Richness of the Spirituality
Sacred Scripture proclaims the beauty of Mount Carmel where the prophet Elijah defended the faith of Israel in the Living God. By the XIV century, Mary begins to be celebrated as patroness of the Order, first in Britain and then throughout the Order. The feast is assigned to July 16 because on that date in 1251, according to Carmelite legend, the scapular was given to St. Simon Stock by Our Lady. With a privilege by Pope Clement X in 1672, some Carmelite monasteries keep the feast on the Sunday after July 16, or on some other Sunday in July.
The celebrations achieve their maximum impact in the XVII century when the Carmelite General Chapter declares Our Lady of Mount Carmel to be the principal feast of the Order. In 1674, Clement X extends the feast into southern Italy and Spain and its colonies. In 1675 the feast begins in Austria, in 1679 in Portugal and its colonies, and in 1725 to the Papal States in what is now Italy. In 1726, the feast is extended to the entire Latin Church by Benedict XIII. Paul V recognized it as the distinctive title of the Confraternity of the Scapular.
In some of the places, the feast is celebrated because of the presence of the Carmelite Family. In many other locations, the Carmelites built the tradition but long ago departed. Yet the towns continue to feel connected to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and continue to celebrate that relationship in significant ways.
The Carmelites were present in Montoro, Spain for centuries. However, following the Civil War in Spain, some 60 years ago, they were sent to make the foundation in Venezuela. When the prior of Antequera, Antonio Jiménez, travelled to the town near Córdoba in 2005 to celebrate the Novena of Our Lady of Mount Camel, he found the Carmelite charism still very much alive and present and the Carmelites still remembered fondly.
Other cities have adopted Mary as their protector for favors received. In the Italian town of Scalea, for example, Our Lady has been patroness of the town since 1885 to recognize her role in protecting the inhabitants from a cholera epidemic some 10 years before. On the feast day, the town’s mayor offers a votive candle along with a basket of grain and a branch from an olive tree—symbols of prosperity and abundance. Then a procession moves throughout the streets of the city. The women wear a "cinte," a small block of wood carried on the head, with a decorative candle offered to the Madonna. A music concert followed by a fireworks display concludes the evening.
In the Spanish town of Málaga, in the classic barrio of "Los Percheles," so named because of the fish which was prepared in the area markets, you will find the church named "Carmen." Even during the exclaustration of the Carmelites in 1835 and the expropriation of the monastery, the devotion to Our Lady continued. Now administered by the Claritians, the ancient Carmelite church is today a fervent stronghold of the annual celebrations to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The primary motive for such veneration and love for Our Lady under this title comes from the people’s belief that she has protected the men of the barrio in their dangerous work on the sea as well as those who stay to work the land. In 1849 the navy personnel began carrying the statue. She was proclaimed "Patroness of the Navy" in 1901. The celebration today is a mixture of seamen and railroad workers, fishermen and gypsies, industrialist and beach people—all coming together in order to honor their patron in whose protective shadow they live and whose mercy they feel.
In 1920 the annual procession was led by Carmelite Luis Mª Llop, then director of the Betica Province magazine El Santo Escapulario. This procession was solemn, enthusiastic, "almost impossible to capture in words" the magazine reported. Note was made of the hundreds of scapulars Fr. Llop gave to the people to wear. The statue of Mary, dressed in its finest garments, was carried aboard a boat called La Chata. The cortege moved towards the chapel of Carmen in what was then called Muelle Viejo (Old Port). There the Salve Regina was sung. The procession then proceeded throughout the harbor where the statue was taken off the boat and processed through the streets until it reached its home in the Carmen. Before the procession broke up the parish priest invited two angry citizens "to say something to the Virgin" which they did and the dispute between them was settled.
From that year, the annual celebration has continued to grow in devotion, organization, and spirituality. In 1935, the Venerable Third Order was established in the parish with the parish priest and 50 of his parishioners as the first members. Even today the scene is repeated in many of the fishing villages and towns up and down the coast. Some 91 Confraternities have the name "Our Lady of Mount Carmel." Brass bands play, crowds cheer, and fireworks fills the sky. And Our Lady of Mount Carmel is accompanied on her way by a huge flotilla of assorted boats.
In many different ways, always according to the customs of the local culture, the celebrations of Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel continue around the world today. Here we present a summary of those celebrations:
The first members of the Carmelite Family who see the sun rise on July 16th live in the Territory of the Wallis and Futuna Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. Although the population of just over 16,000 is 99% Catholic, the feast was not celebrated in any noteworthy way until the arrival of Donum Dei.
Now the people join with the larger Carmelite Family, including the laity associated to Donum Dei, to come together to celebrate Mass. It is a mass complete with dance and oceans of flowers. Afterwards there is a feast with meat and fish for all.
In one village of Vietnam, there is a deep devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. One will find a picture of Our Lady in the brown habit in the local church. Two months before the feast, the preparations begin. Work is done to prepare theatre, dancing, and singing. July 15, the vigil, is a whole day of celebration. There are confessions to prepare souls for the next day. The various foods are also prepared for members from the various branches of the Carmelite Family who will attend the celebration.
Such celebrations are repeated in many other locations of Vietnam today.
The enclosed Carmelite nuns of the Carmel of the Mary, Star of the Sea monastery in Tanay, Rizal, invite the people from the area to join them for a novena in preparation for the solemnity. From July 7-15 there is the the rosary and the novena prayer with consecration to Our Lady followed by Eucharist. Envelopes of petitions are presented to Our Lady during the offertory. The conferring of the scapular follows the mass.
On July 16, the Bishop of the Diocese of Antipolo presides over the morning Eucharist which is also followed by the conferring of the scapular. People are invited to visit the Blessed Sacrament in the monastery chapel during the day.
The Archbishop of Bamberg travels to the Carmelite parish in Bamberg to celebrate the Eucharist. This is followed by music and food in the monastery cloister for all. At 2 pm, a procession forms in the church and proceeds through the streets of Bamberg.
A similar celebration takes place in Springiersbach, the retreat center of the Upper German Province but without the archbishop.
The members of the Carmel Movement, a Lay Carmelite group within the Dutch Province of the Netherlands, come together with the community in Nijmegan to celebrate the feast.
The recently inaugurated enclosed Carmelite monastery in the northern Italian town on Biella held a "moment of praise to Mary" in the monastery chapel. Emails were sent out to invite friends of the monastery to attend. On July 16, there was a Eucharistic celebration at 7:30 am, with a prayer to the Madonna at noon, and concluding the day with sung solemn Vespers at 6 pm.
The lay members of the community at the ancient Carmelite church in Florence have begun their annual vacations by mid July. However, they return to Il Carmine for the feast. They host a reception in the monastery courtyard for the handicapped during the holidays. After the celebrations are completed, they then return to their vacations.
The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was celebrated with reduced numbers at the General Curia of the Order. The day began, as is the custom, with the celebration of Eucharist. At one o'clock, the four members of the community who were in residence and two guests from the United States of America shared a festive, multiple course pranzo prepared by members of the Donum Dei.
The Carmelite parish communities around the Rome area had been celebrating the feast for a number of days. A poster which outlined the times and places of the celebrations was plastered on walls and doors around the parish neighborhoods. On Sunday, July 10, the parishioners of San Martino ai Monti processed through some of the streets of the parish.
The beautiful baroque style of the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, decorated with a large gold and red canopy, presides at the main altar of the church of the Carmelite nuns of Antequera the whole month of July. The novena and feast of July 16 are celebrated with great devotion and solemnity for the community and the faithful of Antequera. On July 15th, at midnight, the local people come to the monastery to greet the Virgin and to sing songs which honor her.
Otherwise, the Carmelite parish of Antequera celebrates the triduum before the 16th. The feast is celebrated in the Carmen barrio with a solemn Eucharist which is followed by a procession through the neighborhood with the statue of the Virgin. Everything is organized by the Carmelite Confraternity of the parish.
The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel passed without any celebration in Cameroon prior to the arrival of the Carmelite family. Now is it celebrated with great enthusiasm. The families associated with the Donum Dei come together once a month. Nine days before the feast, there is one day of retreat with the entire Carmelite Family from around the country. New members receive the brown scapular while current members renew their dedication.
July 16 caps off the novena that has been taking place as spiritual preparation for the feast. Before the arrival of the Carmelites from the Betica Province, the members of Donum Dei prepared courses on various aspects of spirituality.
On the feast day, some of the members of the larger Donum Dei family make their commitment as members of the Third Order. To celebrate, the feast of beef and pork is completed with a dessert of ice cream.
Sr. Adrian, of the Corpus Christi Carmelites, proclaimed the island’s celebration of the feast as "Excellent!"
About 500 people came together to celebrate mass. Participating were 250 Third Order members, 100 members of Confraternities, and 60 Corpus Christi Sisters. Garth Eversley, a member of the SEL Province, preached highlighting what our spirituality can bring to the world at this time in history. "It was a message about hope," said Sr. Adrian.
The day progressed with the enrollment into the scapular and a procession around the grounds of the convent. Before a statue of Mary on the grounds, the sisters said their act of consecration. The day concluded with a meal for all those who participated.
The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was celebrated at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Carmelite Drive in Middletown, New York on Friday through Sunday, July 15-17, 2005. Father Francis Amodio, O. Carm., director of the shrine, hosted the feast day triduum. It began on Friday evening with a evening of prayer and music.
July 16th was celebrated on Saturday by pilgrims who traveled from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Manhattan. The sanctuary at the national shrine was beautifully designed by Brother Fabio Rojas, O. Carm., and decorated by the Carmelite students in formation from Washington, D.C. Following the solemn mass, a procession was led to the oldest outdoor Shrine on the property, that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, where prayers and singing continued. The pilgrims gathered in the Shrine’s picnic grove following the procession for a picnic lunch.
The PCM province has three parishes in the Diocese of Venice, Florida. Each parish celebrated the feast with a Mass dedicated to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
The newest parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, in Osprey, celebrated the feast with a con-celebrated Eucharist on the afternoon of the 16th of July. Lukas Schmidt, pastor, was the principal celebrant, with 10 concelebrating Carmelites present. Following the liturgy, a festive dinner was attended by 100 parishioners as well as the Bishop of the Diocese, John Nevins, DD., who offered a few words of praise for the Carmelites who are ministering in the Diocese.
Today the feast runs 10 days— a nine day novena and the celebration of the actual feast on July 16th. On the 16th, the first mass is celebrated at 5 am. The masses continue each hour until 3 pm when the Archbishop José Cordosa, O. Carm., comes to the basilica to celebrate the Eucharist. Police estimate that 50,000 people attend the July 16th procession and that over 1 million people pass through the Carmelite basilica during the nine days of preparation. July 16th is the second largest feast in Recife.
During the celebration, the color of the clothes is highly significant. Many will dress in yellow or brown, or blue to indicate the promises they made to the Madonna. Some will go shoeless as a sign of their humility. Photos of the sick or small pieces of paper with a request of the Madonna are placed near the statue of Mary in the hope of receiving her intercession.
1) Our Lady of Mount Carmel from the Barrio of Perche in Málaga, Spain is carried off the boat after being accompanied on her journey by a flotilla of boats and people of all ages. (Photo courtesy of El Escapulario magazine)
2) The faithful process at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in New York (USA). The Carmelites at the shrine celebrated a triduum which included religious services as well as an American picnic. (Photo courtesy of SEL Province)