Catholics Celebrate The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16

Baroque statues of Our Lady of Mount Carmel from Beniaján, Spain.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel with the Christ Child, angels, and souls in Purgatory. Baroque sculpture from Beniaján, Spain. Jayzaran/Wikimedia Commons

The Carmelite order of the Roman Catholic Church dates back to 1155 CE. The group originated in the Holy Land of the Middle East as a group of hermit monks, but gradually transformed into a mendicant order—one that takes a vow of poverty and austerity—of friars and nuns that live in service to the poor. Today, the order exists in many nations of western Europe and the United States.

St. Simon Stock

According to the traditions of the Carmelite order, on July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St.

Simon Stock, a Carmelite. A hermit by nature, Simon Stock had became a Carmelite during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from England. It was upon his return to England that Simon received his vision of the Virgin Mary while in Cambridge, England. During the vision, she revealed to him the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, popularly known as the "Brown Scapular."  The words she spoke were: 

Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection."

This was a transformative moment for Simon Stock, and in the following years he transformed the Carmelite order from one of hermits to one of mendicant friars and nuns that lived in social service to the poor and sick.

He was elected Superior-General of his order in 1254 CE. 

A century and a quarter later, the Carmelite order began to celebrate the day of Simon's vision, July 16, as the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

How the Feast Is Celebrated

Catholics observe the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in several different ways.

In some congregations, there is simply a church service dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, while others mark it by a simple prayer to the Blessed Virgin. In some congregations, people may be "enrolled" in the the Brown Scapula – which allows them to wear it as a sign of their devotion to the Virgin Mary. East Harlem in New York City marks the day with an annual festival for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which has been held annually since 1881. The Feast is especially important in those congregations that hold special reverence for the Virgin Mary, especially in southern Italy. 

There are several prayers used for church services on The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, including the Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Litany of Intercession to Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

The History of the Feast

The Carmelites had long claimed that their order extended back to ancient times—maintaining that it was founded on Mount Carmel in Palestine by the prophets Elijah and Elisha. While others disputed this idea, Pope Honorius III, in approving the order in 1226, seemed to accept its antiquity. The celebration of the feast became wrapped up in this controversy, and, in 1609, after Robert Cardinal Bellarmine examined the origins of the feast, it was declared the patronal feast of the Carmelite order.

From then on, the celebration of the feast began to spread, with various popes approving the celebration in southern Italy, then Spain and her colonies, then Austria, Portugal and her colonies, and finally in the Papal States, before Benedict XIII placed the feast on the universal calendar of the Latin Church in 1726. It has since been adopted by some Eastern Rite Catholics, as well.

The feast celebrates the devotion that the Blessed Virgin Mary shows toward those who are devoted to her, and who signal that devotion by wearing the Brown Scapular. According to tradition, 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.

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Richert, Scott P. "Catholics Celebrate The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16." ThoughtCo, Jan. 9, 2018, thoughtco.com/feast-our-lady-of-mount-carmel-542476. Richert, Scott P. (2018, January 9). Catholics Celebrate The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/feast-our-lady-of-mount-carmel-542476 Richert, Scott P. "Catholics Celebrate The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/feast-our-lady-of-mount-carmel-542476 (accessed May 23, 2018).