Today is the patronal feast of the Carmelites. The Order of Carmelites takes its name from Mount Carmel in Israel, which was the first place dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and where a chapel was erected in her honor before her Assumption into heaven.
In the Old Testament, Mount Carmel was a holy place sanctified by the memory of Elijah and his followers - who fought for the rights of the true God 900 years before Christ.
Christians would interpret Elijah's vision of the cloud rising from the Mediterranean sea as a symbol of the Blessed Virgin Mary whose Son would be the Messiah and Savior (1 Kings 18, 42-45). After the days of Elijah and Elisha other holy hermits lived on Mt. Carmel and led solitary, contemplative lives, praying and fasting. Along with the austere figure of Elijah, they looked for inspiration to the Mother of God. Her Latin title was "Virgo Dei Genitrix", which means "Virgin Mother of God".
July 16th is also the feast of the "Scapular of Mount Carmel." On this day in 1251, pious tradition says, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Simon Stock, General of the Carmelites at Cambridge, England, showed him the scapular and promised supernatural favors and her special protection to his Order and to all persons who would wear her scapular. When she presented the scapular to him, she told him, "This is your privilege: whoever dies in it will be saved."
To obtain the indulgences and other benefits promised to those who wear the Carmelite scapular, a person must be invested by a priest and must lead a consistent Christian life.
For more information on today's special feast day and the special indulgences attached to wearing the scapular, please see my post: Our Lady of Mount Carmel: Practices, Promises, and Indulgences Plus Novena and Feast Day. Also, this site provides detailed information on the brown scapular itself. To learn more about the Carmelites, go here.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mount Carmel composed by Saint Simon Stock
O Beautiful Flower of Carmel, most fruitful vine, splendor of heaven, holy and singular, who brought forth the Son of God, still ever remaining a pure virgin, assist us in our necessity! O Star of the Sea, help and protect us! Show us that you are our Mother! Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us!
Happy feast day to all my readers and especially to my Carmelite friends!