Mary and the Carmelites
Tomorrow is the feast of All Carmelite Saints and it would only be appropriate to talk about the Queen and Mother of Carmel. There is too much to write about but I will briefly go over some of the points made in the Constitutions of the Carmelite Order.
Marian Spirituality of the Order
Mary as Model and Mother
A distinctive note of the attitude of Carmelites towards the Virgin Mary is the desire to imitate Her virtues within their own religious profession whether it be priest, monk, nun or layman. The well-known Carmelite theologian, John Baconthorpe (1294-1348) in his commentary on the Rule sets out to show the parallel between the life of a Carmelite and that of the Virgin Mary. Another great lover of Mary, Arnold Bostio (1445 -1449) presented in his work the Patronage of Mary over the Order. Blessed Baptist of Mantua (1447-1516) sings sweetly of Mary in his poetic works. Fr Michael of St Augustine (1621-1684) and his spiritual daughter Mary of St Teresa (1623-1677) are faithful interpreters of the Carmelite tradition and have united a sense of intimacy with the Virgin to the thought of Her splendor.
Liturgy and Popular Devotion
Carmelites have expressed their consecration to the Virgin particularly through the liturgy. They have dedicated churches to Her and venerated Her image. The ancient Rituals of the Order, from the thirteenth century onwards, show the liturgical fervor of Carmel in the celebration of the Marian feasts of the Church and in the acceptance of celebrations which in other places and Orders were not received with such fervor as, for instance, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The feast of the Solemn Commemoration of the Virgin of Mount Carmel became the principal feast. The Order's ancient Jerusalem rite contained many invocations to Mary in the canonical hours, with Marian antiphons at the end of each hour and a special solemn anthem. Votive Masses were celebrated in honor of the Virgin and the name of Mary was frequently introduced into the liturgical texts for Clothing and Profession. It can be said that the Carmelite liturgy has left a profound impression of Marian spirit on the Order's spiritual tradition and has formed the interior dedication professed by the Order to Our Lady the Virgin. Together with the liturgy, characteristic devotional practices have flourished, such as the Angelus and the Brigittine Rosary and others proper to the Order, alongside the Brown Scapular devotion.
Marian Spirituality in the Teresian Carmel
The second part of number 54 of the Constitutions presents the logical continuation of the Marian experience of Carmel in Saint Teresa and Saint John of the Cross in these words, "Saint Teresa of Jesus and Saint John of the Cross confirmed and renewed Carmel's devotion to Mary". There follows a brief and compact synthesis of the Marian thought of St Teresa and St John of the Cross.
As all things since Vatican II - there have been changes to the Constitutions. Pope John Paul II allowed some communities to preserve the Old Rule while others chose to update it. Those who chose not to update did not because of the words of St. Teresa herself which are:
"Let them beware, for the devil through very small things,
drills holes through which very large things enter.
May it not happen that those who are to come say:
'These things are not important; don't go to extremes.'
Oh, my daughters, everything that helps us advance is important!"
St. Teresa of Jesus
[i]Foundations[/i], ch.29, 32
Since the late 1970s many laxities had been introduced into the Order. While the Friars were working with the nuns on drafting the new Constitutions, this minority group was working with the support of priests and bishops, to preserve the original Constitutions of St. Teresa, updated according to the present Code of Canon Law and the directives of Vatican II.
We can conclude with this little knowledge presented that Carmel is wholly Mary's or at least SHOULD BE. The Constitutions stress this fundamental aspect of the Order's spirituality in all its aspects from the most profound life in communion with Mary and imitating Her to the simplest personal and community devotion. Fidelity to this aspect of our life is a guarantee of continuity with the purest tradition of Carmel. It renews the covenant of love which the Virgin has sought to have with the Order of Carmel in the Church.
In Mary, Carmelites scattered throughout the world are united in a commitment to serve Christ and His Church with the guidance, prayers and graces sent by Our Lady to Her children. Thus, Carmelites not only live to imitate the Virgin, Handmaid of the Lord, but also seek Her guidance and grace to be able to serve God by their prayers and sacrifices for the good of souls and that of the Church.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel pray for us!
All You Carmelite Saints, pray for us!
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Bernadette Porter is a Traditional Catholic, a wife of 42 years with 6 adult home-schooled children and 6 grandchildren. A sincere devotion to Mary, the Mother of God leads me to want to share "The Church's best kept secret" - Mary!