Today we celebrate Our Lady of Mount Carmel a devotion that is quite close to my heart. I received a gift the day of my baptism, it was the complete works of St. John of the Cross in Spanish, a book I treasure greatly. In previous posts I told you about a special saint in my life, St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Thérèse de Lisieux affectionately called Santa Teresita among Spanish speaking Catholics. I grew up in her parish here in Buenos Aires. I have crossed paths with many Carmelites in my life, so much that it is beginning to look suspicious. Let me tell you the latest Carmelite event. It happened only yesterday on the eve of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Ever since I arrived here in 2012 the persecution began —being persecuted seems to be part of the Carmelite identity— and the capricious, not to say stupid lawsuits began. The intention was always destructive and the source was always the same. I humbly ask you to pray for that person and his minions. Most of those lawsuits were aimed at taking the roof from over my head. I confess to be a man of little faith and after a decade of being ground to dust by the relentless and futile legal actions I was tempted to run away from it all. Before taking such decision, I decided to ask St. Thérèse a simple question about what to do. I was inspired by the question that David asked God after the destruction of Ziklag, (Cf. 1 Samuel 30).
I knew that St. Thérèse does ‘answer’ sometimes by showing a rose to the person praying. So I asked my question, a simple ‘yes or no’ question as soon as I woke up about 4:30 a.m. yesterday July 15. I had my usual little cup of instant coffee and went about the business of the day. The previous day was filled with notifications, lawyer meetings and such. To calm the slight anxiety I was feeling I wrote my question in a card and left it on my bookcase between the images of St. Joseph and St. Thérèse. I basically asked “Show me a rose for yes, nothing for no.” Because we are in the dead of winter here, the chances of seeing roses was nil. But I remembered that St. Josemaria Escrivá had done the same as he fled from the Communists crossing the Rialp valley on his way to Andorra during the Spanish Civil War. After asking the question to Our Lady, Escrivá and his party got lost and decided to spend the night in a church that the Communist had torched. Early in the morning, if I remember well, St. Escrivá wandered into a room and found an image of Our Lady carved in wood. Right in front of him on the floor he found a wooden rose that had been violently broken off the sacred image. Right at that moment he knew that Our Lady had positively answered his question. The rose had been cut off by force from that image in the same manner St. Escrivá was being violently removed from Spain and sent to an unjust exile.
I worked until mid morning on a soon to be published article about Logos and the mission of the Church. It was about 10 a.m. on a cold and drizzly Buenos Aires morning when I decided to go out for a brisk walk. Wrong day to do that! It was too cold and I quickly went into the corner store to pick up a fresh cup of piping hot coffee. I was waiting in line to pay for my cup when I noticed something unusual on the counter next to the cash register: It was a bunch of chocolate roses neatly wrapped in red paper. Immediately I thought: “Not one rose but many, and all of them very sweet red roses. This is good.” One more time a Carmelite came to my help putting my mind at ease.
Like Elijah, I returned to my cave to continue working. It was a positive day after that.
“Theirs is a God of mountains,” (1 Kings 20:23) said the enemies of Israel before being defeated in the plains.
“So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, ‘Look, there is the Shunammite woman …” (2 Kings 4:25)
The prophet from Mt. Carmel saw the Shunammite woman coming to him in the distance. I always thought that passage prefigured St. Mary’s assistance to all those involved in prophetic missions big or small. There seems to be a very strong link between Mount Carmel and prophecy. (See for instance Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Puerto Rico, a fascinating article by Vionette Negretti.) Our Lady of Mount Carmel seems to have a predilection for mountains like her home in Israel or the Santa Montaña located in Puerto Rico.
I picked up these few paragraphs from Franciscan Media:
Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in northern Israel in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726, it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and often championed the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.
Saint Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” Saint John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel, and helping him escape from prison. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus believed that Mary cured her from illness. On her First Communion day, Thérèse dedicated her life to Mary. During the last days of her life she frequently spoke of Mary.
There is a tradition—which may not be historical—that Mary appeared to Saint Simon Stock, a leader of the Carmelites, and gave him a scapular, telling him to promote devotion to it. The scapular is a modified version of Mary’s own garment. It symbolizes her special protection and calls the wearers to consecrate themselves to her in a special way. The scapular reminds us of the gospel call to prayer and penance—a call that Mary models in a splendid way. (Franciscan Media, Saint of the Day)
In this day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel I have the impression that something is about to turn, something important is about to happen. I see the world taking a bad turn just like Israel had done in the days of Elijah but I also see the protecting hand of God in many ways —those red roses and other personal, almost secret signs may be a way to show us He is in control— and a call to prayer and penance for ourselves. Today I thank God for His many mercies and His Blessed Mother for her kind protection.
Personal Consecration To Our Lady of Mount Carmel