Dear brothers and sisters,
Next weekend, July 16/17, we will celebrate our parish’s patronal feast, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is certainly one of the most important annual events in our community.
Mary, the Mother of God, has a multitude of titles under which she is invoked for various needs. When our parish and school were founded, our founding fathers entrusted the community to Our Lady under a most appropriate title. Through the past 182 years, we have invoked Our Lady’s protection and guidance under this title. She has responded with motherly protection and love in every instance.
The title “Our Lady of Mount Carmel” first derives from the experience of the prophet Elijah who, on Mount Carmel (located in present-day northwestern Israel), challenged the worshipers of false gods to a contest (see 1 Kings 20-40). They were to call on their gods and Elijah would call on his God, and whichever God was able to light the fire to begin the holocaust offering was proved true. Elijah taunted his competitors, but of course their gods could not deliver. After drenching his own wood and holocaust with 12 buckets of water, Elijah called on the Lord who, at once answered with fire. The God of Elijah was victorious. Ever since the time of Elijah, the mountain has been considered sacred and hermits have always occupied a spot on the mountain where they devoted themselves to a life of austerity and prayer.
When the Carmelite Order was established many centuries later in the Church, the priests adopted Our Lady of Mount Carmel to represent their spirituality – both Marian and deeply contemplative. Since the 15th century, popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has centered on the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, also known as the Brown Scapular. Traditionally, Mary is said to have given the Scapular to an early Carmelite named Saint Simon Stock (1165-1265) as a sign of her divine love and protection. There are a host of promises that go with the pious wearing of the Brown Scapular, the first of which is eternal salvation through the intercession of our heavenly Mother.
A 1996 doctrinal statement by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments states: “Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is bound to the history and spiritual values of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and is expressed through the Scapular. Thus, whoever receives the Scapular becomes a member of the Order and pledges him/herself to live according to its spirituality in accordance with the characteristics of his/her state in life.” In a nutshell, the Scapular is a both Marian sign and a pledge. A sign of belonging to Our Lady; a pledge of her motherly protection, not only in this life but also in the next. As a sign, it is a conventional sign signifying three elements of belonging: first, association with a religious family particularly devoted to Mary and especially dear to her – the Carmelite Order; second, consecration to Mary herself, being devoted to her and trusting in her Immaculate Heart; third, motivation to imitate Mary’s virtues, above all her humility, chastity, and spirit of prayer.
Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has always been a hallmark of our parish. At present, it remains an important devotion among the majority of our parishioners of Italian, Hispanic, Vietnamese, Czech and Filipino backgrounds, as the Carmelite Order and its lay associations are particularly strong in these cultural groups.
I invite you to mark your calendar for the festive events published in this bulletin leading up to next weekend’s celebrations. It is our hope that you and your family will be able to join us at the 5:00PM Outdoor Procession and Solemn Mass, followed by a special celebration in the Institute that will feature a great program of music, dances and international food for everyone. Together, let us honor Our Lady in ways that are dear to her heart, and invoke her blessing upon our parish and all our families.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham