July 15, 2011

Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Blessed John Paul II

Mount Carmel is a place of prayer and spiritual contest.   It is a geographical location - a place where Elijah prayed, a place where Crusaders worn out from war went to find God, a place where to this day great ascetics still live.  Mount Carmel is more than geographical, however.  It is also a spiritual place where the Lord teaches his disciples to perfect their faith.   Many of those who go to this spiritual place join the Carmelite family and enter deep into its rich patrimony.  This patrimony is so abundant that not only Carmelites, but also others spiritually share in the astonishing gifts entrusted to this religious family.  They discover in these gifts deeper union with Christ. One of these gifts is the special patronage of the Mother of God under the title of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Mary's spiritual maternity helps Carmelites learn from her how to ponder, to meditate, to think on Christ in their hearts.  The Brown Scapular, part of their habit, is a symbol of her intercession - a sign that she covers them in her prayers.  They wear this sacramental as a sign that they have said "yes" to the prayerful presence of Christ's mother in their lives.  The color "brown" speaks to the ascetical efforts and countless trials that learning how to pray demands.  In fact, Mary makes pilgrimage with those who dedicate themselves to deep prayer in all their struggles and difficulties.  She is a faithful mother who works tirelessly that a Carmelite's faith in Christ might come to full maturity.

Blessed John Paul II wore the Brown Scapular.  Even though he was not a Carmelite, he chose to live in that place of spiritual contest and intimacy with God that Carmel represents.  He chose to do this like Christ, enveloped in the maternal love of Mary.  Very early in his spiritual life, he understood that Mary brought us to Christ.  This seemed obvious to him - how else could it be?  Instead, what amazed him was that Jesus should entrust his Mother to us.   Even before he became a priest, Karol Wojtyla found this gift to be an intimate and remarkable testimony to the inexhaustible mystery of Christ's great love for his disciples.  He experienced for himself that anyone who says "yes" to this gift from Christ and who welcomes her as a companion in his life's journey learns to recognize and enjoy all kinds of blessings in all kinds of circumstances.