Patron of the Carmelites

About the Feast

July 16 is the patronal feast of the Carmelite Order. The Carmelites actually trace their origins back to pre-Christianity, to a community of contemplative hermits who settled on Mount Carmel in honor of the great prophets Elijah and his successor, Elisha.

The hermits' knowledge of Scripture and prophecy inspired them to recognize the Infant Jesus as the Messiah when the Holy Family returned to the village at the base of Mount Carmel—the village of Nazareth—after their two years of exile in Egypt.

Tradition holds that these "Carmelites" were among the first to be baptized by the Apostles into the new Church after Pentecost and that they were the first to take guardianship of the Holy Family's house .in Nazareth, following the death of the Virgin Mary and her Assumption into heaven. The hermits built a chapel in her honor there.

The Carmelites did not formally organize themselves as a religious order until the 13th century. At that time they appealed to the Patriarch of Jerusalem to formulate a "rule" for them—a document describing their devotional practices and setting out some rules for the organization and governing of the Order.

The Saracen persecutions during the Third Crusade caused the Carmelites (and a great many other Christians, including the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers) to migrate westward. The Carmelites first reached England in the year 1212. A year later, they were joined by a holy Englishman, Simon Stock.

July 16 was chosen as the Carmelite patronal feast day because on that day in 1251, tradition says, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Simon Stock, then General of the Carmelites, at Cambridge, England, Our Lady showed him the scapular and promised spiritual favors and her special protection to his Order and to all persons who would wear her scapular.
Flos Carmeli Prayer

The Flos Carmeli (Flower of Carmel) is a prayer composed by Saint Simon Stock. One translation is the following:

Flower of Carmel,
Blossoming Vine,
Splendor of Heaven,
Mother Divine,
None like to thee.

Mother of our King,
Peerless and fair,
To thy children of Carmel,
Favors grant e'er.
Star of the Sea.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel,
Pray for us. Amen.

2 Kings 2:11-12 And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, "My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more.

2 Kings 4:25 So she set out, and came to the man of God [Elisha] at Mount Carmel.

Mark 9:2-4 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus.

Observing the Feast

The history of the Carmelites is closely associated with traveling: Elijah and Elisha traveled the countryside, teaching, preaching, and prophesying; the Holy Family had to make long journeys before returning to their hometown of Nazareth; and the hermits of Carmel traveled from the Holy Land to the West, to England, and eventually to the rest of the world.

In our fast-paced and mechanized world, it is difficult to imagine the challenges and rigors of travel in the past. Without much personal experience of traveling under our own power, how can we possibly comprehend the trust and sacrifice of Joseph and Mary as they traveled, in obedience, first to Bethlehem, then to Egypt, and finally home to Nazareth? The same spirit of trust, sacrifice, and obedience sustained the Carmelites and countless other religious in their journeys.

The fasting of Lent helps us to identify with the poor, especially with those in the Third World. A hiking trip (a pilgrimage on foot) can teach us in a similar way to appreciate our own taken-for- granted blessings. This is a lesson worth learning and teaching our children. So, leave the car in the driveway, and take a trip on foot. Or drive to a nearby wilderness park and take a family hiking trip there. Make it an enjoyable annual tradition, adding the promise of some special treat at the end—toasted marshmallows for the little ones and barbecue for the teenagers.

Such trips build family unity in a way that is as difficult to describe as the ardors of self-propelled travel. In our experience, working together and helping each other through a trip (if one of us does not make it, no one does) teach the meaning of "family" more surely than anything else does.

Self-propelled travel needs lots of preparation. Most of us do not have the experience or physical conditioning to set off on a hiking trip the way someone from the early 1800s might have had. The settlers of the West considered anything over five miles

on foot and ten to fifteen miles in wagons a good day's trip, with babies, livestock, farming implements, and household goods in tow, and we can set a similar goal for ourselves.

Start about two weeks beforehand by taking walks as a family around the neighborhood. Gradually add heavy backpacks filled with the clothing, water bottles, and other supplies you will need for your hike. For an overnight trip, consider how you will tote tents, sleeping bags, flashlights, and cooking gear also.
Some rules of thumb for hikers:

Carry essentials only.

    Bring a water bottle for each person (and water-purification equipment if yours is a wilderness trip).
    Bring a well-stocked first-aid kit, plus sunscreen and bug repellent. Check Web sites that list what a first aid kit should contain.
    Bring lightweight, easily digested food, such as pita bread, cheese, dried fruit, juice crystals, and jerky. Peanut butter (carried in a plastic container) spread on pita bread is an excellent source of nutrition for young hikers.

Dress appropriately.

    Wear thick socks and sturdy footwear. Though hiking-boots or -shoes are preferable, running-shoes with a strong, thick sole are fine. (You do not need to buy a whole lot of hiking stuff. )
    Choose clothing based on your expected terrain and temperatures:jeans for cool days, hiking shorts for warm days; jacket or fleece top for cooler evenings; a hat and sunglasses. A walking stick is often the hiker's best friend.

Pace yourself

    Set yourself some pacing rule, depending on who is in your hiking group. For example: Travel for twenty-five minutes, rest for five. Drink lots of water at each rest stop. Take half an hour for lunch. Sitting for longer will seem appealing, but it just makes it harder to get going again. Don't overshoot the halfway point. Be sure to stop before you are all too tired to get home again!