It was my good fortune to attend a Mass celebrated by Don Francisco Pérez González, the archbishop of Pamplona at the Carmelite parish here in Pamplona yesterday evening. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel holds a special place in my heart and it was great to see that the church was packed; plus I'm always pleased whenever I have an opportunity to attend a Mass celebrated by our fantastic archbishop.
Devotion to La Virgen del Carmen is very popular throughout Spain, especially in coastal areas where her protection and intercession are sought for sailors under the title of La Virgen del Carmen, Estrella del Mar (Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Star of the Sea). From here comes the analogy of the Virgin Mary who, as the Star of the Sea, guides her children through the difficult seas of this life to the safe harbor of heaven.
And of course, thanks to St. Teresa of Avila (another of my favorite Spanish saints), the Carmelite Order and Carmelite spirituality flowered in the Spanish peninsula and impacted upon the spirituali-ty of the Spanish people as it did in no other place. Apart from perhaps St. Ignatius of Loyola and the Jesuits, no other founder or religious order is as immediately identifiable with Spain as are St. Teresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross and the Carmelite Order. And the Spanish influence in Latin America means that devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is widespread throughout Mexico and Central and South America.
A brief outline of the history of the Carmelites, with an emphasis on the Discalced Carmelites of St. Terea's reform, can be found here.
Disclaimer: I have no flippin' idea why on earth a member of a religious order would use an annoying MIDI recording of Imagine, John Lennon's hymn to atheistic utopian materialism, on his site. (Yes, the melody is lovely, Brother, BUT ... ) Resist the temptation to scream in frustration and bolt immediately from the page and simply switch off the music player in the upper left corner.
More about St. Simon Stock and the origin of the Brown Scapular devotion here.
An excellent meditation on the Brown Scapular by Pope John Paul II (via the Catholic Culture library) here.
Happy feast day everyone!