July 16

marian calendar     july

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Roman Catholic Church

Around the time of the Second Crusade, in the 1100s, Christian hermits living on Mount Carmel near present-day Haifa formed a community around a chapel of St. Mary and, around 1210, adopted a Rule. When the Saracens retook the area in 1238, many of these Carmelite monks fled back to their European homelands, reaching England in 1242. But the Latin church was not welcoming. After the Dominican Order was established in 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council had decreed that there would be no more new orders allowed. At the Second Council of Lyons, a ruling was to be presented on July 17, 1274, abolishing the Carmelite and Augustinian Orders on the grounds that they had arisen after the 1215 cut-off date. Without any powerful friends in the hierarchy, the Carmelites prayed to their patron, Mary, for a miracle to save them from extinction. And the miracle occurred: the text of the papal decree was changed to say that the Carmelites and Augustinians were founded before 1215 and could continue their mission in Europe. Thereafter the Carmelites celebrated their day of deliverance through Mary, but on July 16 to avoid conflict with the feast day of St. Alexius on the 17th.   

The Catholic reforms of the 1960s purged St. Alexius from the liturgical calendar, but kept Our Lady of Mount Carmel as an optional memorial on July 16, the occasion of major public festivals in many Catholic communities.

The story usually told about the origin of the feast day is perhaps a bit more exciting than the above, but unsupported by contemporary evidence, and seems to have evolved over a hundred years after the political miracle of 1274. The story, still found in most devotional sources, is that on July 16, 1251, the prior general of the order, St. Simon Stock, 86, received a visitation of the Virgin while at prayer at a monastery in Cambridge, England; and that giving him a scapular, she said, "Receive, my beloved son, this habit of thy Order. This shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire."  

Of course, on hearing this promise, many people wanted to start wearing the item that could save them from hell. The monastic scapular is a large garment, similar to a poncho or two-sided apron, which covers the habit in front and back. Eventually, people associated with religious orders through Third (lay) Orders and confraternities were given permission to wear smaller scapulars (as in the picture above), two squares of cloth attached with strings to go over the shoulders, over or under the clothes, in sign of their allegiance. In the case of Carmelite associates, the scapular also represents devotion to the Virgin and hope in her promise of salvation. Images of Our Lady of Mount Carmel often show her holding the Christ Child with one hand and a small scapular in the other.

O beautiful flower of Carmel, / Most fruitful vine, / Splendor of heaven, / Holy and singular, / Who brought forth the Son of God / Still ever remaining a pure Virgin, / Assist us in our necessities. / O star of the Sea, / Help and protect us. / Show us that you are our Mother. ("Flos Carmeli," antiphon attributed to St. Simon Stock).

(Information from Patrick McMahon, O.Carm., "Origin and Tradition of the Brown Scapular," The Sword, 2000, Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary, Darien, Illinois, carmelnet.org; and other sources. Picture of brown scapular from Mary's Touch, www.marystouch.org.)

Also celebrated this date:

Virgen de Itatí, Itatí, Corrientes, Argentina. Fiesta commemorates statue's crowning in 1900.
Nossa Senhora da Graça, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Church dedicated, 1586.
Notre Dame d'Auvergne, Ponteix, Saskatchewan, Canada. Annual Pilgrimage with mass and candlelight procession.
Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Joseph's Colony, Saskatchewan, Canada. Annual pilgrimage on a Sunday around this date.
Notre-Dame, Avioth, Meuse, Lorraine, France
Notre Dame des Vernettes, Peisey-Nancroix, Savoie, Rhône-Alpes, France
Notre Dame de la Feuillade, Montech, Tarn-et-Garonne, Midi-Pyrénées, France
Schwarze Madonna, Beilstein, Cochem-Zell, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany (Black Madonna), in St. Joseph's Church
Vierge Miracle, Saut-d'Eau, Mirebalais, Centre, Haiti. Annual pilgrimage to Ville Bonheur waterfall commemorates apparition July 16, 1848. Also called Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel & (creole) Viej Mirak.
Fekete Mária, Sopron, Győr-Moson-Sopron, Hungary (Black Madonna)
Fájdalmas Anya, Egerszalók, Heves, Hungary (Sorrowful Mother)
Vérző Homlokú Szűzanya, Kunszentmárton, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok, Hungary (Virgin Mother of the Bleeding Forehead). Nearest Sunday.
Madonna delle Grazie, Racconigi, Cuneo, Piedmont, Italy. Apparition, 1493.
Beata Vergine Addolorata, Anguillara Veneta, Padova, Veneto, Italy (Sorrowful Blessed Virgin). Day of prayer (Monday after).
Beata Vergine delle Grazie di Boccadirio, Castiglione dei Pepoli, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, Baragazza district. Apparition, 1480.
Madonna del Carmine, Passignano sul Trasimeno, Perugia, Umbria, Italy, San Donato district. Festa on previous Sunday.
Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo, Moura, Évora, Portugal (Our Lady of Mount Carmel). Patronal festa on nearest Sunday.
Karmelska Mati Božja, Laško, Slovenia, Marija Gradec district. Celebrated on nearest Sunday.
Muttergottes von Ziteil, Oberhalbstein, Graubünden, Switzerland. Apparition, 1580.
Mother of God, Berdychiv, Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Icon crowned, 1736.
Madonna Queen, East Boston, USA. Monumental statue unveiled, 1954.

Where We Walked ~~~ Mary Ann Daly