VENERATION OF "MADONNA DEL CARMELO"
The "Carmelo mount is a mountainous chain of Palestine (in
Hebrew karmel means "orchard","garden") that dominates the
gulf of Haifa until to the plain of Esdrelon. In order to
understand the cult of "Madonna del Carmelo" we must come
back three thousand years, when the Elia prophet
retired into prayer on Carmelo mount to implore God, so that
put an end to drought that distressed Israel then. After incessant
prayers a little cloud appeared; it had the
same size as a man hand and slowly dilated in the sky until
covering the whole horizon and falling down like plentiful
In that cloud the exegetes and the Christian mistics have
always seen a prophetic image of the Virgin Mary who, carrying
herself the Word, gives all people the life and the fecundity.
The tradition of the Carmelite order narrates that the hermits,
between the second crusade (1147-1149) and the third crusade
(1189-1192) dedicated a true cult to her from wich would been
born the expected Messiah. Therefore, they constructed the
first chapel to her, in the same place where a day Elia prophet
had seen her in prophetic symbol of the little cloud. The
hermits, that retired themselves on the sacred mount to live
as disciples of Our Lady, loved defining themeselves "siblings
of the Carmelo" or "siblings of the Virgin Mary".
The spread of the Carmelites in Europe taken place above all
thanks to the returning crusaders.
The cult of the "Madonna del Carmelo" spreaded in Europe together
with the activity of the Carmelites that preached mystical
pratice and penance with particular apostolic zeal. The veneration
of "Madonna del Carmelo" and the scapular proceed at the same
rate. Which is its origin?
In the Middle Ages the friars wore
a kind of apron that came down to in front and behind the
shoulders and it was put on beginning from the head, that's
why the dress was named scapular. It was
used during the work, so that the dress was protected and
in this way the dress didn't soil.
But the dress in question had above all a symbolic meaning;
it meant the "sweet yoke" of Christ so that deserting the
dress meant to repudiate one's faith and not to keep one's
promises. But in the Carmelite order the scapular assumed
a marian meaning very soon. The leader of the Carmelite order,
Saint Simon Stock, often prayed the Virgin
Mary so that kept by grants the friars of his order. It happened
that, on July 16, 1251, the Virgin Mary appeared
with an host of angels to him and, holding in hand the scapular,
said to him:
"Take this scapular. Whoever dies wearing it will not suffer
the fire of the hell. It will be a symbol of salvation, protection
from the dangers and promise of peace." This promise further
on was strengthened approximately 80 years later, when the
Virgin Mary appeared to Pope "Giovanni XXIII"; the Virgin
Mary, referring to all those had worn the scapular, said:
"I myself, goodness Mother will come down the first Saturday
after their dead and I will free and take to the saint mount
of eternal life all (grant of Saturday)".
Through the ages the scapular adapted oneself to customs of the times, so much that it grew a very little dress names "abitino". It is made up by a small piece of the Carmelite dress and on it there is the image of Our Lady. Moreover, it must be worn on chest. The scapular ("abitino") is not a talisman but who wears the scapular must live an authentic Christian life and must strive to imitate the virtues of the Virgin Mary.
Saint "Teresa D'Avila" wrote: "we strive ourselves to imitate at least a little the Virgin Mary of which we wear the scapular".