Dear brothers and sisters in the Carmelite Family,
The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is approaching. As we do every year, we are now getting ready to celebrate joyfully this feast which is so important for the worldwide Carmelite Family. In different places, with a variety of religious events, we will honour the woman that we call, “Mother and Ornament of Carmel”. Processions, novenas, the giving of the Scapular, devotions, exchanges of good wishes and so on, will adorn the Carmelite landscape throughout the world. In many places, like Spain, my own country, devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is associated with the sea (sailors and fishermen) and her image shines on the waves, as a sign of hope and protection in the oftentimes more furrowed and tempestuous seas of life.
As one who shares in the joy, I offer you my best wishes: may these celebrations give life to our devotion to Mary our Mother, under the enduring and ever popular title of Mount Carmel. May she accompany us and lighten our way as an Order and as the Carmelite Family.
This year it occurs to me to ask you to reflect on one of the most popular images with which we represent Our Lady of Mount Carmel: the image of the Blessed Virgin from her place in heaven setting souls free from purgatory directly or through the mediation of the angels, and those who are to be set free, engulfed in flames and a pleading look on their faces. Without wishing to dwell on the theology or on the baroque imagery and its limitations, it would be good to remember that the faithful see in this image the motherly protection of Mary, or, even more, the way in which true devotion to the Blessed Virgin leads to a life of grace and faith.
At this time of profound economic crisis, of unceasing violence, of flagrant inequalities, …. I believe that we too, as people devoted to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, are called to bring freedom to those who suffer the purgatories of our times - hunger, unemployment, war, terrorism, drugs, depression, loneliness, poor education, exploitation and abuse ….. Our devotion to Mary makes us more sensitive to the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters, to the most forgotten, and it makes us more human, more compassionate and understanding, more in solidarity with others. Compassion is perhaps the greatest test of the authenticity of our devotion to Mary which can never be limited, as the Second Vatican Council reminds us (on its fiftieth anniversary) to a sterile or transitory affection or a certain vain credulity, (LG 67)
I also invite you to make of the celebrations in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel an opportunity for a serious evangelisation, and not just a propping up of traditions and practices from another age. Let us celebrate our novenas and the giving of the scapular, with conviction, affection and pastoral care and attention, with a sense of liturgy and a sense of catechesis, in a way that makes true what Bishop Oscar Romero said in his famous homily of the 16th of July, 1978: our people know that Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, is the great missionary of the people.
A Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to you! May Mary, our Mother and Sister, walk with you always.
With fraternal affection,
Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm.