Pope St. John Paul II - Scapular of Carmel, a Treasure For the Church



To the Most Reverend Fathers Joseph Chalmers, Prior General of the Order of Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (O.Carm.) and Camilo Maccise, Superior General of the Order of Discalced Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (O.C.D.)


1. The providential event of grace, which the Jubilee Year has been for the Church, prompts her to look with trust and hope to the journey we have just begun in the new millennium. "At the beginning of this new century", I wrote in the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, "our steps must quicken.... On this journey we are accompanied by the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom ... I entrusted the third millennium" (n. 58).


I therefore learned with deep joy that the two branches of the Order of Carmel, the ancient and the reformed, intend to express their filial love for their Patroness by dedicating the year 2001 to her, invoked as the Flower of Carmel, Mother and Guide on the way of holiness. In this regard, I cannot fail to stress a happy coincidence: the celebration of this Marian year for the whole of Carmel is taking place, according to a venerable tradition of the Order itself, on the 750th anniversary of the bestowal of the Scapular. This celebration is therefore a marvelous occasion for the entire Carmelite Family to deepen not only its Marian spirituality, but to live it more and more in the light of the place which the Virgin Mother of God and of mankind holds in the mystery of Christ and the Church, and therefore to follow her who is the "Star of Evangelization" (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, n. 58).


2. In their journey towards the "mountain of God, Christ the Lord" (Roman Missal, Opening Prayer of the Mass in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 16 July), the various generations of Carmel, from the beginning until today, have sought to model their lives on Mary's example.


In Carmel therefore and in every soul moved by tender affection for the Blessed Virgin and Mother, there has thrived a contemplation of her, who from the beginning knew how to open herself to hearing God's Word and to obeying his will (Lk 2:19, 51). For Mary, taught and formed by the Spirit (cf. Lk 2:44-50), was able by faith to understand her own history (cf. Lk 1:46-55) and, docile to the divine promptings, "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan (cf. Jn 19:25), enduring with her Only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering and associating herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart" (Lumen Gentium, n. 58).


3. Contemplation of the Virgin presents her to us as a loving Mother who sees her Son growing up in Nazareth (cf. Lk 2:40, 52), follows him on the roads of Palestine, helps him at the wedding at Cana (cf. Jn 2:5) and, at the foot of the Cross, becomes the Mother associated with his offering and given to all people when Jesus himself entrusts her to his beloved disciple (cf. Jn 19:26). As Mother of the Church, the Blessed Virgin is one with the disciples in "constant prayer" (Acts 1:14); as the new Woman who anticipates in herself what will one day come to pass for us all in the full enjoyment of Trinitarian life, she is taken up into heaven from where she spreads the protective mantle of her mercy over her children on their pilgrimage to the holy mountain of glory.


Such a contemplative attitude of mind and heart prompts admiration for the Virgin's experience of faith and love; she already lives in herself all that every believer desires and hopes to attain in the mystery of Christ and the Church (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 103; Lumen Gentium, n. 53).


Therefore, Carmelites have chosen Mary as their Patroness and spiritual Mother and always keep before the eyes of their heart the Most Pure Virgin who guides everyone to the perfect knowledge and imitation of Christ.


Thus an intimacy of spiritual