Carmelite ChroniclesMarian Devotion

June 11, 2012

The years of the Order’s early expansion in Europe also witnessed the growth and shaping of its devotion to Our Lady. Everywhere they dedicated their churches to the Blessed Virgin.

Not surprisingly, their churches featured Marian confraternities (not to be confused with later scapular confraternities). The confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel of Toulouse in 1267 numbered 5,000 men and women. Laudesi, Marian hymn-singers, occur in Florence (1280), Siena (1289), and Cambridge (ca. 1300).

Perhaps the change of the mantle, the sign of our Order, is to be placed in this context of its name. The distinctive striped mantle worn by the Carmelites became in Europe the occasion of derision and hindered youth from entering the Order. At the general chapter of 1287, accordingly, the striped mantle was exchanged for a white one, which in time became a symbol for Our Lady’s purity. It may not have been entirely coincidental that shortly before this, in 1274, a mendicant order with a Marian title and white mantle, the Friars of the Blessed Virgin, or Pied Friars, had been suppressed, thus clearing the way for the decision of the general chapter.

From The Mirror of Carmel by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

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