Carmelite Chronicles
Marian Devotion

August 7, 2019 |

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).

At this time, the Hermits of Mount Carmel become the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This name, which probably originated in popular usage, now becomes the subject of conscious reflection on the part of the Order. In scholasticism, the name of a thing denoted its essence. The constitutions of 1294 direct that “whenever anyone asks about our Order or its name, the name of the Blessed Virgin is to be given it.” Bishops and the Holy See granted indulgences to its use. The idea gains grounds that the Order was founded in honor of Mary. A bull of Clement V, March 5, 1311, to cite but one example, begins, “Your holy Order, divinely instituted in honor of the blessed Mary, the glorious Virgin…”

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.

St. Simon Stock, prior general from 1254 to 1266, who used earnestly to recommend the needs of the Order to Our Lady (in fact, the Mendicant privileges of the Order were acquired at this time) was favored with a vision of the Virgin, who held the scapular of the Order in her hands and announced, “This it the privilege for you and yours; whoever dies in it will be saved.” Later, the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was to become an important means of promoting devotion to Mary in the Church.

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

Fr. Joachim Smet O. Carm.
Fr. Joachim Smet, O.Carm. (1915-2011) was one of the leading historians of the Carmelite Order. In addition to being a founding member and President of the Institutum Carmelitanum in Rome and editor of Carmelus, a journal of Carmelite Studies, Fr. Joachim was a gifted writer. he is well-known for his four-volume work The Carmelites and his Life of Saint Peter Thomas. Among his other works: Familiar Matter of Today-Poems (2007), The Mirror of Carmel: A Brief History of the Carmelite Order, (2011), various publications on Carmelite Nuns, Carmelite Liturgy, Carmelite Libraries of Spain and Portugal and the Carmelites of Medieval England.
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