Friday, July 16, 2010

Of Rosary Centers and Hope

If I'd stayed with the Carmelites, I'd be having a "recreation day" today - which basically means you get to talk all day. This only happens for Very Important Feast Days, and today (July 16) is one of the biggest for Carmelites: Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In the Church in general, it's an "optional memorial" (not very important - you can completely ignore it if you want to), but among Carmelites it's a solemnity (as big a deal as you can have outside of Holy Week and Easter).

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of Mary's more nebulous titles. Its most direct link to earthly affairs is Mary's apparition to a Carmelite (Raymond of Pennyfort, if memory serves - and I'm not guaranteeing that it is) to give him the scapular for the Order. Most pictures of the event show Mary handing him what non-Carmelites usually think of as a scapular - two little pieces of cloth tied together with ribbons; the "brown" scapular is the one connected to the Carmelites. But the more formal Carmelite scapular is the layer of cloth that hangs all the way down the front and back of the habit. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is always, as far as I know, shown dressed in a Carmelite habit including a full-length scapular, and she's usually holding one of those "two little pieces of cloth" scapulars.

But the devotion Carmelites have for Our Lady of Mount Carmel goes beyond the gift of the scapular. The Carmelites are an unusual religious order in that they don't trace their origin back to one founder. It began among crusaders who stayed in the Holy Land to become hermits on Mount Carmel instead of returning to their homes in Europe. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some practical reasons for choosing Mount Carmel, but the spiritual reason was that the prophet Elijah prayed there. In the old days, the Carmelites claimed Elijah as their founder, but now they tend to call him their "spiritual father."

If you attended Mass in a Carmelite monastery (where the women live) or convent (where the men live) today, you'd hear a reading from the Old Testament about Elijah praying for rain during a drought. At first, nothing happens, but then he sees, far off on the horizon, a small cloud. The Carmelites see that small cloud as an image of Mary - Our Lady of Mount Carmel - whose appearance on the horizon was the first sign that mankind's drought was ending with the coming of Christ.

(I've purposely not distinguished here between the two orders of Carmelites that exist today, because devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel predates the split, so both O.Carm.'s and O.C.D.'s share the celebration.)

Anyone who was around for our discussion of medals as rosary centers a little while back knows what this all has to do with making rosaries. A scapular medal is a medal that shows the Sacred Heart on one side and Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the other. A rosary center with those same images is a scapular center. Our Lady of Mount Carmel isn't always labeled as such, but the image normally used has a very recognizable outline (even if the image is too small to see clearly). Here are a few rosaries I offer that have scapular centers (I've picked ones that have good close-ups of Our Lady of Mount Carmel). Click on the picture to go to the full description of the rosary:

with mother-of-pearl beads and glass hearts:

with red agate "Our Father" beads and synthetic amber (resin) "Hail Mary" beads

a ruby red rosary for the July birthstone

To see more, go to the main page of my Etsy shop and type "scapular" into the search box.


  1. Wonderful information on the feast day yesterday.. All three of those rosaries are very pretty

  2. Great insight into that day. I still am amazed at the beauty of your rosaries. Love them!