July 16, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

No peace without quiet; no quiet without contemplation

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

The publication date for this column is Friday, July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. This is one of many days that are identified in the Church’s liturgical calendar to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Different feasts celebrate particular aspects of Mary’s life, such as the Annunciation, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, and, frequently, of the places associated with her appearances since she was assumed into heaven at the end of her time on Earth, such as Fatima, Guadalupe and Carmel.

The Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was instituted in the 14th century for the Carmelite Order. It commemorates the day in 1251 when the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the brown scapular, which

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explained “is a sign of filial abandonment to the protection of the Immaculate Virgin.” Pope St. John Paul II said that he wore a scapular around his neck “from his youngest days.”

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is the patron of the Carmelites, women and men who are striving to live as contemplatives in our increasingly hectic and distracted world. Carmelites look to Mary to inspire their prayer and to help them develop a sense of deep calm, trusting in the Providence of God in all circumstances, especially in times of trouble.

According to Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites Father Bede Edwards, in St. Simon Stock—The Scapular Vision & the Brown Scapular Devotion, the Carmelites’ devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel reflects:

… a special call to the interior life, which is pre-eminently a Marian life. Our Lady wants us to resemble her not only in our outward vesture but, far more, in heart and spirit. If we gaze into Mary’s soul, we shall see that grace in her has flowered into a spiritual life of incalculable wealth: a life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted oblation to God, continual contact, and intimate union with him. Mary’s soul is a sanctuary reserved for God alone, where no human creature has ever left its trace, where love and zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind reign supreme.

In today’s political, social and economic climate, the importance of contemplation cannot be stressed too strongly. As individuals and as a society, we too often use busyness to distract ourselves from the anxiety, fear and loneliness that cause us so much confusion and grief. The old saying that “silence is golden” needs to be upgraded in our culture—to platinum or titanium? We all need to imitate Mary, as the Carmelites strive to do, in her “life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted oblation to God, continual contact, and intimate union with him.” There can be no peace without quiet, and to our restless, agitated minds and hearts, no quiet is possible without some form of contemplation.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is closely associated with efforts to promote world peace, especially by the elimination of nuclear weapons. As it happens, the first atomic bomb was exploded in the United States at the Trinity test site on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, N.M. For many Catholics, the coincidence between this date and the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is an opportunity to implore our Blessed Mother to persuade world leaders to decisively and permanently end the development and use of nuclear arms.

In this Year of St. Joseph, we have a unique opportunity to connect the contemplative dimension of Mary’s life with that of her husband, the most silent yet powerfully present father figure in salvation history. St. Joseph was a just man, a “righteous” man, the Scriptures tell us. He was firm in his faith, hardworking, a good citizen and open to God’s will for him and his family. He loved his wife and child and was willing to do whatever was necessary to protect them.

The contemplative silence of St. Joseph communicates far more than words what kind of man he was and what he has to teach us today. Joseph lived in a time of serious political unrest. He knew what it was like to be homeless, a migrant forced to flee his homeland, and a father who didn’t always understand what his child was thinking or doing. Above all, Joseph is the patron saint of all those who seek to calmly and quietly accept God’s will in moments of doubt or danger.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Joseph the Carpenter, pray for us. Help us to find peace by contemplating, and then imitating, your Son. Teach us to listen attentively to the Word of God, and to each other, so that we will be peacemakers in a world where divisiveness and violence are everywhere. †

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