John Paul II on Our Lady of Mount Carmel

John Paul II on Our Lady of Mount Carmel

In a letter of 25 March 2001 to the Carmelite family on the 75oth anniversary of the bestowal of the scapular, Pope John Paul II said “I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time.” The practice is consistent with his total consecration learned from St Louis de Montford.

He recalls that Mary was a woman of deep contemplation of Christ as only a loving Mother could sustain — attentive to Jesus at home, on the roads, at Cana, to the foot of the cross. Thus, “she already lives in herself all that every believer desires and hopes to attain in the mystery of Christ.”

John Paul II also reminds us that the scapular is a “habit,” that is, clothing given us by our mother, to signify Mary’s protection, but also to signify the deep, personal habit as “a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life.” As a philosopher-pope, he knew of course that one of the ten basic categories of Aristotle is that of State or habitus or possession (echein, “to have”). Aristotle gives as examples  ‘shod’ (wearing shoes) and ‘armed’ (wearing armor, a helmet for example). To put on something over ones nakedness is one of the basic, irreducible categories of of being. How we are clothed, literally and figuratively, disposes us to act and determines in some way how others respond to us.

Thus, this pious practice should “inwardly mold” us and conform us to Christ.

On the theme of “being clothed,” there is an interesting point made in the “Doctrinal Statement on the Brown Scapular” (1996). It points to the biblical symbolism of a mantle as a sign of protection from on high or of power transmitted to one of God’s messengers. See Gn 37:3, on Joseph’s coat; 1 S 18:4, on Jonathan’s mantle given to David; Is 61:10 on the Lord’s garment of salvation; and 2 K 2:14ff on Elijah’s mantle falling on Elisha. This last example was put to a marvelous use by the Little Flower, Therese of Lisieux. Elisha dared to ask Elijah for “a double portion” of his spirit. He receives his mantle. So Therese, as a little one and a feeble one, begs of the saints  to receive a two-fold inheritance, (Mnscpt B, c. 9), i.e., to be clothed in their love. The little ones can be clothed from on high.

Thomas Aquinas in his prayer before communion acknowledges that we come before God as one “poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth.” Thus he prays, “I implore the abundance of Your measureless bounty that You would vouchsafe to . . . enrich my poverty and clothe my nakedness.” And in his prayer after communion, St. Thomas asks that the communion be a “helmet of faith and a shield of good will.” Armor.  We know he read Aristotle’s categories very closely.

The scapular is a fitting sign of our fundamental relationship to God and his generous response as well as a sign of our striving to develop the habits or virtues of the Christian life. “He has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity.” Is 61:10.

1 Comment
  1. John, I'm thinking about you very much in Avila…especially today at the visit of the monastery of St. John of the Cross (where this body remains).

Join us!

* indicates required