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Our Lady of Mount Carmel: A Prayer for Peace

Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa

The first atomic bomb was exploded in the U.S. at the Trinity test site in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, 73 years ago.  In 1990, Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy initiated the “July 16 Twenty-four Hours Day of Prayer for Forgiveness and Protection with Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”

As we celebrate today, let us also remember to pray for peace and an end to violence in our world.

Trinity test site in New Mexico on July 16, 1945, 73 years ago.

Grant us grace to climb Mount Carmel and to learn that love is loss. Guide us till our ways outdistance all earth’s treasures save the cross. – Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, Words by Jessica Powers

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has long been a favorite of mine, made especially so by our beloved, “Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.” The lyrics of the song, drawn from the poem by Jessica Powers, have always touched me . . . especially the line: “Grant us grace to climb Mount Carmel.” I know that Jessica wasn’t into actual mountain climbing but rather she was referring to “the ascent of Mount Carmel” so integral to Carmelite spirituality. But it does bring to mind my journey as a BVM; it is always a journey upward. I occasionally scrape my knee, trip, and fall, but always get back up and continue the climb. As a child l lived near hills and gullies, so climbing was part of my life; so I can relate to literal “climbing.” The story behind the importance of Mount Carmel first comes to us in 1 Kings 18:44 where Elijah/Elias had a standoff with the followers of Ba’al. It was here that “a little white cloud in the shape of a man’s hand” brought about a drought-ending rain. It was here that Carmelites later looked to Mary as the “cloud of mercy” as seen in Jessica’s poem.

And the seventh time the youth reported, “There is a cloud as small as a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Elijah said, “Go and say to Ahab, ‘Harness up and go down the mountain before the rain stops you.’” –1 Kings 18:44

Mount Carmel in Israel.  By Hanay CC-BY 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Similarities between Israel’s Mount Carmel and our Mount Carmel abound. Both “mounts” overlook water: the Mediterranean Sea and the Mississippi River. (Even our house on the prairie sat on a hill overlooking a brook.) Both are built of or on limestone. And both are rich in vegetation. (“Carmel” means “garden, orchard, God’s vineyard.”) Israel’s Mount Carmel was long known for its rich vegetation. And BVMs, from the prairie to our home on the bluff, planted gardens and trees. Sister Mary Loyola Rutherford planted the pines trees, the gingko tree and set up the apple and pear orchards. BVMs have continued planting flowers to “bring to bloom” our Carmel home. Hills, bluffs/mountains, water…all part of Mount Carmel’s themes. So it was no surprise that in 1894 Mother Cecilia announced that our new bluff home would be called “Mount Carmel.” The majority of the community at the time preferred that name to “Nazareth Heights.”  The right choice was made!

This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. Thanks, Sandy, for this beautiful meditation, scripture, and history lesson. It’s a “keeper” and definitely worth pondering over again. I liked the pictures!

  2. Lovely reflection, Sandy! It brings peace to my soul and joy to my heart! I just came in from walking around the Mount Carmel grounds — what peace and beauty. May I never take it for granted. How fortunate we are to have such peace and beauty.


    1. I don’t know when Sr. Rafael Bird, BVM put the words of Jessica Powers’ poem to music. It might have been some time in the 1940’s. I came across the full prayer/poem in the Discalced Carmelite Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours, which I found online.

  3. Thank you, Sandy. Your words, prayers, and pictures captured our BVM and world history and our need to pray for peace in our troubled world. Hope does keep us moving forward.

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