When the hermit brothers came to Europe from Mount Carmel, they were called by the people and referred to by popes as the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Though this in the beginning would have signified their origin, and other orders at the time also saw themselves as Mary’s brothers, Carmelites in time sought to draw from their title the fact that if they are brothers of Mary, she is surely their Sister. Arnold Bostius (d. 1499) who synthesised our early tradition wrote: “The humble brother of Carmel can exult and sing with joy: ‘See! The Queen of Heaven [is] my sister; I can act with confidence and without fear’.” (1)
Though Sister would never be so widely used as the titles of Mother and Patroness, it is important to note that Pope Paul VI used it, when he spoke of all of us being children of Adam having Mary as Sister. (2) The title would seem to have three great advantages for contemporary Carmelite reflection. It catches the idea, which lies also in Patroness, of Mary’s tender care and of easy and intimate relationships between Carmelites and the Mother of God. It presents Mary as our elder sister who goes before us on the journey to maturity in faith. Moreover, in certain cultures the idea of Mary as Spiritual Mother is difficult for some people; the title of Mary as Sister can be more attractive for them. Mary’s sisterhood is an insight that can be shared with the wider Church.
Camilo Maccise, O.C.D.
Joseph Chalmers, O.Carm.
“With Mary the Mother of Jesus”, Nos. 13–14
Letter on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the Carmelite scapular
16th May 2001, Feast of St. Simon Stock, Aylesford, England
(1) Cf. Patrick of St. Joseph, Antiquum ordinis carmelitarum ordinale saec. XIII (Tamines: Ducolot-Roulin, 1912) = Études carmélitaines (1912-1913), rubrica 13; 1324 Constitutions rubrica 3/6; Ordinaire de l’Ordre de Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel par Sibert de Beka, edited B. Zimmerman (Paris: Picard, 1910) 5.
(2) De patronatu # 1533.