Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Saint Oscar Romero
Archbishop of San Salvador
Iglesia El Carmen
Santa Tecla, El Salvador
16 July 1977
This is the sign of protection
I would ask that we pray in this Eucharistic celebration in honor of the Virgin of Mount Carmel for protection for the church of El Salvador and for peace throughout the country. (…) Even if some of us must die like Christ, still with all our hearts we ask the Virgin of Mount Carmel for a sign of protection for these soldiers of Christ and his Church. And the Virgin responds to us with her scapular, her permanent promise, which I would like to interpret in my message this morning.
The Virgin offers us a promise of salvation, but this is not a salvation that occurs only after death. It is a salvation that demands work here in history, among temporal realities. This salvation also demands interior renewal, for the kingdom of God is already beginning on this earth, in our own hearts.
The Virgin offers us the promise of salvation
First of all I say that the scapular of the Virgin of Mount Carmel is a sign of the hope for salvation that all persons have in their souls, in their hearts, in their lives. Those who die wearing this scapular will not see the flames of hell. This is a promise of salvation. But I want to tell many people frankly that it is not a false promise; it is not a promise that is unrelated to the reality of each one of us.
The Virgin’s promise is intended to awaken in each person’s heart an eschatological sense, that is, hope in what lies beyond. We should work on this earth with our whole soul and with our heart set on heaven, knowing that no one is permanently installed in this world; we are on a voyage toward eternity.
The scapular of the Virgin of Mount Carmel is a sign of the hope for salvation that all persons have in their souls, in their hearts, in their lives. #OscarRomeroTweet
The realities of earth will pass, but what is eternal remains. This is the meaning of transcendence! The Virgin, like Christ and like the Church, offers us a transcendental message which means that the Church offers something unique, something which no other promise of liberation can offer.
Our heavenly destination
The Marxists and other liberation movements of the earth do not think of God or hope for heaven. That is why they are tremendously different. Though the Church also speaks of liberation and demands a more just social order, she does not place her hope in an earthly paradise.
The Church wants a better world, but she knows that perfection will never be achieved here in history but only in what is beyond history. #OscarRomeroTweet
Salvation lies in the place from which the Virgin came, a heavenly destination where our Mother awaits, the place in paradise where the scapular had its origins, the bond that ties us to eternity.
People wear this scapular thinking not just about an earthly paradise but about eternal salvation, about being saved when they die. This is very good. Let us cultivate this devotion and not lose sight of it. This is the first part of the Virgin’s message: spirituality. (…)
My sisters and brothers, let us reaffirm this Carmelite morning our hope in this heaven of which the Virgin’s holy scapular speaks to us so eloquently. Let us wear it always reflecting on that eternity where we will be asked to render an account of our work on this earth.
The Sabbatine privilege
In the second place, I mention something that is often not understood by many people, and yet it needs to be understood because it is also part of the Virgin’s message.
From our youngest days I think that all of you, like me, gratefully embraced the Sabbatine privilege of the Virgin of Mount Carmel; that is, we believed that all those who die wearing the scapular will be removed by the Virgin from purgatory, if they have gone there, the Saturday after their death. This is not a dogma of faith, so that there is no obligation to believe this; one does not sin if one denies it.
But those who love the Virgin know that this is very possible for her since she has great power before God. Even theologically, that is, according to the Church’s principles and criteria, this is certainly possible.
A message about the here and now
But from childhood we also learned something else, and I wish to highlight this especially this morning: there is no question of the Virgin trying to save us without our making an effort here on earth.
Speaking of the Sabbatine privilege, it was said that everyone had to observe chastity according to their state of life, and by chastity I understand all our temporal duties, all morality, everything that God commands and counsels us to do.
If the scapular is a message about eternity and the hereafter, an eschatological message, it is also a message about the here and now. #OscarRomeroTweet
Thus, if the scapular is a message about eternity and the hereafter, an eschatological message, it is also a message about the here and now. The scapular is a message about the demands of this earth, about the fulfillment of our duties in this world, and that is what the Church is stressing at this time.
When the Church demands a more just society, a better distribution of wealth, and a political system that is more respectful of human rights, the Church is not meddling in politics, nor is she becoming Marxist-communist. The Church is telling people the same thing as the message of the scapular:
Only those people will be saved who know how to manage the things of earth with the heart of God. #OscarRomeroTweet
Fulfilling the Gospel of Christ
Christians cannot allow sin, the enemy of God, to reign in the world. Christians must work to banish sin and establish the kingdom of God. To struggle for this kingdom is not communism; to struggle for this kingdom is not meddling in politics. It is simply what the Gospel demands: that Christians today commit themselves more fully to history.
If a person with Carmelite devotion wears the scapular thinking, “since the Virgin promised to save me, I don’t have to make an effort here on earth”, that person will not be saved. Who can guarantee that that person will die with the scapular on? How many sinners rashly trusted in this promise and then at the hour of death the holy scapular was ripped away, and they died without it. (…)
The scapular of the Virgin, therefore, cannot separate us from the Gospel of Christ, and the Virgin cannot say anything different from the Church’s doctrine because she is a member of the Church and will not allow anything to be preached or done against the Church.
The ones closest to her heart
I pray this morning that the Virgin of Mount Carmel will strengthen her faithful followers who fill this church and so many other churches of Carmelite inspiration.
At this time I want to greet with great enthusiasm those communities who follow the Virgin of Mount Carmel and who gather around the altars of the Virgin in every corner of our republic.
I want to tell them to receive the scapular today as Simon Stock received it, but with an understanding of 1977 so that every devotee of Carmel becomes a true follower of the gospel that is needed now in this Church that is redeeming today’s women and men.
May the Virgin of Mount Carmel and her holy scapular also inspire with grace those who do not understand us so that they may be converted and realize that we do not hate them but love them. We do not want them to be lost as a result of their failure to collaborate in the construction of a more just temporal order.
We want the Virgin to call also those who are able to transform society, because they have the power to do so in their hands.
We want her to call those who persecute the Church, financed as they are by interested parties who want to maintain this present situation which cannot be maintained.
May all those who are opposed to Christ’s reign of justice, peace, and love recognize that God is also calling them. There is room for everyone in the kingdom, even for the persecutors who, like Saul, may be converted into true apostles of the Gospel at this time when we celebrate the Mother of all Carmelites.
Our Mother has a heart so big that she feels perhaps even greater love for those who are not with her Church. #OscarRomeroTweet
Our Mother has a heart so big that she embraces not only those present who have come out of devotion. She feels perhaps even greater love for those who are not with her Church, those who offend the Church, and those who riddle her with bullets.
She knows, as all mothers know well, that her most disgraceful and perverse sons are the ones closest to her heart, and she wants them to be converted so that they feel they belong to the family of all those whom she loves. She wants them to be with her in heaven.
Saint Oscar Romero was assassinated Tuesday morning, 24 March 1980 by a single marksman’s bullet. He was shot as he began the offertory of the Mass in the chapel of the Divina Providencia cancer hospital where he lived with the Carmelitas Misioneras de Santa Teresa (C.M.S.T.) in San Salvador, El Salvador.
We are immensely grateful to The Archbishop Romero Trust for their vast treasury of English-language resources freely available for download through their website. We encourage you to visit and support their work.