During the month of May we’ll be highlighting our Marian dolls (which are all on sale this month!) and exploring how through play based learning we can plant a seed of faith in our children that will truly last a lifetime. Today we look at Our Lady of Mount Carmel!
The title of “Our Lady of Mount Carmel” was given to the Virgin Mary for her role as the patroness of the Carmelite Order. In the 13th century, the Carmelite Order moved from the Middle East to England to escape persecution. Unfortunately, the troubles didn’t end there and the order had a lot of trouble being accepted as legitimate in Europe. St. Simon Stock, the prior of the order at the time, prayed unceasingly for Mary’s help to save the order. She heard his prayers, and during a vision gave St. Simon the brown scapular as a “special sign of her favor” for the order. She also promised her continued protection, and for a swift correction of the difficulties they were facing.
This is a really great story to introduce Catholic teaching on sacramentals (like the brown scapular, the rosary, etc.)- but it’s also a really great way to encourage children to think about the value of having many different orders serving the Church.
There were already religious orders operating in Europe, in fact that’s part of the reason the Carmelites were having trouble! Why have another order? Aren’t they all the same anyway?
Not at all! While all orders are loyal to the teachings of the Church (and all involve prayer and apostolic work), each one is unique and beautiful in it’s own way. Some orders place their emphasis on prayer, some on teaching, some preaching, some on helping the poor. Some orders are cloistered and never leave their homes, while others live out among the people they serve.
This diversity is essential to the life and mission of the Church. St. Paul writes that there are many parts, but all one body. Ask your child which is more important- their hand or their foot? It’s an impossible question to answer! Each part is valuable and necessary.
The Church needs the varied gifts of the many orders- and it needs the varied gifts of each individual! It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our unique perspective or gifts aren’t needed- but they are! The Blessed Mother’s appearance to St. Simon Stock reaffirms that. Yes, the Church needs what you have to offer!
Discussing the many orders in the Church with your child is a great way to show them how much God values and honors our unique gifts. We aren’t asked to become “cookie cutter” followers of Christ. We are asked to develop and grow the unique gifts and talents God has given us in order to serve his Church.
Not everyone is called to be a great theologian like St. Thomas Aquinas, a military leader like St. Joan of Arc, or a martyr like St. Valentine. And that’s ok. Within the framework of Catholicism, there are many paths to heaven.
The many religious orders in the Catholic Church are a treasure- and are a great way for children to start thinking about the gifts God has given them as essential members of the Body of Christ.
This is just one example of how to use this story to explore and expand on an aspect of our faith. Together with your child, I’m sure you will discover even more! God bless!