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Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Peace in the Middle East

Today in the Catholic Church, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is a fertile mountain range near the city of Haifa, Israel. Back in the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah prayed on the mountain for an end to a massive drought. As he prayed, a small raincloud appeared on the horizon. And the rain fell and watered the parched earth. Hundreds of years later, a group of hermits flowing in the footsteps of Elijah became Christians and settled on the mountain. These hermits had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary who they felt that Elijah’s clout symbolized because she was the one to bring Christ down to earth like rain upon the parched ground: “O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down…” (Isaiah 64:1). The hermits continued to have followers and came to be known as Carmelites (of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.) The Carmelite friars and nuns can now be found all over the world, including Mount Carmel.

On this day I can not help but think of the conflict in the Holy Land, the land of Christ, the land of Mount Carmel. May peace come down like rain to water the hearts of hardened souls that instigate violence. I know that the Pope and many people are thinking along the same lines today. Just this past May the Pope was in Israel and Palestine calling for peace with the practical step of a 2 state solution. He prayed at the wall of separation in the West Bank where Palestinian Christian youths spray-painted heartfelt pleas for help to Pope Francis. Providentially, the graffiti remained on the wall when the Pope intentionally stopped there. That was one of the most memorable scenes of his visit. The Holy Father made the point of visiting the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, as well.

I was hopeful for the prospect of the institution of a two-state solution (where all are free to exist) when the Pope invited Presidents Abbas and Peres to the Vatican. I was hopeful when they accepted the invitation and prayed for peace at the Vatican in June, on Pentecost Sunday. I’m still hopeful even though extreme violence has broken out once again, the killings of innocent youth, the rockets that send residents fleeing from their homes, in which they lived for generations. We cannot lose sight of the fact that “Peace is Possible,” as the late Mattie Stepanek believed with all his being. The Palestinian Christians certainly believe in the possibility of peace—at the Papal Mass in Bethlehem, the celestial refrain heard by shepherds 2000 years ago was repeated several times: “Peace to all people of good will.”

We entrust the future of our human family to Mary Most Holy, that new horizons may open in our world, with the promise of fraternity, solidarity and peace.” (Pope’s Regina Coeli Address in Manger Square, Bethlehem, May 26, 2014). Through the prayers of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Divine Mercy of her Son, the Prince of Peace, may this peace come quickly! God be with the people of Gaza in their time of need.

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