We are holding hands as we walk together along a rocky path on a hot July evening. We are talking about this and that. She asks me questions, listens thoughtfully as I talk about my life. She has a lot going on too, these days, and she unburdens her heart to me about her work, about her children. I squeeze her hand and we pray together as tears gather in her eyes. I know she works hard for her children, and prays constantly for their needs, for their good, for their souls. I am glad she will talk to me about things that concern her, that she finds my company a comfort at times. We lapse into comfortable silence.
She gathers up the brown skirt of her habit a little as we reach an incline, and I smile that she is barefoot like me. Of course she is.
People say we resemble one another, especially around the eyes. All of Carmel shares the family resemblance to Mary, our sister, as we share everything else with her.
Some might say that ours is a curious Marian devotion, this Carmelite love of Mary not only as mother and queen, but as sister.
Carmelite Marian devotion is primarily about the imitation of Mary. We see ourselves as “the other Mary,” and we view our Carmelite life of prayer and simplicity of heart as a reflection of the interior life she lived and still lives.
More than reflecting on Mary, we tend to simply see through her eyes, to love Jesus with her heart, to share in her hidden work in the world; the silent drawing of her Immaculate Heart of all peoples toward her Son.
Siblings share confidences, and understand each other in a special way. They tell each other everything. In intimacy and cooperation with Mary, we receive a double portion of Christ’s spirit, because she magnifies the Lord, and together with her, we treasure His words and His life continually in our hearts, in union with her.
A sister can share our lives, walk beside us, trust in us, and we in her.
Mary doesn’t have to knock; she practically lives at our house. When she comes over, she might even fold some of our laundry with us.
We are always welcome at Mary’s house, too. We are allowed to pick the roses in her garden. She doesn’t mind.
Living with her as a sister keeps us in touch with the precious, pure humanity of Mary. It keeps her close by our side, walking with us in a familiar, loving way.
We are less likely to only look up to her, but more likely to unconsciously reflect her- maybe around the eyes, yes, certainly in our ways, surely in the joyful depth of our inner lives in Christ.
As we walk, I notice more and more that there are many others around us. I recognize that it is the craggy path of the ascent of Mt. Carmel we travel with our many brothers and sisters, following Jesus with Mary, our sister, in our midst. She is smiling, enjoying the company, glad we are following her Son all together.
As the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel approaches, the family of Carmel invites you to love Mary like a sister.
If you’ll be her brother
She’ll kiss you like a sister
She’ll even be your mother for now…
I will be her brother
Kiss her like a sister
Come and be my mother forever.
~ Sixpence None the Richer from their song, “Sister Mother”
* The feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is July 16