Holy Land Pilgrimage

A Reflective Walk to Mount Carmel

February 13, 2022

As a pilgrim in the Holy Land, a great number of experiences take place day-to-day. Such experiences lead one to connect to the Lord in a special way. For some of us, this special connection occurs because of an academic history related to the places, or due to spiritual connections or devotions that accompany one along the journey of configuring his heart to the Lord as a priest. During this pilgrimage, the place that has impacted me the most has been the visit to a Carmelite monastery, Stella Maris, on Mt. Carmel itself.

This place has something special that invited us to reconnect in a special way with the Virgin Mary through a Carmelite devotion. From the main entrance, you will see a beautiful and maternal image of the Virgin of Mount Carmel over the main altar with scapulars in the hand, which is placed on top of another altar (dedicated to Elijah the prophet) with some relics of the Carmelite saints, such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. Because of the maternal role of Mary, and the inspiration of these Spanish saints, some memories returned to me during this visit.

Observing this image of Mary brought me back to my childhood, to a recollection of the importance of feeling supported by one’s mother. In this case, it was such a remarkable experience to feel embraced by the grace of the Holy Mother of God, who both relieves and strengthens us with her “YES” to the Lord. Mary’s fiat reminds us to abandon our own desires to achieve a higher goal, evangelize the culture, and be a sturdy bridge between people and God. Moreover, this beautiful chapel has images on top of the columns of the four evangelists, and the history of the Carmelites, including their journey to be one with the Lord.

On the right wall of the altar, a beautiful image is carved into the marble on marble with the inscription “NADA-NADA-NADA” (nothing, nothing, nothing), in reference to the journey of St. John of the Cross to become a servant of the Lord. It was beautiful to be reminded in Stella Maris of the importance of prioritizing everything connected with God. Yet, the only way to achieve this goal would be to abandon our own desires fully into the hands of the Creator. For this reason, St. John of the Cross would say, “The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.” In other words, sacrificing our own desires becomes the first step toward seeing God more clearly.

On the left wall of the altar, another marble image was displayed; it is the interior castle of St. Teresa of Avila with the image of a dove on top of it, which represents her successful spiritual journey. In this case, this holy woman represents encountering the Lord as a perpetual dwelling, one in which we desire to stay with God. St. Teresa believed that we are triumphant when we are delighted and pleased to remain in the presence of the Lord. Clearly, she encourages all the Christian people to prepare for this future time with God through a holy life, understanding this creation as a gift from God to facilitate our salvation.

These three images evoke in me a special connection to the mother of God, and how only Holy Mary can help me to begin the journey to abandon my own desires, to move to the “nada” (self-emptying), and to reside within the castle or “house” of the Lord where my joyful experience of God’s love will take place. In fact, Stella Maris helps me to remember the simplicity and profound reality of Jesus the servant, who, through the example of the fiat of Mary, guides us to a deeper love, faith, and trust in Jesus the Savior. Thanks to the benefactors and all those involved in making this pilgrimage possible.

Daniel Vallejo
Diocese of Albany

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