Updated: July 19, 2021 08:18 AM GMT
The statue of Mother Mary at Our Lady of Carmel Catholic Church in Macau. Catholics in the Chinese-ruled territory celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16. (Photo: Our Lady of Carmel Church Facebook page)
Catholics in Macau joined the traditional feast of Our Lady of Carmel without fanfare due to the coronavirus pandemic with the hope to embolden their life of faith with blessings from the Mother of God.
St. Dominic Church in Macau and the Church of Our of Lady of Carmel on the island of Taipa celebrated the feast on July 16 and in both churches the celebration was limited to a special Mass, church officials said.
Our Lady of Carmel Church had a nine-day novena prior to the feast that drew local Catholics. Established in 1885, it was the first church on Taipa. Standing on a hill overlooking the sea, the church is a major tourist attraction in the Chinese-ruled territory.
Usually, the feast is celebrated with great enthusiasm and merriment that includes a procession and cultural shows in the former Portuguese colony. However, the festivities have been scaled down since last year due to the pandemic, said Father Dominic Ribeiro, parish vicar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Nativity in Macau.
Macau has recorded 55 infections from the coronavirus and no deaths. The authorities have rolled out a mass vaccination drive for all residents and enforced a ban on foreign and regional visitors including from mainland China and Hong Kong.
The island city's tourism and casino industry, which accounts for 85 percent of Macau's revenues, has suffered badly.
Popularly known as Carmelites, the origin of the order dates back to the 12th century and is traced to the sacred Mount Carmel in northwest Israel
Despite the limited celebration, the faithful expressed their devotion to Our Lady of Carmel to seek hope and inspiration as they believe the Mother of God always intercedes during times of pain and suffering, the priest told Jornal O-Clarim, the Portuguese-language Catholic weekly of Macau Diocese.
The traditional devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Catholic Church is inseparably linked to the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel for men and women, one of the great and oldest mendicant (monastic) religious orders of the Church.
The word Carmel has Hebrew origins and is a combination of Carmo (Vine) and el (Lord) — Vine of the Lord.
Popularly known as Carmelites, the origin of the order dates back to the 12th century and is traced to the sacred Mount Carmel in northwest Israel. Mount Carmel has attracted devout men and women for ages, including former pilgrims and Crusaders, and groups of them settled near the historic fountain of Elijah, the prophet who is considered the father of monasticism, around 1155.
St. Albert, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, wrote the constitution of the order between 1206 and 1214 and Pope Honoris III approved the rules in 1226.
Early Carmelites were mostly hermits who sought to follow the lifestyle of Prophet Elijah by observing vows of silence, seclusion, abstinence and austerity.
However, since the 1240s, under the leadership of St. Simon Stock, Carmelites decided to set foot in Europe and other parts of the world.
In 1452, the first institution of Carmelite nuns was established that produced great figures such as St. Teresa of Avila, a doctor of the Catholic Church.
Carmel exists for Mary, and Mary is everything for Carmel, in its origins and in its history, in its life of struggle and triumph, in its interior and spiritual life
Italian Carmelite Cardinal Adeodato Giovanni Piazza (1884-1957) is among the leading church leaders who promoted devotion to Our Lady of Carmel around the globe.
“Carmel exists for Mary, and Mary is everything for Carmel, in its origins and in its history, in its life of struggle and triumph, in its interior and spiritual life,” Cardinal Piazza said, emphasizing the role of Mary in the lives of Carmelites and the faithful.
In a letter to Carmelites in 2001, Pope John Paul II noted that the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel is a source of divine providence who always extends her hands to help her children in distress and difficulties for their salvation.
Macau, a casino-cum-resort city with an estimated population of 680,000, was under Portuguese rule from 1557 to 1999.
Catholicism in Macau is a legacy of Portuguese rule. Macau Diocese covers the entire island and has about 30,000 Catholics in nine parishes.