Yesterday morning, more than 5,000 people prayed the Angelus with Benedict XVI at Les Combes, the resort in Italy's Valle d'Aosta region where the Pope is spending a brief holiday.
Before the Marian prayer, the Holy Father addressed a greeting to the religious and civil authorities of the region, to the inhabitants of Les Combes and to holiday makers staying in the area. He also recalled John Paul II who had so often lodged in the same chalet as that in which he is currently staying.
The Pope then remarked that today's liturgy commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and explained how the slopes of this mountain, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, are full of natural caves, once used by hermits, including the prophet Elijah "who in the ninth century before Christ undertook a strenuous defense of the purity of faith in the one true God against the contamination of idolatrous cults.
"Drawing inspiration from the figure of Elijah," he added, "the contemplative Order of Carmelites came into being, a religious family that numbers among its members such great saints as Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Theresa of the Child Jesus, and Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). The Carmelites encouraged devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel among Christian people, indicating in her a model of prayer, contemplation and devotion to God.
"Indeed, Mary believed and experienced, before anyone else and insuperably, that Jesus, the Word incarnate, is the Summit, the pinnacle of man's meeting with God. Fully accepting His Word, she 'arrived happily at the holy mountain' and lives forever in soul and body with the Lord.
"To the Queen of Mount Carmel, I wish today to entrust all communities of contemplative life throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order. ... May Mary help each Christian to encounter God in the silence of prayer."