Tomorrow, July 16, is the feast day of Our Lady of Carmel, a very important feast day in the life of any Carmelite and really anyone that wears and has a devotion to the Brown Scapular. The story of the Brown Scapular and Our Lady of Carmel begins with a Carmelite saint known as St. Simon Stock.
In the mid 13th century, Simon Stock, entered the Carmelite Order in Kent, England, after turning 40 years of age. He was sent by his superiors to Mount Carmel (Holy Land), where he enjoyed a life of prayer and penance. When the Saracens retook the region in 1238, during the Second Crusade, Simon Stock and many of his Carmelite brothers had to flee the area, many of them returning to England in 1242.
From a very early age, Simon Stock had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is believed that the Carmelite Order saw great growth under the care of Simon Stock because of his great love and admiration for Our Lady, and eventually the Brown Scapular. He and the Carmelites would need her intercession when the Catholic Church tried to oppress them with decrees from the Councils of Lateran IV and the Lyons II.
Not having any friends in the hierarchy with influence, the Carmelites prayed to Our Lady to save them from extinction. On July 16, Our Lady’s intercession came through for the Carmelites. They were saved from oppression by the Church. Not only were the Carmelites saved in 1245, but on the same day, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, who was 80 years old by this time. Mary appeared to him in an apparition holding a Brown Scapular in her hand. She said to him,
“Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”
After the apparition from Our Lady, St. Simon Stock not only founded Carmelite monasteries throughout parts of Europe, but he also promoted the Brown Scapular devotion, which Our Lady asked him to do among the faithful of the Catholic Church.
For centuries, nearly 700 years, the Brown Scapular has been a beacon of hope for many faithful Catholics around the world. It has been one of the most sought after Sacramentals of the Catholic Church because it was given as a piece of clothing to the faithful from the Blessed Mother herself. All that wear the Brown Scapular have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and seek to assist her in leading others to Jesus Christ.
Throughout the history of the Church, many popes and saints have strongly suggested wearing the Brown Scapular, including, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope St. Paul VI, Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXII, Pope Benedict XVI, as well as St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Alphonsus Ligouri.
Pope Pius XII said, “The Scapular is a practice of piety which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone, and has spread widely among the faithful of Christ to their spiritual profit.”
In a message to the Carmelite family from 2001, Pope St. John Paul II, said,
“The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother’s loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a “habit”. Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church.”
If you don’t wear a Brown Scapular already, I would encourage you to enroll in the devotion as soon as possible, however, you do need a Catholic priest or deacon to do the enrollment. I have been wearing the Brown Scapular since the summer of 2009, when I was enrolled by Deacon Mark Miravalle, after taking his class on the Blessed Mother that spring semester. The sacramental has truly changed my relationship with Jesus, Mary, and the Church and unites me to some of the great Carmelite saints – St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and St. Therese of Lisieux.