Listers, have you ever contemplated where the title of the Virgin Mary, “Our Lady of Mt Carmel” came from? Do you find it odd that some traditional Roman Catholics wear their Brown Scapular 24/7? Hopefully this list will help address some of the questions concerning devotion to the Brown Scapular.
“If I should say anything that is not in conformity with what is held by the Holy Roman Catholic Church, it will be through ignorance and not through malice.”
- St Teresa of Avila
A 1996 doctrinal statement approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments states that “Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is bound to the history and spiritual values of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and is expressed through the scapular. Thus, whoever receives the scapular becomes a member of the order and pledges him/herself to live according to its spirituality in accordance with the characteristics of his/her state in life.”
1. St Simon Stock
Saint Simon Stock was born in England and was a Prior General of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel who had their origins in Palenstine. Some of the brothers relocated to Europe in the early 13th century and became a mendicant order (mendicants live solely on alms). There are various controversies surrounding the vision of Our Lady that St. Simon had, one account goes as follows:
“St. Simon was an Englishman, a man of great holiness and devotion, who always in his prayers asked the Virgin to favour his Order with some singular privilege. The Virgin appeared to him holding the Scapular in her hand saying, ‘This is for you and yours a privilege; the one who dies in it will be saved.’”1
This goes without saying, the original context of this promise was for those who preserved in their vocation as Carmelites. In the 16th century, the Carmelites began distributing Brown Scapulars to the laity and became a very popular sacramental.
2. Who is Our Lady of Mt Carmel?
Simply put, Our Lady of Mt Carmel is the Virgin Mary. It was a title bestowed upon Her because She is the patroness of the Carmelite order. The first Carmelites lived on Mt Carmel in the Holy Land and were hermits in the 12th century. They built a chapel in honour of The Virgin and entitled it: “Our Lady of the Place”.
Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi, OCD, a revered authority on Carmelite spirituality, wrote that devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel means:
“Our Lady wants us to resemble her not only in our outward vesture but, far more, in heart and spirit. If we gaze into Mary’s soul, we shall see that grace in her has flowered into a spiritual life of incalcuable wealth: a life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted oblation to God, continual contact, and intimate union with him. Mary’s soul is a sanctuary reserved for God alone, where no human creature has ever left its trace, where love and zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind reign supreme. [...] Those who want to live their devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to the full must follow Mary into the depths of her interior life. Carmel is the symbol of the contemplative life, the life wholly dedicated to the quest for God, wholly orientated towards intimacy with God; and the one who has best realized this highest of ideals is Our Lady herself, ‘Queen and Splendor of Carmel’.”
3. Promises of wearing the Scapular
On July 16th 1251 the Blessed Mary made this promise to Saint Simon Stock: “Take this Scapular, it shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and a pledge of peace. Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” She continues, “Wear the Scapular devoutly and perseveringly. It is my garment. To be clothed in it means you are continually thinking of me, and I in turn, am always thinking of you and helping you to secure eternal life.” Partial indulgence granted by Pope Benedict XV to those who devoutly kiss their scapular.
Amongst the myriad of miracles attributed to the Brown Scapular, there are a few more famous occurrences:
In May 1957, in Westenboden, Germany, an entire row of houses had caught fire. The inhabitants of one of the houses fixed a scapular to the front door of their home. Five hours later, 22 homes on the block had burnt to the ground. Yet amidst the destruction, the home with the scapular attached to it stood unharmed. This miracle was witnessed by hundreds of people.
Three holy men devoted to the scapular, Pope Bl. Gregory X, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. John Bosco, all died wearing the scapular. When their graves were opened years later, the bodies and vestments had decayed but their scapulars remained perfectly intact.
In November of 1955, a plane carrying 27 passengers crashed in Guatemala. All the passengers died except for one young girl. She related that when the plane was going down, she clutched her scapular and cried out to Our Lady for help. She was burnt and her clothes were tattered and burnt as well, but the girl was overall unharmed and her scapular free from any burns.2
4. The Rosary and the Scapular Are Inseparable
In order to obtain the graces and promises recieved from wearing the Scapular, one should wear it devoutly. In other words, under the usual conditions, i.e. state of grace (Go to Confession regularly!!), be properly invested/enrolled by a Catholic priest, pray either the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary or 5 decades of the Most Holy Rosary daily. Novenas to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel are optional but highly recommended to show the Mater Dei that we Her most lowly and undeserving servants have faith in Her most powerful protection and intercession.
5. Saintly Quotes on Brown Scapular
Pope Pius XII stated:
“Let it [the Brown Scapular] be your sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which We are particularly urging in these perilous times.”
Pope Pius XII went so far as to say:
“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 our own times, Pope Paul VI said:
“Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin … the Rosary and the Scapular of Carmel” and in another place referred to the Scapular as that which is “so highly recommended by our illustrious predecessors.”
St. Alphonsus tell us:
“Modern heretics make a mockery of wearing the Scapular, they decry it as so much trifling nonsense.”
6. Our Lady: Prayers, Lists, and More
1. Prayer to Our Lady of Mount. Carmel
2. Litany of Intercession to Our Lady of Mount Carmel
2. Investiture of the Brown Scapular in English and Latin
3. Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima: 4 Things You Must Know About Our Lady of Fatima
4. Virgo Potens: 8 Quotes by Roman Pontiffs on the Holy Rosary
Many more lists of quotes and prayers may be found via the SPL threads of Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, and the Rosary. An exhaustive list of the articles by John Henry may be found here including the very popular Domestic Church: 7 Steps to a Proper Catholic Home and the controversial All Human Creatures are Subject to the Pope.