Praised be Jesus Christ, and Mary, His Most Holy Mother! On July 16th we will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Many of our parishioners wear the Brown Scapular and we may wonder about its origins.
On July 16, 1251, in the town of Aylesford in England, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, a member of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (a.k.a. The Carmelites). She handed him a brown woolen scapular (an outer garment of a religious habit, about 12” wide, worn over the head; hanging down in front and back) and said, “This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.” In time, the Church extended this magnificent privilege to all the laity who are willing to be invested in the Brown Scapular of the Carmelites and who perpetually wear it.
True devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary consists in three things: VENERATION, CONFIDENCE AND LOVE. By simply wearing the Scapular, we can tell her every moment of the day that we venerate her, love her and trust in her protection.
As Our Lord taught us to say the Our Father, Our Blessed Mother taught us the value of the scapular. When we use it as a prayer, Our Lady draws us to the Sacred Heart of Her Divine Son. It is good, therefore, to hold the scapular in the hand. A prayer offered while holding the Scapular is as perfect as a prayer can be. It is especially in time of temptation that we need the powerful intercession of God’s Mother. The evil spirit is utterly powerless when the wearer of a scapular faces temptation, calling upon the Holy Virgin in this silent devotion. “If you had recommended yourself to me, you would not have run into such danger,” was Our Lady’s gentle reproach to Blessed Alan de la Roche, one of her devoted servants.
To be eligible for the scapular promise, one must be enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity. This is a simple ceremony which can be performed by any priest. The members of the Confraternity have the added benefit of sharing in all the spiritual benefits of the Carmelite Order. According to a statement made by the Carmelite Fathers at the National Scapular Center, every priest now has the right to invest the faithful in the Brown Scapular and to substitute the rosary in lieu of the Little Office (see below). The scapular must be 100% wool without plastic casing and should not be pinned or affixed to clothing. It is worn over the head, under one’s clothes, with one square of wool hanging on the chest and the other on the back. Pictures are not necessary.
The Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel has promised to save those who wear the scapular from the fires of hell; she will also shorten their stay in purgatory if they should pass from this world still owing some debt of punishment. This promise is found in a Bull of Pope John XXII. The Blessed Virgin appeared to him and, speaking of those who wear the Brown Scapular, said, “I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in purgatory I shall free so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting.”
The Blessed Virgin assigned certain conditions which must be fulfilled:
Wear the Brown Scapular continuously. (It may be taken off when showering or swimming, etc.)
Observe chastity according to one’s state in life (married/single).
Recite daily the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin OR observe the fasts of the Church together with abstaining from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays OR with permission of a priest, say five decades of Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary OR with permission of a priest, substitute some other good work.
Pope Benedict XV, the celebrated World War I Pontiff, granted 500 days indulgence for devoutly kissing your scapular. This year all of the children who made First Holy Communion at St. Paul’s were enrolled in the Brown Scapular and that will be our practice through the years.
St. Josémaria Escrivá: We never regret something we do not say.
Pope Francis: Sadness is the ally of the Devil; therefore, we must always be cheerful.
Benedicat Virgo Maria!
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda