Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown Scapular
Tomorrow (Monday) is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and very much associated with this feast is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Some years ago, I promised Our Lady that if I became a priest, I would promote it. So here I go!
You may know the Scapular is part of the monastic habit. Two pieces of cloth are joined at the shoulders, one hangs down in the front and the other at the back. The Brown Scapular has a connection with England. In 1251, Our Lady appeared to St Simon Stock in Aylesford, Kent, and holding out the brown woollen Scapular towards him, she promised, “Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”
At the final apparition in Fatima on October 13th 1917, she appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the Brown Scapular in her hands. Some years later, Sister Lucia, one of the three children to whom Our Lady had appeared, (who also became a Carmelite nun), was asked why Our Lady had held the Scapular in her hands at the final apparition. Sister Lucia responded, “Because she wants everyone to wear the Scapular, and because it is our consecration to her Immaculate Heart.”
The Scapular worn by the laity is two pieces of brown wool joined by a ribbon or cord. It is Our Lady’s garment, and by putting it on we place ourselves under her protection. However, it is not a lucky charm! While there are a number of promises attached to wearers of the Scapular, this doesn’t mean someone has access to eternal life regardless of the life they live. Furthermore, the Scapular is a sacramental. If worn with faith it disposes us towards the graces God wants to give us, but we have to pray and try to lead a holy life pleasing to God.
Pope St John Paul II wore the Scapular all his life and encouraged others to do the same. He insisted that doctors not remove it from him during the emergency operation following the assassination attempt on his life on May 13th, 1981 – the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. Interestingly, both St Alphonsus and St John Bosco had a great devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the wearing of the Brown Scapular. Both, when they died were buried wearing their Scapulars as well as their priestly vestments, but on opening their coffins many years later, whereas their bodies and the vestments had decayed, the Brown Scapulars were found to be intact! If any parishioners would like to be enrolled in the Brown Scapular, I will do so at Mass on Monday morning, but I am happy to enrol anyone at any time. I have already enrolled a number of parishioners in previous years. Just let me know, and also if you have any questions about it.
Fr Paul Gillham IC