Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown Scapular
Were today not the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we would be celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Particularly associated with this feast is the Brown Scapular which is one of the great ‘sacramentals’ of the Church and it is sometimes called ‘Our Lady’s uniform’. The Brown Scapular consists of two pieces of brown wool tied together with a cord which is worn over the shoulders. Our Lady gave the Brown Scapular to St Simon Stock in 1251, who was a Carmelite Friar at Aylesford in Kent. St Simon Stock was the Superior of the Carmelites in England at the time. He complained to Our Lady that his order was being persecuted and falling apart and so he begged for her protection. She appeared to him on 16th July 1251 and presented him with the Brown Scapular saying, “Son, receive this Scapular as a sign of the privilege which I have obtained for you and the children of Mount Carmel. Whosoever shall die clothed with this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” The Church extended this privilege to the laity who are enrolled in and wear the Brown Scapular, so you don’t need to be a Carmelite to wear it.
At the final apparition of Our Lady of Fatima on 13th October 1917, the occasion of the famous Miracle of the Sun, she appeared to the three seers Jacinta, Francesco and Lucia as Our Lady of Mount Carmel and held out the Brown Scapular to them. Lucia some years later when asked why, she replied that Our Lady wants everyone to wear it. Once a person is enrolled, it ought to be worn all the time in order to obtain the spiritual benefits. It reminds us to ask our Heavenly Mother’s help to keep us out of sin throughout the day, and by wearing it we tell her we love her and trust her.
Our Lady also promised St Simon Stock that those who fulfil certain conditions and wear the Scapular, she will free from Purgatory shortly after their death and particularly on Saturdays which is Our Lady’s day. This is known as the ‘Sabbatine Privilege’. The conditions are:
- to wear the Brown Scapular faithfully,
- to observe chastity according to one’s state in life,
- to recite five decades of the Rosary every day.
This is not asking much when one considers the privileges. There are many wonderful stories of miracles of salvation brought about by the Scapular. On the same day Our Lady gave St Simon the Scapular, he was called to the bedside of a dying and unrepentant man. He placed his own large Scapular over the dying man and immediately the man repented and died as a friend of God. Later that day the man appeared to his family and told them he had been saved by “the most powerful Queen and by the Brown Scapular of that man as a shield of protection.”
Pope St John Paul II (1920-2005), often spoke of how he had worn the Scapular all his life. When he was shot in St Peter’s Square by a Turkish assassin on 13th May 1981, as he was being taken into the operating theatre, he asked them not to remove his Scapular.
Although miracles are attributed to it, it is not a lucky charm. We have to wear it with devotion and strive to lead a good Christian life. We should not presume to be saved just because we wear it. As the priest enrols you he says, “Receive this blessed Scapular and ask the Most Holy Virgin that, by her merits, it may be worn with no stain of sin and may protect you from all harm and bring you into everlasting life.”
If you are not already enrolled and would like to be please let me know. I have a good supply of them. It would not be sinful if you were to stop wearing it after enrolment, but you would lose the spiritual benefits attached.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC