Feast day: July 16th
“I promise you all, when you wear my brown scapular, you shall not be condemned to hell. I repeat: if you pass on over the veil and are wearing the Brown Scapular, you shall not see the fires of hell.” – Our Lady of the Roses, September 14, 1985
Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel goes back far before the time of St. Simon Stock- even before the time of Our Blessed Lord- all the way to the 8th century B.C. It was then that the great prophet Elias ascended the holy mountain of Carmel in Palestine, and began there a long tradition of contemplative life and prayer.
Mount Carmel is located on the northwestern coast of Palestine on a peak of high land that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. The area, noted for its unusually fruitful vines and foliage, was appropriately named “Carmel,” the Hebrew word meaning “beautiful garden land.” The most outstanding biblical event that took place on Mount Carmel was the triumphant victory of the prophet Elijah over the pagan prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 18).
Elijah the Tishbite: Elijah was a fiery, rugged, powerful Hebrew prophet who feared no man.During the time of Elijah, the Hebrew King Ahaz married a Phoenician woman, Jezebel, who was a strong believer in the pagan god Baal. Ahaz built a temple for his wife’s god and allowed pagan worship to spread in his land. Pagans believed that Baal was the master of the earth who controlled the weather and had the power to allow women to have children.
In time, the colorful, musical pagan ceremonies, which were sometimes obscene, began to attract some of the Jewish people. The prophets of the Lord constantly denounced these ceremonies, and Jezebel retaliated by killing them. Fortunately, Elijah escaped.Elijah then challenged the prophets of Baal to gather on Mt. Carmel for a contest that would determine, once and for all, which god – Baal or the Lord – was the true God. It was agreed that a prophet of Baal and a prophet of the Lord would each build a stone altar and place firewood and sacrificial bull upon it. The “god” who would send fire from heaven upon the altar would be accepted as the “true God.”
The prophets of Baal prayed, danced, and chanted from the morning until later afternoon, but absolutely nothing happened. Baal sent no answer.Before Elijah began his prayer, he poured many gallons of water over his altar so it would be humanly impossible for anyone to light the sacrificial fire. Then Elijah called upon the Lord, and immediately fire bolted down from Heaven and consumed not only the sacrificial bull but also the very stones of the altar!It became very clear to all that the God of the Hebrews was supreme. The pagan prophets were slain and Elijah went into hiding.
Later, Elijah gathered a community of prophets together on Mt. Carmel. These holy men, who studied scripture and prayed to God, dwelt in caves and lived in peace. The disciples of the prophets Elijah who lived on Mount Carmel honored the Queen of Heaven as the Virgin who is to give birth to the Saviour.Centuries before Christ was born, Elijah and his followers had mystically dedicated themselves to God’s Mother-to-come, Mary, Queen of Mount Carmel.
In the fullness of time, God became the God-Man, Jesus. Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, about 35 miles from Mt. Carmel. We know of Our Lord’s life, death, resurrection and ascension from the four Gospels of the New Testament, and we know that Jesus bequeathed to the world the Holy Catholic Church to teach, govern, and sanctify in His Name.
On the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, the spiritual descendants of Elijah and his followers came down from Mount Carmel. Fittingly, they were the first that day to accept the message of Christianity and to be baptized by the Apostles. When, at last, they were presented to Our Ladyand heard the sweet words from her lips, they were overcome with a sense of majesty and sanctity which they never forgot. Returning to their holy mountain, they erected the first chapel ever built in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From that time, devotion to God’s Mother was handed down by the hermits on Mount Carmel as a treasured spiritual legacy.
In the 12th century, many pilgrims from Europe who had followed the Crusaders came to join the solitaries. St. Albert of Jerusalem was an Italian canon of the Holy Cross who became Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1206 and lived at the crusader fortress of Acre near Mt. Carmel. He was experienced in the rules of religious life, and met St. Dominic, St. Francis, and several other religious founders in Italy. Between 1206 and 1214, St. Albert of Jerusalem presented the Rule of Carmel to St. Brocard and the Latin hermits.
In 1247, the Brothers of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel elected Simon Stock as their Prior General with authority over the Carmelites everywhere.St. Simon Stock faced a very serious situation: few candidates were entering the community and his friaries located in the university cities of Oxford, Cambridge, Paris and Bologna were not successful.As he knelt in prayer on July 16, 1251 in the White Friars’ convent at Cambridge, the Blessed Virgin appeared before him and presented him with a special “privilegium,”the brown scapular, a loose sleeveless garment destined for the Order of Carmel reaching from the shoulders to the kneeswhich was henceforth to be the distinctive part of the Carmelite religious vesture. The choice of color, brown (the color of humility and of the earth from which we are made), appears to have been Mary’s own choice.The scapular was given as an assurance of her heavenly protection from eternal death for all who died wearing it.
“Take this as the scapular of your order. This shall be a sign to you and to all Carmelites: whosoever dies wearing this shall not suffer eternal fire.”
An extraordinary promise indeed, but one requiring a life of prayer and sacrifice.The very wording of the Scapular Promise makes it absolutely clear that the Blessed Virgin never intended to substitute the wearing of brown cloth for living the Christian life. Rather, it was a visible sign that its wearer was more solemnly pledged to live the Christian life after the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary herself, whose faith, humility and cooperation with God’s grace were so outstanding.St. Teresa of Avila, Spain, demonstrated this, as she began a very thorough reform of the Carmelite Order with a small community of nuns. Their lifestyle was austere, with much prayer and silence.
Devotion to the blessed habit spread quickly throughout the Christian world. Pope after pope enriched it with indulgences, and innumerable miracles put their seal upon its efficacy. The first of them was worked at Winchester on a man dying in despair, whoat once asked for the Sacraments when the scapular was laid upon him by St Simon Stock.
In the year 1636, a member of a cavalry regiment was mortally wounded at the battle of Tehin by a bullet having lodged near his heart. He was then in a state of grievous sin, but he had time to make his confession. When a surgeon probed his wound afterwards, the bullet was found to have driven his scapular into his heart. When it had been withdrawn he soon expired, making profound acts of gratitude to the Blessed Virgin who had prolonged his life miraculously and preserved him from the irremediable death of his soul.
At Lourdes in 1858, the Virgin chose to make her last apparition to St. Bernadette on July 16th, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that commemorates her apparition to St. Simon Stock. At Fatima on October 13, 1917, it was as Our Lady of Mount Carmel that Mary appeared when she said farewell to the three children. Throughout the ages, the Queen of Carmel has always kept a faithful watch over the destinies of her cherished children on earth.
Saints and Holy Men Recommend the Brown Scapular
Members of other religious orders also wore the Mount Carmel Scapular with much devotion.
St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., the great Jesuit Cardinal and Doctor of the Church, teacher and spiritual director of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, defended the use of Our Lady’s Scapular:”Anyone dying in Mary’s family will receive from her at the hour of death either the grace of perseverance in the state of grace or the grace of final contrition.”
St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit missionary in South America, devoted his priestly ministry to the blacks. When he could do nothing to stop the unjust capture of blacks from their native Africa to be sold as slaves in South America, St. Peter organized people to teach them the basics of the Catholic faith. He baptized over 300,000people, and made it a practice to invest each convert in the Scapular of Mt. Carmel.
“There is no devotion which renders our salvation more certain than the Scapular. If Our Lady graciously affords her favor to all devotions in her honor, how much more will she do in favor of those who wear her holy uniform!”
St. Alphonsus de Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist Fathers, was an outstanding champion of Mary. The Redemptorists and other priests giving parish missions were strongly urged to enroll all who took part in the mission services in the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Many years after St. Alphonsus’ death in 1787, his grave was opened and his bones and all of his garments had disintegrated into dust. His scapular, however, was found intact and is still intact today on exhibit in his monastery in Rome.
St. Jean Marie Vianney, patron of all parish priests, was gifted with special insights into souls. A woman preparing to enter a convent had made her confession to the Cure. He reminded her of a dance she had attended some time before at which a handsome young man had danced with many others but would not go near her. The Cure, who had no way of knowing about the dance, reminded her of some blue flame like light under the man’s feet, and the woman remembered perfectly. “You were jealous of the others and hurt because this man would not dance with you. My dear, he was a demon and danced with those in serious sin. He kept away from you because you were wearing the Scapular.”
St. John Bosco, apostle of modern youth work, wore the Scapular and loved Our Blessed Mother very much. He died in 1888. When his remains were examined in 1929, his Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel was found intact.
St. Conrad, the Capuchin lay brother, was invested in the Brown Scapular before he joined the Capuchin Franciscan order and wore it for the rest of his religious life. He said, “I will always strive to have a deep devotion to Mary: I will strive especially to imitate Her virtues.” St. Conrad spent many years as doorkeeper for the Capuchin Fathers at the Shrine of Our Lady at Altoetting in Germany. He always gave scapulars to those who visited the Shrine and asked that they wear the Scapular with great love for Our Lady.
Venerable Fr. Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, was a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic. In addition to the White Scapular of the Dominicans, he also wore the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.As part of the 100th anniversary of the Knights of Columbus, St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut was renovated and a new tomb was prepared for Fr. McGivney’s remains. Both the Dominican Scapular and the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel were discovered perfectly preserved.
Pope Benedict XV addressed the seminarians of Rome on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: “Let all of you have a common language and a common armor: the language the sentences of the Gospel- the common armor the Scapular of the Virgin of Carmel which you ought to wear and which enjoys the singular privilege and protection after death.”
St. Maximilian Marie Kolbe, Conventual Franciscan priest and founder of the Militia of the Immaculate, was executed in the prison camp of Auschwitz, Poland, by the Nazis on August 14, 1941. He had volunteered to take the place of a married man condemned to death.Though St. Maximilian’s Militia uses the Miraculous Medal in honor of the Immaculate Conception in its apostolic Marian work, Brother Bartholomew, O.F.M. Conv., who received the religious habit of the Conventual Franciscans from the hands of St. Maximilian stated, “Yes, Father Kolbe wore the Brown Scapular, and he wanted all of us working with him to wear it also.”
Blessed Pope Gregory X was buried wearing the scapular just 25 years after the scapular vision. When his tomb was opened 600 years after his death, his scapular was found intact.
The Scapular: A Sign of Consecration to Mary.Children of Our Lady, now that you have read the magnificent story of how the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to be and have seen how much the saints loved and wore it, do you not also want to be invested in the Scapular and wear it ever after, with great love and respect for our heavenly Mother Mary?
The Brown Scapular, Miracles andthe Saints: “Garment of Grace”
One of the great tragedies of our time is that the majority of Catholics either ignore or have entirely forgotten this heavenly promise of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady says, “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.”
Miracles of Grace
A priest relates how one day in a town near Chicago, he was called to the bedside of a man who had been away from the Sacraments for many years. “The man did not want to see me: he would not talk. Then I asked him to look at the little scapular I was holding. ‘Will you wear this if I put it on you? I ask nothing more.’ He agreed to wear it, and within the hour he wanted to go to confession and make his peace with God. This did not surprise me, because for over 700 years Our Lady has been working in this way through her scapular.”
On the very day that Our Lady gave the scapular to St. Simon Stock, he was hurriedly called by Lord Peter of Linton, “Come quickly, Father, my brother is dying in despair!” St. Simon Stock left at once for the bedside of the dying man. Upon arrival, he placed his large scapular over the man, asking Our Blessed Mother to keep Her promise. Immediately the man repented, and died in the grace and friendship of God. That night the dead man appeared to his brother and said, “I have been saved through the most powerful Queen and the habit of that man as a shield.”
We should even give the Scapular to non-Catholics, for Our Lady will bring conversions to those who wear it and say one Hail Mary each day. An old man was rushed to the St. Simon Stock Hospital in New York City, unconscious and dying. The nurse, seeing the brown scapular on the patient, called the priest. As prayers were being said for the dying man, he became conscious and spoke up, “Father, I am not a Catholic.” “Then why are you wearing the brown scapular?” asked the priest. “I promised my friends to wear it,” the patient explained, “and say one Hail Mary a day.” “You are dying,” the priest told him, “Do you want to become a Catholic?” “All my life I wanted to be one,” the dying man replied. He was baptized, received the Last Rites, and died in peace. Our Lady took another soul under her mantle through her scapular!
In October 1952, an Air Force officer in Texas wrote the following: “Six months ago, shortly after I started wearing the scapular, I experienced a remarkable change in my life. Almost at once, I started going to Mass every day. After a short time, I started going to receive Holy Communion daily. I kept Lent with a fervor that I had never experienced before. I have been trying to live with God. I credit Mary’s scapular.”
Protection against the Devil
One day, Venerable Francis Ypes’ scapular fell off. As he replaced it, the devil howled, “Take off the habit which snatches so many souls from us!” Then and there, Francis made the devil admit that there are three things which the demons are most afraid of: the Holy Name of Jesus, the Holy Name of Mary, and the Holy Scapular of Carmel. To that list we could add: the Holy Rosary.
Protection against Dangers
Drowning: One day in 1944, a Carmelite missionary in the Holy Land was called to an internment camp in order to give the Last Rites. The bus driver made the priest get off the bus four miles from the camp because the road was dangerously muddy. After two miles, the missionary found his feet sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. Trying to get solid footing, he slipped into a muddy pool. Sinking to his death in this desolate place, he thought of Our Lady and her scapular. He kissed his great scapular- for he was wearing the full habit- and looked toward the holy mountain of Carmel, the birthplace of devotion to God’s Mother. He cried out, “Holy Mother of Carmel! Help me! Save me!” A moment later, he found himself on solid ground. Later he said, “I know I was saved by the Blessed Virgin through her brown scapular. My shoes were lost in the mud, and I was covered with it, but I walked the remaining two miles praising Mary.”
Hurricanes: In the late summer of 1845, the English ship, “King of the Ocean,” found itself in the middle of a wild hurricane. As wind and sea mercilessly lashed the ship, a Protestant minister, together with his wife and children and other passengers, struggled to the deck to pray for mercy and forgiveness as the end seemed at hand. Among the crew was a young Irishman, John McAuliffe. On seeing the urgency of the situation, the youth opened his shirt, took off his scapular, and, making the Sign of the Cross with it over the raging waves, tossed it into the ocean. At that very moment, the wind calmed. Only one more wave washed the deck, bringing with it the scapular which came to rest at the boy’s feet. All the while the minister, Mr. Fisher, had been carefully observing McAuliffe’s actions and their miraculous effect. Upon questioning the young man, they were told about the Holy Virgin and her scapular. Mr. Fisher and his family were so impressed that they determined to enter the Catholic Church as soon as possible.
Fire: In May of 1957, a Carmelite priest in Germany published the story of how the scapular saved a home from destruction when an entire row of homes caught fire in Westboden, Germany. The pious inhabitants of a 2-family home, seeing the fire, immediately fastened a scapular to the main door of the house. Sparks flew over it and around it, but the house remained unharmed. Within 5 hours, 22 homes had been reduced to ashes. The one structure which stood undamaged amidst the destruction was that which had the scapular attached to its door.
Accidents:One of the most extraordinary of all scapular incidents took place in the United States. Around the turn of the century in Ashtabula, Ohio, a man who was wearing the scapular was cut in two by a train. Instead of dying instantly as he should have, he remained alive AND CONSCIOUS for 45 minutes- just enough time until a priest could arrive to administer the Last Sacraments. These, and other such incidents, tell us that Our Blessed Mother will take personal care of us in the hour of our death. So great and powerful a Mother is Mary that she will never fail to keep the promise of her scapular, i.e. to see that we die in God’s grace.
Violence: On his way to say Mass, a French priest realized that he had forgotten his scapular. He knew he would be late if he went back to retrieve it, but he could not envision offering Mass at Our Lady’s altar without her scapular. Later, as he was offering the Holy Sacrifice, a young man approached the altar, pulled out a gun, and shot the priest in the back. To the amazement of all, the priest continued to say the prayers of the Mass as though nothing had occurred. It was at first presumed that the bullet had miraculously missed its target. However, upon examination, the bullet was found ADHERING TO THE LITTLE BROWN SCAPULAR which the priest had so obstinately refused to be without.
War: Mr. Sisto Mosco of North Providence, Rhode Island, a veteran of World War II, survived, unscathed, the invasion of Normandy, the 7th Fleet War with the Japanese Fleet, the taking of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and other bloody battles in the South Pacific. “I was on the battleship the U.S.S. Nevada as chaplain’s yeoman during W.W. II in the Pacific. (I always wore my scapular because I was brought up close to the Church, and I kept it on me all through the war.) The ship was loaded with dynamite. A suicide plan hit the deck, real close to where I was positioned. The blast blew open the bolted steel doors of the compartment. I alone was left uninjured after the explosion. The rest were all dead or seriously mangled. I was the only one untouched and I attribute it to the wearing of my scapular.”Mr. Mosco later received a commendation from the Admiral of the fleet for bravery, but in his heart he firmly believes that the credit goes to Our Lady, Virgin most powerful, who works such wonders through her Habit of Salvation.
The Scapular that Saved Two Lives
My batallion was a member of the Irene Brigade, and we encamped one evening on an old farm as we were just about to advance. Behind the house, there was an old wooden pump surrounded by bricks. This offered a fine opportunity for a soldier to wash away the sweat and dust of hours of fighting, so you can imagine that we made good use of this opportunity. I was one of the group, and so I tossed my jacket on the ground and hung my scapular on the pump while I washed.
An hour later, we received orders to proceed about a mile and a half further and occupy a trench there. We were looking forward to being able to get a peaceful night’s sleep in that trench.I was about to lie down and was unbuttoning my collar when, to my horror, I realized that I no longer had my scapular. It had been a gift from my mother. I had it with me all during the war, and now that we were approaching the lion’s den was I to be deprived of it?To go fetch it was unthinkable, so I tried not to think about it any more and go to sleep. I tossed and turned, but I couldn’t get to sleep.All around me, my buddies were sleeping like logs even though from time to time shells fell dangerously close. Finally, I was overcome by the desire to get my scapular back and I crept out among my sleeping companions. It wasn’t so easy to get past the sentry, but I managed to do it and ran back the way we had come. It was pitch dark, but nevertheless I had good luck and in a short time I was back on the farm and at the pump. My hands glided searchingly all over the pump, but the scapular was gone. I was just about to strike a match when there was the sound of a dreadful explosion. What was I to do? Was that the sign of an enemy attack? As fast as I could, I ran back to our trench. Maybe I could do something for my buddies there.Near the trench I saw the engineers busily at work hurriedly removing piles of dirt and barbed wire. At the very spot where my companions had been sleeping, there yawned a gigantic shell-hole. Before they vacated this trench, the enemy had placed a time-bomb in it that exploded during my absence. Nobody survived the explosion. If I had not set out to fetch my scapular, I would have been buried under that rubble too.
The following morning, I went to the field kitchen and met a buddy there. He looked at me with astonishment. “I thought you were in that trench!””And I thought you were buried there!”My friend continued, “I was lying in the trench. Before I went to sleep I went looking for you, but I couldn’t find you. The corporal saw me hunting around and asked me what I wanted. When I told him what I was doing there he said, ‘Be sensible! Instead go to that inn nearby and get me a bottle of water.’ While I was on this errand, the explosion occurred.””Well, I escaped it by a hair’s breadth too,” I replied. “But why on earth were you looking for me so late at night?” “To give you this,” he said, and handed me my scapular which he had taken from the old pump.
Necessity of Openness to Grace
During the Spanish civil war in the 1930’s, seven Communists were sentenced to death because of their crimes. A Carmelite priest tried to prepare the men cigarettes, food and wine, assuring them that he would not talk religion. In a short while, they were all friendly, so he asked them for one small favor: “Will you permit me to place a scapular on each of you?” Six agreed; one refused. Soon all scapular wearers went to confession, but the seventh continued to refuse. Only to please them he put on a scapular, but he would do nothing more. As the moment of execution drew near, the seventh man made it clear that he was not going to ask for the priest. Although wearing the scapular, he was determined to go to his death an enemy of God. Finally, the command was given, the firing squad did its deadly work, and seven lifeless bodies lay sprawled in the dust. Mysteriously, a scapular was found approximately 50 paces from the bodies. Six men died WITH Mary’s scapular, and the seventh died WITHOUT the Scapular. Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, the renowned Jesuit and spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary, gives us a solution to this mystery: “You ask, ‘What if I desire to die in my sins?’ I answer, ‘Then you will die in your sins, BUT YOU WILL NOT DIE IN YOUR SCAPULAR.'”
Blessed Claude tells the story of a man who tried to drown himself three times, but was rescued against his will. At last, he realized that he was wearing his scapular. Determined to take his life, he tore the scapular from his neck and leaped into the water. Without Mary’s protective garment, he accomplished his wish and died in his sins.
In wearing the scapular at all times, we make a silent petition for the Blessed Mother’s continual assistance, and share in all the prayers and good works of the Carmelite Scapular Confraternity throughout the world. Pope Pius XII referred to the scapular as the “the Sign of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” The scapular also represents the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ, which Mary helps us to bear. Finally, the scapular marks us as one of Mary’s chosen children, and becomes for us (as the Germans call it) a “Garment of Grace.” Blessed Claude tells us, “Because all the forms of our love for the Blessed Virgin and all its various modes of expression cannot be equally pleasing to her, and therefore do not assist us in the same degree to reach Heaven, I say, without a moments hesitation, that the BROWN SCAPULAR IS THE MOST FAVORED OF ALL! No other devotion has been confirmed by so many and such extraordinary miracles.”