I’ve been reading up on apparitions of Our Lady, and came across the story of the brown scapular, given in the thirteenth century to St Simon Stock of England.
Legend has it that Simon went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he met the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. This hermit order claimed to be the successors of Elijah and his followers, and Simon joined them for a time. Then, when the situation in Palestine became too dangerous for them to remain, he returned to England, bringing the brothers with him. In Europe, they became mendicant friars along the pattern of the Franciscans and the Dominicans.
The new order faced many problems: internal difficulties as the former hermits adjusted to communal living; external jealousies from existing orders.
Simon withdrew to his monastic room or ‘cell’ – probably at Cambridge by this time – to try and gain some relief from the problems faced both by himself and his Carmelite order, and in order to pray to Mary; it was then that he had his famous vision of her bringing the Brown Scapular to him with the following words, which are preserved in a fourteenth century narrative: “This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire.”
The Scapular promise is based on the two elements of Mary’s spiritual maternity and her mediation of grace, that is that she is the ‘spiritual’ mother of all mankind, as well as the ‘channel’ by which all grace comes to us, understood in the sense that she too is dependent on the sole mediation of Christ, her son.
This promise implies that Mary will intercede to ensure that the wearer of the Scapular obtains the grace of final perseverance, that is of dying in a state of grace. [theotokos.org.uk]
Our Lady also instructed St Simon to seek confirmation of the order from the Pope. The Catholic Encyclopaedia says:
In a general chapter held at Aylesford in 1245, Alanus resigning his dignity, St. Simon was chosen the sixth general, and in the same year procured a new confirmation of the rule by pope Innocent IV., who at the saint’s request received this order under the special protection of the Holy See, in 1251.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
In the middle of the fourteenth century, the wearing of the Scapular spread to the laity, and it continues as a devotion today. The modern Scapular consists of two pieces of brown cloth, usually decorated with Marian pictures, joined by two narrow cords. It is worn around the neck with one brown cloth hanging at the front, and one at the back.
The Carmelites have an excellent explanation of the Scapular here.They say:
- It stands for a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model of all the disciples of Christ. This commitment finds its origin in baptism by which we become children of God.
- It leads us into the community of Carmel, a community of religious men and women, which has existed in the Church for over eight centuries.
- It reminds us of the example of the saints of Carmel, with whom we establish a close bond as brothers and sisters to one another.
- It is an expression of our belief that we will meet God in eternal life, aided by the intercession and prayers of Mary.
As this Carmelite site points out, the Scapular is not magic. It is not a ‘get out of jail free card’. It is a sign and a reminder: a sign, as you wear it, of your commitment; a reminder, as you take it off to shower or put it on again afterwards, of all that it stands for. By constantly wearing the Scapular, you call the things of Heaven to mind through the day, every day.
Right, it’s not magic and it’s not a “get out of jail free” card. But if you wear it, you will, in the end, maybe even after a long, long time, always do the right thing. That’s how she fulfills her promise.
Yes, Robert is right – The promise of the Mother of God is that she will guide and protect you – by wearing the Scapular, you are asking her to CONTINUALLY keep a firm eye on you and send graces of help when needed so that we remain faithful to Her Son! Even if you happen to fall into deep sin – she will send graces for you to repent and die in the state of God’s grace – this is what is meant by “You shall not suffer the pains of Hell” She will be SURE you die repentent by sending you the necessary help. There are 750 plus years of miracles to prove it. She came at Fatima on the last apparition as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel with the scapular in her hand. Lucia, one of the visionaries stated thatt this means that Our Lady wants ALL of her children to wear it in these trying times in order for her to be able to help us get to Heaven – not by magic- but BY HER PRAYERS. Many Priests instructing the faithful have neglected to teach these truths of her garment – THE BROWN SCAPULAR – I know – I am a Third Order Carmelite and have watched the deterioration of teaching on the Brown Scapular – it is MORE than a reminder to us – by wearing it – you are asking Our Lady to send her helps and prayers in order for you to remain faithful to Jesus Christ. Because of Her Yes to God – She is powerful in what She prays for – She will win your salvation if you wear it faithfully and try to remain faithful to Her Son! Our Lady of Mt. Carmel pray for us and pray for our shepherds – the priests!