May 16 – Feast of Saint Simon Stock
Saint Simon Stock was born to a very illustrious family in Kent County, England (c. 1165), of which his father was governor. His mother was devoted to the Virgin Mary, and Simon was not yet one year old when he was heard clearly articulating the Angelic salutation several times. When he was twelve, Simon began to live as a hermit in the hollow of a trunk of an oak, where he got the nickname “stock” or “trunk”. Within this wilderness retreat, his continual prayers ascended to heaven and he spent twenty years in the most complete solitude, feeding his soul with the celestial delights of contemplation.
Having voluntarily chosen to deprive himself of human conversation, he was favoured with that of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the angels who urged him to persevere in his life of sacrifice and love. The Queen of Heaven told him that some hermits from Palestine would soon land in England, adding that he should join those men whom she considered as her servants.
Indeed, Lord John Vesoy and Lord Richard Gray of Codnor returned from the Holy Land, bringing with them several hermits from Mount Carmel. Simon Stock joined them in 1212 and was elected Vicar General of the Carmelite Order in 1215. He begged the Virgin Mary by fervent prayers and tears to defend this Order, which was devoted to her, and she appeared in a dream to Pope Honorius III, so the pope finally confirmed the Rule of Carmelites in 1226.
Another time the Mother of God appeared to Simon, surrounded by a dazzling light and accompanied by a large number of blessed spirits, with the scapular of the order in her hand. This scapular she gave him with the words: “Hoc erit tibi et cunctis Carmelitis privilegium, in hoc habitu moriens salvabitur” – This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone wearing this habit shall be saved.
Through Saint Simon Stock the devotion of the scapular spread throughout the world, not only among the people, but also among kings and princes who found themselves very honoured to wear the sign of the servants of the Blessed Virgin. Stock breathed his last in the city of Bordeaux while visiting monasteries, in the 20th year of his office as Vicar General. The Church added his last words to the Angelic salutation: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
(From Bishop Paul Guerin, 1863 Ed., p. 229-233)
MARY’S PROMISE TO THOSE WHO WEAR THE SCAPULAR
Our Lady gave St. Simon a scapular for the Carmelites with the following promise, saying : Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire …. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.
Another important aspect of wearing the Scapular is the Sabbatine Privilege. This concerns a promise made by Our Lady to Pope John XXII. In a papal letter he issued, he recounted a vision that he had had. He stated that the Blessed Virgin had said to him in this vision, concerning those who wear the Brown Scapular: “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.”
CONDITIONS AND RITUALS ATTACHED TO THE SCAPULAR
According to Church tradition, there are three conditions necessary to participate in this Privilege and share in the other spiritual benefits of the Scapular: wear the Brown Scapular, observe chastity according to your state in life, and pray the Rosary. In addition to the Sabbatine Privilege, enrollment in the Brown Scapular also makes a person part of the Carmelite family throughout the world. They therefore share in all of the prayers and good works of the Carmelite Orders. Participation in the Carmelite family also, of course, places you in a special relationship with the Carmelite saints, especially St. Elijah, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, and, most importantly, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
In order to receive the spiritual blessings associated with the Scapular, it is necessary to be formally enrolled in the Brown Scapular by either a priest or a lay person who has been given this faculty. Once enrolled, the enrollment is for life and need not be repeated. Anyone, adult or infant, who has not previously been enrolled may be enrolled in the Brown Scapular.
VALUE AND MEANING OF THE SCAPULAR
Many popes and saints have strongly recommended wearing, the Brown Scapular to the Catholic Faithful, including St. Robert Bellarmine, Pope John XXII, Pope Pius Xl, and Pope Benedict XV. For example, St. Alphonsus said: “Just as men take pride in having others wear their livery, so the Most Holy Mary is pleased when Her servants wear Her Scapular as a mark that they have dedicated themselves to Her service, and are members of the Family of the Mother of God.”
Pope Pius XII went so far as to say: “The Scapular is a practice of piety which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone, and has spread widely among the faithful of Christ to their spiritual profit.” In our own times, Pope Paul VI said: “Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin … the Rosary and the Scapular of Carmel” and in another place referred to the Scapular as: “so highly recommended by our illustrious predecessors.”
O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, (here kiss your Scapular as a sign of your consecration and to receive a partial indulgence) I offer Thee the precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world, joining with it the offering of my every thought, word and action of this day. O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that she may best apply them in the interests of Thy most Sacred Heart. Precious Blood of Jesus, save us. Amen.