St. Simon Stock (1165-1265), whose feast day we celebrate today, 16th May, was born in Kent, England. He was strongly drawn to God as a child, and at the age of twelve he began to live as a hermit in the hollow of an oak tree. A man of great holiness and devotion, after two decades of this solitary and penitential life, he entered the world again to study theology and become a priest. His studies complete, he then returned to his hermitage. At this time the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him, intructing him to join the Carmelite Order that was just entering England. St. Simon became a Carmelite in 1212. By 1215 he became the Order’s leader and worked to establish it across Europe, especially at the great universities. He also travelled to Rome and Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land, and revised the Carmelite Rule to make them mendicant friars instead of hermits.
The Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Simon Stock again in Cambridge, England, in 1251 and presented him with a Brown Scapular, the habit of his Order, promising that those who wore it would not be eternally lost in Hell. The Scapular represents Our Lady’s protection and Her care for us:
“Receive, my beloved son, this Scapular of thy Order. It shall be a special sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace. Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”
Down through the centuries Our Lady has always kept this promise.
This apparition is known as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and her “scapular promise” is that she will intercede with her Son to ensure that the wearer of the scapular obtains the grace of final perseverance, that is, of dying in a state of grace. Such is the extraordinary promise Our Lady makes to those who wear Her Brown Scapular. And this wonderful promise makes the Scapular a most powerful sacramental from Heaven. Who could doubt Our Lady’s promise, or be so foolish as not to wear, with profoundest gratitude and reverence, this abbreviated form of the Carmelite Mantle? This garment of grace — two simple pieces of brown wool worn over the shoulders, and usually imprinted with the image of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on one piece, and Our Blessed Lord on the other — is a tangible sign of the Blessed Mother of God’s love and protection for Her devotees. We should kiss the Scapular devoutly when rising in the morning, and every time we put on a new Scapular to replace one that is worn or damaged. For this gesture of reverence, we receive an indulgence of 500 days, and we are also reminded to ask Our Lady: “Preserve me this day from sin and the occasions of sin”. This is the origin of the Brown Scapular and devotion to it which soon spread to the laity to obtain the graces promised by Our Lady, a devotion later encouraged by many Popes.
Miracles of the Brown Scapular
The devotion to the Brown Scapular was authorised by miracles. God uses miracles as a witness to the truth of His promises and those of His Mother. Miracles are used by God to confirm the solid foundation of the devotions that the Church proposes to the faithful. The greater the number of miracles obtained by a particular devotion, the more it draws our attention to this devotion and authenticates the truth that the practice is pleasing to God. Of all the devotions adopted by the Church, none has been confirmed by more authenticated miracles than that of the Brown Scapular. What follows is only a tiny sampling.
Miracle of Grace 1
On the very day that Our Lady gave the Scapular to Saint Simon Stock, he was hurriedly called by Lord Peter of Linton: “Come quickly, Father Simon, my brother is dying in despair!” Saint 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 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.”
Miracle of Grace 2
Our second miracle is a contemporary one and equally amazing. Fr John Higgins, from Downey, California, recalls his experience in 2012 of Our Lady’s motherly intercession with Her Divine Son in giving a man on the brink of death a second chance to amend his life. He was wearing the Brown Scapular! In Father John’s own words, “The Man I saw Brought Back to Life”:
“Who doesn’t enjoy a good BBQ with friends? When I was asked to a young couple’s home for a Young Adult Ministry Home Mass and BBQ I packed my Mass kit and off I went. I arrived about 6:00 pm with a hearty appetite and was greeted by about 15 young people. Then the phone rang and everything changed. I had to drive about 10 miles to a hospital where there was an emergency call.
I drove quickly, thinking that the nurse in charge of the ER, Anne, would be waiting for me. I knew her and her husband and children from the parish. When I walked in I could see paramedics at the foot of the only occupied gurney there, so I hurried and walked in. “Sorry, Fr. John, you’re too late. He’s gone.” Anne said, smiling. She had a lot of compassion, but also understood that I’d come as fast as I could. They were removing wires from an older man. I noticed that he was wearing a Brown Scapular, one of the old cloth ones. I reached and said “He’s wearing an old fashioned Scapular”. When I touched it there was a beep from a monitor, then another. The nurse, Anne, said “What did you do?” I said “Nothing!” She and another nurse jumped to work, reconnecting wires and calling for help. The Paramedics stood with their jaws dropped. The patient opened his eyes and said (in an Irish accent) “Oh, good, Father. I’ve been waiting for you. I want to go to Confession.” I nearly fell over. I’d done nothing but seen and touched his Scapular. The next thing I knew they were working on him. He didn’t get to go to Confession, but I gave him an emergency absolution as they worked. One of the Paramedics asked if I was OK and sat me in a chair.
A couple of weeks later the man came to me for Confession and told me that the doctor couldn’t figure out what happened and had to tear up the Death Certificate he’d already started to fill out. The Paramedics had come to see him in the hospital and shown him their notes. At the bottom of the page they’d written the time and place of his death and then in big bold letters had added “BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE BY GOD”.
Miracles still happen. And no, I didn’t do it. It just happened according to God’s will. Why does He intervene in some cases and not in others? I really don’t know. I haven’t figured that out yet. But I do know that God has worked miracles in my life, the most important for me not being what He did for someone else, but what He has done over and over to bring me back from sin and death, through the Sacraments into His Covenant Relationship.”
On 13th October 1917, in her final apparition to the little shepherds of Fatima, the Blessed Virgin Mary came attired as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding up the Brown Scapular. As Sister Lucia reminds us: “Our Lady held the Scapular in her hands because She wants us all to wear it”. And “to wear” the Scapular is the outward sign of a sincere inner desire to avoid all occasions of offending Our Blessed Lord by our sins. This is why the Brown Scapular is closely linked to Our Lady’s warnings and appeal to us at Fatima.
“Let it [the Brown Scapular] be your sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which We are particularly urging in these perilous times.” – Pope Pius XII.
[For further information and examples of heavenly protection, conversions and grace when clothed in this holy sacramental, the Brown Scapular, see HERE.]