The Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel reveals a long history of controversy in the Church, related to the Carmelite order. The Carmelites claim a connection to the prophet Elias, and an order of faithful Israelites during the time of King Samuel, who resided at Mt. Carmel, a desert retreat that attracted hermits and pilgrims. Big names in the Church, like St. John Chrysostom, claim a moral succession between the Carmelites and this Jewish religious group. However, with the Crusades, the Order was driven out of the Holy Land. Re-establishing the Order in Europe proved challenging.
In the 13th century the historical claims of this order were challenged. The Dominicans and Franciscans were already established, and there seemed some resistance to a third mendicant order. (Mendicants maintain a strict vow of poverty, and only meet their material needs through charitable contributions. Mendicants are known as the “begging” orders.) The Carmelites persisted.
A Superior General of the Carmelites in 1237, St. Simon (Angles) Stock had a legacy of holiness long established in the British Isles. He had become a hermit at age 12. When selected as leader of the Order, he made a pilgrimage to Rome to set things aright for the Order’s history and future.
He did not make this journey based on his own counsel, but after the Order prayed for intercession to the Virgin Mary, he was told to go to Rome: And the Virgin Mary revealed to their prior that they were to apply fearlessly to Pope Innocent, for they would receive from him an effective remedy for these difficulties, the monks recorded.
A miracle followed in 1251: Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock with a scapular in hand, and she told him: “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 dying in this habit shall be saved).
This apparition was identified as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The promise was given to the Carmelites, specifically. By “this habit,” suggested the clothing of the Carmelites: brown wool, with a belt symbolizing chastity, sandals, a brown cross and a white tunic. Our Lady appeared with the Brown Scapular in her hand. The Carmelites wore the scapular as well, which they consider “the garment of salvation,” based on Our Lady’s promise to the Order.
Eventually the Carmelites were recognized, and they established houses at universities. To their wealthy patrons the Carmelite mendicants developed the habit of giving gifts of scapulars. It was a pretty good deal: Support the Order and earn the promise of eternal salvation. Gradually the practice spread more broadly, and the scapular, once the special blessings of the Carmelites, has been spread freely among the laity. Of course, it wasn’t as simple as wearing the piece of cloth. The same holds true today.
Consecration to Mary
At the center of wearing the Scapular is a life dedicated to following Mary in devotion to Jesus.
St. Louis de Montfort, in the early 18th century provided a process for dedicating one’s life to Jesus through Mary, called the True Devotion to Mary. You can commit to this 33 day Total Consecration through this website or by purchasing the book.
The Scapular Consecration was revived after Our Lady appeared at Fatima in 1917. Our Lady of Fatima appeared to Blessed Lucia. At Fatima Our Lady revealed that world peace could only be achieved if the faithful pray the Rosary daily, do the five successive First Saturday devotions, and offer penance, reparation and sacrifice to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Wearing the Scapular signifies wearing the armor of consecration to Mary. Pope Pius II said: Consecration to the Mother of God is a total giving of oneself to her for one’s entire life and for eternity; and this gift is not a mere formula of words or sentiment, but effective, that is fulfilled by a Christian and Marian life.
After the revelations at Fatima, the promises of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, to those who wear the holy scapular, were extended to:
- Protection during our life.
- Preservation from the fires of Hell.
- Release from Purgatory on the First Saturday after death.
Further, it is promised that we will gain interior peace and happiness, as well as courage through on consecration.
Investment in the Brown Scapular
To enroll in the Brown Scapular you must purchase the Scapular and take it to a priest. The priest must give a blessing, but the consecration is supposed to take the form of these prayers . You can get a free Brown Scapular here.
Once invested with the Brown Scapular, you can add this daily prayer of Consecration to your devotions:
O Mary, Immaculate Queen of Carmel, Mother of God, and my Mother, the wearing of thy holy Scapular signifies that I am entirely thine. Assist me this day, and obtain for me the grace to live faithfully my Scapular Consecration, whereby my heart, my mind, my body, my whole being, is thine without reserve, forever. Amen.