The Brown Scapular History (part - 2)
Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Before coming into Europe, the Carmelites were hermits living on Mount Carmel in Palestine.
They believed themselves to be the spiritual sons of Elijah. They led a life of contemplation,
modeled after the prophet.
At the base of this holy mountain; in the little village of Nazareth, the Incarnation was
accomplished. The Blessed Virgin Mary, there in the shadow of Mount Carmel, uttered her
sublime “fiat” thus enabling the second Person of the Blessed Trinity to become Man for our
salvation. To the wondrous delight of the hermits, Our Lady with Saint Joseph and the Child
Jesus visited Mount Carmel upon returning from their two years of exile in Egypt. As a result of
this visit the contemplatives of Carmel professed their unqualified belief in Jesus as the long
awaited Messiah, the Saviour of the World. Tradition assures us that, because of their childlike
faith, the Carmelites were among the first to be baptized by the Apostles after Pentecost.
Likewise, their great love for the Mother of God induced them to erect on Mount Carmel the first
Church honoring Our Lady. Moreover, as a reward for their devotion to Mary, the Carmelites
were the first to be entrusted with the guardianship of the Holy House of Nazareth, following
Our Lady’s death and Assumption into Heaven. So great was their Love for Our Blessed
Mother that the Carmelites were known as the "Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel".
Many of the holy Carmelites were forced to leave Palestine because of the Saracen invasion.
St. Louis IX of France conducted them to Europe. As they were leaving they sang the Salva
Regina. Our Lady appeared to them and promised to be their Star of the Sea. Along the way
some stayed in Cyprus, others in Naples. Still some went to France to live. A few went on to
England. Lord Richard de Grey gave them Alyesford in Kent.
St. Simon Stock, Vicar General of the Carmelite Order
It was in England that Simon Stock joined the group, later to be elected their first Vicar General.
Many problems plagued the new order. The people made fun of the 'striped bedouin mantle'.
Others felt there were enough religious orders already. To make matters worse there was
internal strife and bickering between the older and younger monks.
By 1251, St. Simon realized that Our Lady was his only hope. With tears in eyes, he saluted her
as the Flower of Carmel and the Star of the Sea. He prayed fervently for her "privilegium". The
special protection a lord gave to his vassals. The lord would protect his life and property, in
return for the loyalty of the one making the request.
In the 13th century there was no commerce or industry. Land was the only means of a
livelyhood. The vassals paid homage to the lord of the land. The lords owned the land and by
this act of homage the vassal was given the right to till the land. He was guaranteed the
protection of the lord.
The scapular was not something new to medieval Europe. It had been around since around
550, when the monastic orders came about. The two pieces of cloth joined at the shoulders
and hanging down the back and breast had deep spiritual meaning. Our Lord said in the
gospels, 'My yoke is sweet and my burden is light.' The monks by putting on this garment
realized that the sweet burden of Divine service was upon him and the whole day was
dedicated to God.
Faith and actual living were one in the middle ages. The monk presented himself to God, His
Divine Master, just as a vassal presented himself to his lord 'to pay homage.' So too, did the
friar make his vows to God.
As we have seen the idea of the scapular and the giving of yourself to another for protection
was not a novel idea. Our Lady chose that which was traditional and widely practiced.
Our Lady appears to St Simon Stock
While praying, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, giving him the Brown Scapular and
making this promise:
"Take this Scapular, it shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and a pledge of
peace. Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."
There are those today who say this apparition doesn't have the documentation to prove its
validity. John Haffert in his book, "Mary in Her Scapular Promise," states that the documents
were originally stored in the Carmelite libraries at Bordeaux and at London. A hundred years
after the Vision, the library at Bordeaux was burned by the city officials to prevent the spread of
the Black Plague. During the Anglican schism, Henry VIII ordered the London library burned to
But there is one document that is authentic. In 1389, the General of the Carmelite Order, John
Grossi, wrote the book known as "The Viridarium". It is a catalogue of the Carmelite Saints and
gives an accurate account of the Vision. John Grossi consulted and talked to companions of
St. Simon. He had access to all the libraries in the Order. He explicitly declared that he wrote
nothing in his Viridarium that was not from the ancient documents.
After Our Lady appeared to Saint Simon, almost immediately a miraculous change took place
in the Order. The order was saved, its Marian character confirmed and Mary became more a
Mother than a Queen to it. In the beginning only the Carmelites wore the scapular. But by the
14th century the privilege of wearing the scapular extended outside the order. Lay groups and
third orders were formed. Some of these groups were called confraternities.
Still Our Lady continued to favor the Carmelite Order and her scapular with further blessings
and promises. In 1321, St. Peter Thomas was told by Our Heavenly Mother that 'the Order of
Carmel is destined to exist until the end of the world'.
" wherever Jesus Christ is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Smyrneans 8:2 [A.D. 110])
pray the Rosary now - http://www.comepraytherosary.org/
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