Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
This article is in honor of ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’ whose feast we celebrate on 16th July.
Ever wondered why Catholics wear the scapular so devoutly & perseveringly (even on hot summer days when the wool of the scapular can be irritating to skin). Some might say, “It is a tradition” ; Others who are more theologically sound might say, “It was given to us by the Mother of God as a pledge of protection & badge of salvation”.
All that is very good, but why is this scapular called the scapular of Mount Carmel? Who was the founder of this order? Why is this order called the order of the Mother of God? All this began in the old testament. I know this is strange to hear that an order dedicated to the Mother of God originated even before she was born but this is what was chosen by God.
Carmelites Of The Old Testament
The dramatic confrontation between Elijah(Elias) and the 450 prophets of Baal which took place in Mount Carmel is found in the Book of Kings. Ahab, King of Israel then, married Jezebel who brought new gods into Israel and killed all the prophets of the Lord she could find. The only prophet left was Elijah.
One day, Elijah went to King Ahab and warned him “there will be no rain or dew here until I call for it.” And he walked away and disappeared. True enough, for three years there was no rain – the Israelites were being punished for their idolatry. Elijah’s mission according to John Haffert’s “Her Glorious Title” was to banish idolatry and show to the Israelites that Yahweh is indeed the true and omnipotent God. Elijah told King Ahab to gather the people of Israel on Mount Carmel. There he proposed a contest between him alone and the 450 pagan priests. They would erect an altar and place a sacrifice – a bullock cut into pieces – upon it and pray to their respective gods to send fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. Whoever would answer with fire to consume the sacrifice -the gods of the pagans (Baa1 or Asherah) or Yahweh of Elijah-was truly true God.
Readers of the Bible of course know that Elijah won in this dramatic confrontation. Despite hours of praying, the priests of Baal were not rewarded with fire while after only a single earnest prayer from Elijah, Yahweh answered with a blistering fire. Thus, the people of Israel fell on their knees crying “Yahweh is God.”
The Book of Kings goes on to say that, after the fire consumed the sacrifice of Elijah, the rains came heralded by a little cloud rising out of the sea beneath Mount Carmel. The divine punishment of three and a half years of drought ended.
The little cloud rising from the sea came in the form of a human foot. It increased in size & then rained heavily. Sea water is unfit to drink. It is impure so to speak. Rain water is the purest form of water imaginable. The foot represented the foot of MARY. “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” Gen 3:15 Douay Rheims bible
“She shall crush”… Ipsa, the woman; so divers of the fathers read this place, conformably to the Latin: others read it ipsum, viz., the seed. The sense is the same: for it is by her seed, Jesus Christ, that the woman crushes the serpent’s head.
Mary came from corrupt human race, but she herself was without the stain of original sin. The ‘IMMACULATE CONCEPTION’ as she addressed herself to Bernadette of Lourdes, although a daughter of Eve she was not like Eve in her sinfulness.
The rain coming from the crowd represented JESUS CHRIST as another prophet says, “Let the clouds rain from above the Just One”
After all of this happened the Prophet Elijah was so impressed by the immaculate conception of the Virgin who will give us the Savior, that he dedicated himself to the Mother of God. His followers now became the Carmelites of the Old Testament who prayed for the coming of the Theotokos (God-Bearer).
Carmelites Of The New Testament
The followers of Elijah in the New Testament were St. John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist (Beloved Disciple). Both of them devoted to Our Lady as we all know St. John the Baptist became a hermit like Prophet Elijah. He wore animal skin of brown color (prefigure of the Scapular). The Beloved disciple on the other hand lived in hermitage in his final days & was responsible for the Book of Revelation in the Bible.
Queen of Carmel appears to St. Simon Stock
The devil, that ancient serpent who wages eternal war against the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and of men, bitterly hates the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Mary’s privileged family. Because it is the work of her Immaculate hands, it draws upon itself all the fury, malice and persecution of the evil one.
Scarcely had the Carmelites come from the East and settled in the West, when the devil raised such a terrible storm against them that it threatened their very existence, the right to which was denied by some of their enemies. Some said they were newcomers, and therefore, they could not be trusted, and others said that they were not the children of the Mother of God, as they pretended, but descendants of Mary of Egypt. Is there anything more distressing to the heart of a loving child than to hear his relationship to his mother denied?
The Carmelites, the first-born of Mary’s family and entirely consecrated to her, having no other desire than to please her in all things, now experienced this bitter anguish, seeing their glorious and most cherished title –children of Mary– so hotly contested. To whom should they turn but to Mary, who never forsakes her children.
Saint Simon Stock, then General of the Order, poured out his heart at the feet of the beautiful Queen of Carmel, and, in a moment of Sublime inspiration, exclaimed, “Most holy Virgin! Beauty of Carmel Virgin Flower forever in bloom! Bright Ornament of Heaven! Thou Virgin-Mother of a Man-God! Mother of holy love! Mother of mercy and meekness! Star of the sea! O Mary, show us thou art our Mother! O Virgin most holy, give me a sign of thy predilection for thine Order of Carmel which will astonish our adversaries, and confound our detractors!”
The confidence and perseverance of this true disciple of Elias could not but win the favor of the Queen of Carmel, who appeared to him with the Infant Jesus in her arms, surrounded by a multitude of celestial spirits, and holding in her hand the Scapular of the Order, which she presented to him, said, “Receive, my beloved son, this Scapular of thine Order, as the distinctive sign of my Confraternity”. Before disappearing from the enraptured gaze of the saint, the Blessed Virgin directed him to go to the Vicar of her Divine Son, who was then the Innocent IV, assuring him that the Pope would end the persecution then raging against the Order.
“WHOSOEVER DIES IN THIS SCAPULAR SHALL NOT SUFFER ETERNAL FIRE” – OUR LADY TO ST.SIMON STOCK
This promise does not mean that even if we keep on sinning we will go to heaven just by wearing a scapular. It means that if we wear it with love Our Lady will obtain for us the grace of final contrition. We will die as friends of God & so shall be worthy of Eternal life. Cursed are those who take the scapular for granted & keep on sinning deliberately expecting Our Lady to save them.
About fifty years after the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to St. Simon Stock, she appeared to Pope John XXII, and promised him that “She would assist and console the children of Carmel detained in Purgatory and also speedily release them on the first Saturday after death”.
Saints & mystics have always told us that purgatory can be as long as hundreds of years or even thousands. If saints feared purgatory so much, how much more should we!
Take heart oh feeble heart, The Virgin of Carmel rises in they defense. She promises to take you to heaven on the first Saturday after your death, if you die in the Scapular.
The Venerable Francis de Yepes, brother of St. John of the Cross, shortly after the death of his beloved wife, felt great anxiety concerning her soul. She, like himself, was a member of the Third Order of Mount Carmel. Our Blessed Lady, appearing to him, said, “After two days and three nights of suffering, today, Saturday, you wife’s soul has been delivered by me from Purgatory, and she now enjoys heavenly bliss”.
In her final apparition in Fatima Our Lady appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding to the World the Brown scapular. Sr. Lucy of Fatima said, “Our Lady held the Scapular in Her hands because She wants us all to wear it.”
I end my article hoping all of us will now honor Our Lady of Mount Carmel by wearing the brown scapular till we are safe with her in heaven.
♥ FROM ADITYA TAWDE, LOVER OF JESUS & MARY ♥