July 16th is the feast day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. This is in remembrance of the day in 1251 when Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a monastic who was living in England. She appeared with the Brown Scapular in hand and uttered these words: "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant."
A “scapular” was originally a type of clothing worn by monks when working. It fit over the shoulders and covered the front and back. The Carmelites were one such group that wore this vestment. Over time, and in light of the apparition of Mary, the scapular became a sign of trust in Mary as well as commitment to Christ. During the middle ages, groups of lay people began to become affiliated with the monastic orders. The orders in turn wanted to give these lay people an outward sign of that affiliation. For the Carmelites, a smaller version of the scapular was developed and worn.
There is much misunderstanding that surrounds the scapular, both in and out of Catholic circles. Some view it as superstitious. Others see it as a good luck charm — if I wear my scapular, I am guaranteed salvation regardless of how I live my life. This is not the case at all. Ewtn.com emphasizes that the scapular “must not be understood superstitiously or magically, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in faith, hope and love are required for salvation. The scapular is a powerful reminder of this Christian obligation and of Mary’s promise to help those consecrated to her obtain the grace of final perseverance.”
According to Carmelnet.org, the scapular represents the following spiritual meanings:
- It stands for a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model of all the disciples of Christ. This commitment finds its origin in baptism by which we become children of God.
- It leads us into the community of Carmel, a community of religious men and women, which has existed in the Church for over eight centuries.
- It reminds us of the example of the saints of Carmel, with whom we establish a close bond as brothers and sisters to one another.
- It is an expression of our belief that we will meet God in eternal life, aided by the intercession and prayers of Mary.
Investment with the scapular requires a priest or deacon to place a blessed scapular over a person’s head while reciting a prayer to Mary such as the Hail Mary, Hail Holy Queen, or Memorare. Investment must be done with a cloth scapular, although after that time, the wearer may choose to wear a blessed metal scapular instead.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
O Most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein You are my Mother.
O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech You from the bottom of my heart to succor me in this necessity. There are none that can withstand Your power.
O show me herein You are my Mother. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee. (repeat 3 times)
Sweet Mother, I place this cause in Your hands. (repeat 3 times)