Recently we celebrated a very special feast (and one of my personal favorites), that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. You may be asking, "Who is Our Lady of Mount Carmel? And what makes her different from all the other apparitions of Our Blessed Mother?"
Well, Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the patron of the Carmelite Order. Members of this religious family can be distinguished by the long brown wool scapular they wear as part of their habit. When Our Lady appeared to St Simon Stock on July 16, 1251. She was dressed in the habit of the Carmelite Order and holding her Infant Son. During this apparition Our Lady took the scapular in her right hand telling St Simon, "Receive, my beloved son, this scapular." Of course after this all of the members of the Carmelite order began wearing this scapular since it had been specifically requested by Our Lady herself.
There are many promises of Our Lady connected with faithfully wearing the brown scapular, most significant of which is, "Whoever dies invested with this Scapular shall be preserved from the eternal flames. It is a sign of salvation, a sure safeguard in danger, a pledge of peace and of my special protection until the end of the ages."
We do hear of Our Lady of Mount Carmel even before she appeared to St. Simon Stock. As early as the 12th Century hermits living on Mount Carmel had a chapel dedicated to her. By the 13th century these brothers became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” Soon they celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. But Our Lady does not limit her care and protection to those who enter the Carmelite order and neither does the church on earth. All the faithful have been encouraged by many Popes including John the XXII, Pius XI, and Benedict XV to wear the scapular. The Brown Scapular is a very simple devotion, all you need to do is be “invested” with it once and then continue to wear it. If one wears out you just buy another one and do not need to be reinvested. When this is done with devotion the wearer benefits from the prayers and good works of the Carmelite order.
The scapular has become one of the most popular Catholic devotions. Even in our day, a smaller form (than those that are worn as part of a religious habit) continues to be given to lay people so that they can share in the great graces associated with this wonderful expression of love for our Blessed Mother.
Our Lady, Queen & Beauty of Carmel, pray for us!