Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
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"Our Lady of Mount Carmel" is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order and the Discalced Carmelite Order, and the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (also known as the Brown Scapular), is the habit of the two Orders. In its small form, it is widely popular within the Catholic Church as a religious article and has probably served as the prototype of all the other devotional scapulars. The liturgical feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, is popularly associated with the devotion of the Scapular.
According to the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship, the Brown Scapular is "an external sign of the filial relationship established between the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Mount Carmel, and the faithful who entrust themselves totally to her protection, who have recourse to her maternal intercession, who are mindful of the primacy of the spiritual life and the need for prayer."
Origin and history of the devotion
In its origin as a practical garment, a scapular was a type of work apron, frequently used by monks, consisting of large pieces of cloth front and back joined over the shoulders with strips of cloth. It forms part of the habit of some religious orders including the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, the Carmelites. The first Carmelite hermits who lived on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land in the 12th century are thought to have worn a belted tunic and striped mantle typical of pilgrims; when the Carmelites moved to Europe in the mid 13th century and became a mendicant order of friars they adopted a new habit that included a brown belted tunic, brown scapular, a hood called a capuche, and white mantle.
According to traditional accounts, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Cambridge to St. Simon Stock, who was Prior General of the Carmelite Order in the middle of the 13th century. The earliest reference to this tradition, dating from the late 14th century, states that "St. Simon was an Englishman, a man of great holiness and devotion, who always in his prayers asked the Virgin to favor his Order with some singular privilege. The Virgin appeared to him holding the Scapular in her hand saying, 'This is for you and yours a privilege; the one who dies in it will be saved.'"
In the Middle Ages, a habit was a very essential part of the identity of members of religious orders. To remove one's habit was tantamount to leaving the Order. The Carmelite Constitution of 1369 stipulates automatic excommunication for Carmelites who say Mass without a scapular, while the Constitutions of 1324 and 1294 consider it a serious fault to sleep without the scapular.
According to Hugh Clarke, O.Carm, "The origins of the Scapular devotion are to be found in the desires of lay people during the Middle ages to be closely associated with the Carmelite Order and its spirituality." It was customary for laypeople who belonged to confraternities, sodalities, or third orders affiliated with the religious orders to wear some sign of membership, frequently some part derived from the religious habit such as a cord, cloak or scapular. During part of their history, the lay affiliates of the Carmelites wore the white mantle which the friars wore, or even the full habit. The small brown scapular and Mary's promise of salvation for the wearer, began to be promoted to the laity in the form we are familiar with today by Giovanni Battista Rossi, prior general of the Carmelites from 1564-1578.
The Carmelite scapular is said to have been very widespread in European countries at the end of the 16th century. In 1600, the Carmelite Egidio Leoindelicato da Sciacca published a book called "Giardino Carmelitano" which includes the formulas of blessing for the Fratelli and Sorelle della Compagnia della Madonna del Carmine (laypeople who received the complete habit of the order) and the formula for the blessing of the scapular for the Devoti della Compagnia Carmelitana. This is the earliest apparent form of blessing for the small scapular. It is also noteworthy that the formula for the sisters contains no reference to the scapular, while in that for the brothers there is a special blessing for the scapular.
With modern scholarship shedding light on the first centuries of the Carmelite Order, great difficulty has arisen for the historicity of Our Lady's scapular vision to St. Simon Stock. The first mention of the vision appears in the late 14th century, almost 150 years after the date in 1251 when it is sometimes stated to have occurred, and is not noted in the earliest accounts of St. Simon Stock's life and miracles. The history of the Carmelite habit and legislation and discussion relating to it within the Order during that time span, do not mention nor seem to imply a tradition about the Blessed Virgin giving the Scapular to the Carmelites, nor do the notable Carmelite writers of the 14th century, such as John Baconthorpe, mention the scapular. History even records an instance in 1375 when an English Carmelite named Nicholas Hornby engaged in a public debate with a Dominican friar in which Hornby ridiculed Dominican claims to have received their habit from the Blessed Virgin—this was a claim common to several different orders in the Middle Ages. Hornby showed no sign of being aware of any similar claim that had been made by a fellow English Carmelite in the preceding century.
Amidst confusing evidence, it has been suggested that some other Carmelite than Saint Simon Stock had a mystical vision, the story of which was later associated with him. A Dominican history compiled by Gerard of Frachet in 1259-1260 tells of the 1237 drowning death of a holy Dominican, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, off the coast of Acre, Israel (near Mount Carmel), and mentions "a certain brother of the Order of Carmel" who was tempted to abandon his vocation because God had permitted this to happen to so holy a man; Bl. Jordan was said to have appeared then to the brother in a vision, reassuring him that "all who serve the Lord Jesus Christ to the end will be saved." Gerard concludes: "the brother himself, and the prior of the same Order, brother Simon, a religious and truthful man, have related these things to our friars." This story which bears a notable similarity to the traditional story of the scapular vision and promise of salvation, with obvious differences, is one of very few known references.
Promises of the Scapular
The earliest form of the Scapular promise states simply that wearers of the brown scapular, the Carmelite habit, will be saved. Originally, this referred to Carmelite religious who remained faithful to their vocation. Later the small Brown Scapular became popular with the laity as a sacramental.
The nature of the spiritual help associated with the Brown Scapular came to be described in greater detail and specificity. A traditional formulation of the Scapular Promise is "Take this Scapular. Whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and pledge of peace."
At times the scapular has been preached as an easy way to heaven, which has led to criticism of the devotion. Devotees of the Brown Scapular have sometimes been accused of straying into superstition. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that sacramentals such as the Brown Scapular "do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it."
Believers in the traditional scapular promise sometimes argue that Mary's intercession either grants conversion, final perseverance, and/or last rites to the wearer, to secure the assurances of the Scapular Promise. Another argument is that in cases of stubborn unrepentant sinners the scapular will somehow, miraculously or not, be taken off the wearer, this was suggested by Saint Claude de la Colombière.
Beliefs associated with the Scapular
A central belief about the Brown Scapular is its signification of the wearer's consecration to Mary. In 1951, Pope Pius XII wrote in an Apostolic letter to the Carmelites on the 700th anniversary of the vision of St. Simon Stock, that he hoped the Scapular would "be to them a sign of their consecration to the most sacred heart of the Immaculate Virgin."
One of the beliefs most influential in popularizing the brown scapular devotion was a promise known as the Sabbatine privilege. It was associated with an apocryphal Papal Bull allegedly written in 1322 by Pope John XXII. It states that Pope John XXII had a vision of Our Lady granting that through her special intercession, Mary will come down to personally deliver the souls of Carmelites and Confraternity members out of Purgatory on the first Saturday after their death ("Sabbatine" means Saturday), as long as they fulfill certain conditions including wearing the brown scapular. The Vatican has denied the validity of this document since 1613, but didn't forbid the Carmelites "to preach that the Christian people may piously believe in the help which the souls of brothers and members, who have departed this life in charity, have worn in life the scapular, have ever observed chastity, have recited the Little Hours [of the Blessed Virgin], or, if they cannot read, have observed the fast days of the Church, and have abstained from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (except when Christmas falls on such days), may derive after death — especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin — through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection." These elements are reflected in older versions of the requirements of enrollment in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular.
Today, the Carmelite Orders, while encouraging a belief in Mary's aid and prayerful assistance for their souls beyond death and commending devotion to Mary especially on Saturdays which are dedicated to her, explicitly state in their official catechetical materials that they do not promulgate the Sabbatine privilege, and are at one with official Church teaching on the matter.
The scapular must consist of two pieces of brown cloth with one segment hanging on the wearer's chest, and the other hanging on his/her back. These pieces are joined by two straps or strings which overlap each shoulder—hence the word "scapular" (shoulder blade). Images sewn onto the Brown Scapular are unnecessary. In the past the scapular was required to be 100% wool but this is no longer required; the habits of the Carmelite religious are also now typically made of other, less expensive and more durable materials. It is normally worn under the clothes but not pinned to undergarments.
Because wool deteriorates rapidly in tropical climates, since 1910 those properly invested into a confraternity may wear a properly blessed scapular medal with the depiction of Jesus with his Sacred Heart on one side and Mary on the obverse. However, Pope Saint Pius X expressed his preference for the cloth scapular. Pope Benedict XV has also proclaimed the Church's strong preference for cloth to be worn rather than the medal. This preference is because cloth is important to the sign value of the scapular as a garment, a habit.
Enrollment in the Brown Scapular
Any Catholic priest may invest a baptised Catholic with the Brown Scapular. Lay people are unable to bless a Scapular. There is a form of the blessing and investiture in the Book of Blessings which will normally be found in any Catholic parish. The most recent Rite for the Blessing of and Enrollment in the Scapular, approved in 1996 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is available in booklet form, the "Catechesis and Ritual for the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel", published in 2000 and distributed by ICS Publications.
The short form of the investiture is as follows:
- Receive this Scapular, a sign of your special relationship with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, whom you pledge to imitate. May it be a reminder to you of your dignity as a Christian, in serving others and imitating Mary.
- Wear it as a sign of her protection and of belonging to the Family of Carmel, voluntarily doing the will of God and devoting yourself to building a world true to his plan of community, justice and peace.
According to a 1996 doctrinal statement approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, "Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is bound to the history and spiritual values of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and is expressed through the scapular. Thus, whoever receives the scapular becomes a member of the order and pledges him/herself to live according to its spirituality in accordance with the characteristics of his/her state in life."
Third Order and Confraternity
Like the other mendicant orders such as the Franciscans, the Carmelites formed a "Third Order" for lay people (the "First Order" being the friars, the "Second Order" the nuns), either married or single, who wished to participate deeply in the spirituality and charism of the order, but remain in their secular state of life. Those belonging to the Ancient Observance (O.Carm) branch of the Carmelites are today known as Lay Carmelites, those belonging to the Discalced (OCD) branch of the Carmelites are known as Secular Carmelites, members of both branches belong to communities which meet together regularly for prayer and spiritual formation. The small Brown Scapular is the habit of these Carmelite laity, with a larger ceremonial Scapular normally worn outside the clothes at community meetings and official functions.
There is also a Confraternity of the Brown Scapular. According to the 1996 version of the rite of enrollment, "The scapular confraternity of Carmel is an association of the faithful who strive for the perfection of charity in the world in the spirit of the Carmelite Order, participate in the life of the Order and its spiritual benefits in an intimate communion of thought, ideals, and works together with Mary." In Europe in the past there was often a local Confraternity group which met for fellowship and spiritual formation. Today, at least in North America, those enrolled by a priest into the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular typically have no visible group to belong to, nor is any record kept anymore of people thus enrolled. Some Carmelites such as Fr. Redemptus Valabek, O.Carm, have lamented that there is no longer a central registry of names of people enrolled in the Confraternity, and called for a return to the practice and renewed awareness of the scapular's connection to the Carmelite community and its spirituality.
Teaching of the Catholic Church about the Brown Scapular
Carmelite scholar Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD summarizes the Catholic Church's official position about the Brown Scapular thus:
- With regard to the scapular as a conventional and sacred sign, the Church has intervened at various times in history to clarify its meaning, defend it, and confirm the privileges.
- From these Church documents there emerges with sufficient clarity the nature and meaning of the Carmelite scapular.
- 1. The scapular is a Marian habit or garment. It is both a sign and pledge. A sign of belonging to Mary; a pledge of her motherly protection, not only in this life but after death.
- 2. As a sign, it is a conventional sign signifying three elements strictly joined: first, belonging to a religious family particularly devoted to Mary, especially dear to Mary, the Carmelite Order; second, consecration to Mary, devotion to and trust in her Immaculate Heart; third an incitement to become like Mary by imitating her virtues, above all her humility, chastity, and spirit of prayer.
- This is the Church's officially established connection between the sign and that which is signified by the sign.
- No mention is made of the vision of St. Simon Stock or of that of Pope John XXII in relation to the Sabbatine Privilege, which promises that one will be released from Purgatory on the first Saturday after death.
- Discalced Carmelites
- Our Lady of Mount Carmel
- Saint Simon Stock
- Rosary and scapular
- Lay Carmelites
Notes and references
- Pope Bl. Pius XII declared in 1951 during the 700th anniversary celebrations of the vision of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock "The Scapular is essentially a habit. The person who receives it, by virtue of accepting it, is associated to a greater or lesser degree with the Order of Carmel." (from his Apostolic letter Neminem profecto latet) source: Hugh Clarke, O.Carm Mary and the Brown Scapular; Carmelite Province of Our Lady of the Assumption; Anglo Irish Province of the Discalced Carmelites, 1994. (booklet)
- Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy. Principles and Guidelines. Vatican, 2001.
- Andrew Jotischky; The Carmelites and Antiquity. Mendicants and their Pasts in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
- Louis Saggi, O.Carm; Saint Simon Stock (XIII Century) Saint, Priest Archived June 13, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. - Scholarly historical information
- Eamon R. Carroll, O.Carm; Medieval Devotion to Mary Among the Carmelites
- Most, William. "The Brown Scapular"
- Hugh Clarke, O.Carm Mary and the Brown Scapular; Carmelite Province of Our Lady of the Assumption; Anglo Irish Province of the Discalced Carmelites, 1994. (booklet)
- Bede Edwards, OCDS. Carmel Clarion Volume XXI, pp 17-22. "St. Simon Stock--The Scapular Vision & the Brown Scapular Devotion." July–August 2005, Discalced Carmelite Secular Order, Washington Province.
- "La cronica Carmelitana" by the Carmelite Joseph Falcone; referenced by the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912; Scapular
- Hilgers, Joseph. "Scapular." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 22 Dec. 2014
- Fr. Paul D'Souza, OCD. The Carmelite Scapular: History and Devotion - This article mentions the 17th century forgery, probably by a Carmelite named Fr. John Cheron, of what was purported to be a fragment of a letter by Saint Simon Stock's secretary Peter Swanington (or Swanyngton). This "Swanington" letter was the origin of the July 16, 1251 date for Saint Simon Stock's vision, this date having been chosen presumably because July 16th was (and still is) the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is also the source of some other oft-repeated details, such as the location of the vision at Cambridge, England. There is further information and analysis on the "Swanington" forgery in a July–December, 1904 Irish Ecclesiastical Record article by Herbert Thurston, S.J., "The Origin of the Scapular -- A Criticism.", and the letter itself is extensively quoted at this link
- "A Catechesis on the Brown Scapular"
- The Order of Carmelites website; Simon Stock
- The International Fatima Rosary Crusade website; Heaven's Weapons
- Hugh Clark, O.Carm writes: "Too much stress has been placed on the promises of eternal salvation on an individual basis. At times the scapular has been preached as an easy way to heaven, guaranteed by Mary's promise and intervention which softened the severity of God's judgment. Any attempt to revive the true dimension of the scapular devotion must take account of the reality that, by accepting the scapular, the wearer is associated with the Order of Carmel and pledges himself/herself to strive to live its ideals." source: Hugh Clarke, O.Carm Mary and the Brown Scapular; Carmelite Province of Our Lady of the Assumption; Anglo Irish Province of the Discalced Carmelites, 1994. (booklet)
- Catechism of the Catholic Church; §1670.
- Australian Catholic Truth Society; Garment of Grace. 2005. PDF edition of a booklet of traditional stories about the Brown Scapular.
- Pope Pius XII's 1951 Apostolic letter Neminem profecto latet source: Hugh Clarke, O.Carm Mary and the Brown Scapular; Carmelite Province of Our Lady of the Assumption; Anglo Irish Province of the Discalced Carmelites, 1994. (booklet)
- Hilgers, Joseph. "Sabbatine Privilege." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 23 Dec. 2014
- Website of Sisters of Carmel; Information about the Brown Scapular
- Catechesis and Ritual for the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Prepared under the direction of the North American Provincials of the Carmelite Orders. 2000. Online text of the Catechesis portion of this booklet
- Acta Apost. Sedis, III, 22 sq.
- Catechesis and Ritual for the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Prepared under the direction of the North American Provincials of the Carmelite Orders. 2000. Online text of the Catechesis portion of this booklet online text of the doctrinal portion of this booklet Online text of the Rite for the Blessing of and Enrollment in the Scapular ocarm.org
- joint OCD and OCarm Commission in Rome; The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 1999.
- Doctrinal Statement on the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments, November 29, 1996. Can be found in the publication *Catechesis and Ritual for the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Prepared under the direction of the North American Provincials of the Carmelite Orders. 2000.
- "Religious Orders". Plexus. Anglican Catholic Church.
- Furthermore, the current rules (approved 1996) for starting a canonical local confraternity is given: "The supreme moderator of the Carmelite Order is the competent authority for the canonically established of a confraternity. For churches belonging to the Order, the consent given by he ordinary for the canonical establishment of the religious house is also valid for the canonical establishment of the confraternity. However, for the canonical establishment of the confraternity in other churches or places, the written consent of the ordinary is required.... Members are bound to set aside regularly time to be with God in prayer, frequent participation in the Eucharist, daily recitation of one of the hours of the liturgy or of some psalms or the rosary or other equivalent prayers. If possible, they will meet periodically to build up the sense of fraternity, to study the spirit of Carmel, to care for brothers and sisters in need, all in union with Mary. They may gain plenary indulgences, provided they fulfill the usual conditions, on the day they join the confraternity and on the following feasts: the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel (July 16), St Elijah, prophet (July 20), St Simon Stock (May 16), St Therese of the Child Jesus (October 1), St Teresa of Jesus (October 15), All Carmelite Saints (November 14), and St John of the Cross (December 14)...." Doctrinal Statement on the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments, November 29, 1996. Can be found in the publication *Catechesis and Ritual for the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Prepared under the direction of the North American Provincials of the Carmelite Orders. 2000.
- Cindy Woode, Catholic News Service; The Record, Louisville KY. "Carmelites hope anniversary renews popularity of scapular" April 26, 2001. Archived December 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catechesis and Ritual Prepared under the direction of the North American Provincials of the Carmelite Orders. 2000.
- Pope St. Pius XII declared during the 700th anniversary celebrations of the vision of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock "The Scapular is essentially a habit. The person who receives it, by virtue of accepting it, is associated to a greater or lesser degree with the Order of Carmel." (from his Apostolic letter Neminem profecto latet) source: Hugh Clarke, O.Carm Mary and the Brown Scapular; Carmelite Province of Our Lady of the Assumption; Anglo Irish Province of the Discalced Carmelites, 1994. (booklet)
- In his 2001 "Message to the Carmelite Family" on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock, Pope John Paul II wrote: "This intense Marian life, which is expressed in trusting prayer, enthusiastic praise and diligent imitation, enables us to understand how the most genuine form of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the Scapular, is consecration to her Immaculate Heart." He also stated in the same letter: "I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time!" Message of John Paul II to the Carmelite Family March 25, 2001
- Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, Zenit News Service. Brown Scapular: A Silent Devotion July 16, 2008.
- Miracles of the Brown Scapular An Audiobook on miracles of the brown scapular compiled from numerous sources.
- Brown Scapular "A Silent Devotion" 2008 article via Zenit news service by Fr. Kieran Kavenaugh, OCD discusses devotion to the Brown Scapular, the existence of historical problems, and pastoral practice
- Catechesis and Ritual for the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - Booklet of catechetical information and the current form of the ceremony of enrolment in the Brown Scapular, approved by the North American Provincials of the Carmelite Orders; the catechesis portion can be read online here
- Doctrinal Statement of the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel "Rite of Blessing of and Enrollment in the Scapular of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel" as issued and confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments, November 29, 1996
- Message of John Paul II to the Carmelite Family - At The 750th Anniversary of the Bestowal of the Scapular in 2001
- 750th anniversary of the bestowal of the Scapular, With Mary the Mother of Jesus Scapular Message issued jointly by the OCD and O.Carm Carmelite Priors General
- The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - includes a pre-Vatican II ceremony for blessing and investiture in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular
- The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - A Sign of Christian Faith & Commitment
- Lucia of Fatima's statements about the Brown Scapular - In the private revelations at Fatima, Portugal the Blessed Virgin Mary referred to herself as "Lady of Mount Carmel" and exhorted wearing the Brown Scapular
- The Brown Scapular
- Stories of Mount Carmel History and spirituality of the Brown Scapular devotion by Teresa Polk, including discussion of the historical problems with some of the claims
- University of Dayton - Guide to the Marian devotional scapular collection