Brown Scapular: A Sign of Love for Mary
The Mother Church celebrates the feast of Our lady of Mount Carmel on 16 July every year. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the patroness of the Carmelite Order. For the Carmelites, this feast is of great importance. The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was instituted in thankfulness to Mother Mary around the year 1386. She had bestowed many favours and blessings on the Carmelites, whom she had helped survive through many storms. The Carmelites had been greatly threatened during an ecumenical council held in 1274. Some of the Council Fathers wanted to suppress the Order of Our Lady because there were already too many religious orders, and there was no need for so many. The Carmelites were fortunately not suppressed, but were asked to give some reasons for their existence. This feast was gradually adopted throughout the Order as an occasion of thanksgiving for the countless blessings which our Lady had bestowed on the Carmelite family. This is the day of thanksgiving rather than mere external celebrations.
The devotion attached to this feast is the devotion to the Brown Scapular. When we speak of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we cannot leave out the Scapular. However, it should not be used as a magical charm. It has a rich biblical meaning attached to clothing. In Baptism we are given a new white robe to symbolize the new life we are beginning in Christ. To be clothed with the Scapular would imply our desire and endeavour to practice the virtues and so adorn ourselves (like a bride) with the virtues of Mary.
It was in England in the thirteenth century that one Carmelite, St. Simon Stock, is said to have received the Brown Scapular from Our Lady. The wearing of the Brown Scapular has become popular among the Catholic faithful.
According to Fr. Kavanaugh, who translated the works of Carmelite saints, the Church’s official position regarding the Brown Scapular is that it is a garment that we wear as both a sign of our belonging to Mary and pledge of her maternal protection in this life and the next. It is also a sign of three entwined elements: a) belonging to the Carmelite ‘family, b) consecration to and trust in Mary, and c) an incentive to imitate Our Lady’s virtues, especially her humility, chastity, and prayerfulness. The Church has made no official pronouncements regarding St. Simon Stock’s vision, or any other particular rules and rewards attached to wearing the Scapular.
We wear this scapular as a sign of devotion to Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is a sign approved by the Church and accepted by the Carmelite Order as an external sign of love for Mary, of the trust her children have in her, and of commitment to live like her.
We have many popular devotions in the church. There is nothing wrong in having devotions to any saints or Mother Mary. We need to understand the real meaning of these devotions. Every devotion should lead us to Jesus. The devotion which we have should help us to imbibe the virtues of the saint and thus help us to strengthen our relationship with Jesus.
by John Malvino Alfonso OCD