Note : The following text is taken from a french book on the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel published by the Abbey of Saint Joseph de Clairval (France).
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THE STORY OF THE SCAPULAR
OF OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL
The apparition to Saint Simon Stock
The Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Simon Stock, the Prior General of the Carmelite Order. The account of this vision has been passed down to us through numerous documents, the oldest going back to the 14th century. We quote from the text given by the Fioretti de Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel :
Simon, a man of great temperance and devotion to Mary, often prayed to the Virgin, glorious Mother of God, Patron of the Carmelite Order, humbly entreating her to accord a privilege to this Order which bore her name, and he said to her in his prayers every day, with heartfelt devotion : « Flower of Carmel, Fruitful Vine, Splendour of Heaven, Fertile Virgin, One and Only, Sweet Mother, but who has not known man, accord us your favours, Star of the Sea ».
One day, Our Lady appeared to him surrounded by a multitude of angels, holding a scapular in Her hand.
She said to him : « Here is a sign for you and a privilege for all Carmelites : whoever dies wearing this habit shall be saved from eternal fire. » And she handed the scapular to him.
The Diffusion of the Scapular
Long established accounts report that the first miracle of the scapular was the conversion, on his deathbed, of an English nobleman, who had scandalised the region. Saint Simon Stock obtained his conversion by throwing the scapular on the dying man. He saw this miracle as an encouragement to reveal the secret to his brothers and to show them the precious habit he had received from the hand of Mary herself. He died at Bordeaux (where some of his relics can still be found) around 1265, leaving to his Order the message he had received with the well-founded hope that it would eventually spread.
Since 1281, the Constitutions des Carmes : « The scapular will be preserved and kept as before, as the special habit of the Order… ».
The miraculous vision was soon confirmed by Pope Innocent IV and the news of the marvellous gift made by the Mother of God to the Carmelite Order spread rapidly.
All sorts of people flocked from all around, eager to be part of the great favours promised : in fact, the gift of the scapular was made to the whole Church (the Holy Virgin had said : « Whoever dies with the sign of the order… »).
By joining the Scapular Confraternity of Carmel, lay people can also benefit from Her message of salvation.
Saint Louis, King of France received the scapular, which he wore discreetly, and which saved him from death at sea ; he was wearing it when he died.
King Edward II of England, who reigned at the beginning of the 14th century, also received the scapular and obtained from Pope Jean XXII a bull of approbation which evokes the miraculous protection accorded to this prince by Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Afterwards, there were countless saints and personalities who wore the scapular. Naming just the saints :
- Robert Bellarmin,
- Charles Borromée,
- Alphonse de Liguori,
- Jean Bosco,
- Bernadette Soubirous,
and most of the Popes of the last three centuries, in particular John Paul II.
The scapular devotion spread gradually, and somewhat slowly, which rationalist critics have interpreted as proof of the inauthenticity of Saint Simon Stock’s vision. On the contrary, this slowness worked in its favour. Instead of being launched in a blaze of publicity, this devotion spread by itself throughout the whole of Christianity, following, step by step, the miracles which were produced here and there ; miracles which were, at the end of the day, its best recommendation.
Lay people, from king to servant, began to wear, underneath their clothes, these squares of fabric strung over their shoulders, which were the reduced form of the scapular of religious.
The word « scapular » comes from the latin scapulae, which means shoulders. The scapular is a long strip of fabric covering the shoulders, often with a hood attached, coming down to the feet in front and behind, that religious wear over their tunic (or dress). The Scapular of Mount Carmel is a reduction of