What is the origin of the brown scapular?
By the mid-1200s, the monks of Mt. Carmel moved to land in England given to them by Sir Richard the Grey to escape persecution from the Muslims.
In Europe they were ridiculed for calling themselves Brothers of Our Lady, and for wearing a Bedouin style mantle. Some even said there were too many newer religious orders.
In 1247, Fr. Simon Stock became the Prior General of the Carmelites and prayed to Our Lady for special protection on their order in exchange for complete loyalty.
He wrote the Flos Carmeli Prayer, which his monks prayed every day. In response, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon on July 16th, 1251, and gave him a brown scapular, a long garment that rested on the shoulders (or scapula bones), and made this stunning promise:
“Take this as the scapular of your order. This shall be a sign to you and to all Carmelites: whoever dies wearing this shall not suffer eternal fire”.
How did the message of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel become so popular?
Our Lady’s brown scapular spread beyond the Carmelite Friars to the lay faithful associated with the order. As a tangible sign of their devotion, they would cut two small pieces from the monks’ scapular (presumably with permission), attach them with cords, and wear them over their shoulders.
The devotion spread much more broadly after 1322, when Pope John XXII granted the Sabbatine Privilege (with certain prayer conditions) after a vision of Our Lady who promised to deliver from Purgatory on the Saturday after death, all confraternity members found there.
Later popes confirmed both the devotion and the Sabbatine Privilege and formally extended membership in the confraternity to all the lay faithful by virtue of the enrollment prayer.
In the 1500’s, St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross reformed a branch of the Carmelite Order which became known as the Discalced Carmelites (the other being the Calced).
Each branch had a unique crest, which members began to wear on their scapulars to differentiate between the two. The faithful also began sewing various holy images on their small scapulars, making them virtually identical to the ones of today.
Is the promise of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel true?
Countless saints, popes, and exorcists have responded with a resounding “YES”. But how? Remember that St. Simon Stock asked for protection in exchange for complete loyalty to our Blessed Mother.
So, if we do our part by living a life of Grace under the protection of Mary and her mantle (scapular), God will grant us salvation and uphold the promise. The best part is that by wearing the scapular, we receive actual grace, by which God helps us fulfill our end of the deal!
Together with the holy rosary, the brown scapular holds a special place in the devotional life of the Faithful. It is fitting that both were introduced in the 1200’s, have been broadly encouraged throughout the centuries, and affirmed by heaven on October 13th, 1917, in Fatima.
On that day during the miracle of the sun, Mary appeared as Our Lady of the Rosary and handed the children a rosary. She then appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and handed the children a brown scapular.
Lucia of Fatima repeatedly affirmed that Our Lady wants everyone to practice both devotions because they are inseparable.
Under her title of Seat of Wisdom, the Church has long seen references to Our Lady in the books of wisdom. “Take her yoke upon your neck; that your mind may receive her teaching. For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.” Sirach 51:26.
Let us all take the yoke of Our Lady’s scapular upon our shoulders and remain completely loyal to her.
Founder of Scapulars.com