Since the ancient hermits that established themselves on Mt. Carmel, the Carmelites have been known for their deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They interpreted the cloud of the vision of Elijah (1 Kings 18:44) as a symbol of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Already in the 13th century, five centuries before the proclamation of the dogma, the Carmelite misal contained a Mass for the Immaculate Conception.
In the words of Benedict XVI on July 15, 2006:
The slopes of Carmel, a high ridge that runs down the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea at the altitude of Galilee, are dotted with numerous natural caves, beloved by hermits. The most famous of these men of God was the great Prophet Elijah, who in the ninth century before Christ strenuously defended the purity of faith in the one true God from contamination by idolatrous cults. Inspired by the figure of Elijah, the contemplative order of Carmelites arose. It is a religious family that counts among its members great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse of the Child Jesus and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in the world: Edith Stein). The Carmelites have spread among the Christian people devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding her up as a model of prayer, contemplation and dedication to God. Indeed, Mary was the first, in a way which can never be equalled, to believe and experience that Jesus, the Incarnate Word, is the summit, the peak of man's encounter with God. By fully accepting the Word, she "was blessedly brought to the holy Mountain" (cf. Opening Prayer of the Memorial), and lives for ever with the Lord in body and soul. Today, I would like to entrust to the Queen of Mount Carmel all contemplative life communities scattered throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order, among which I recall the Monastery of Quart, not far from here, that I have had the opportunity to visit in these days. May Mary help every Christian to find God in the silence of prayer.
The Star of the Sea and the Carmelites
Sailors, before the age of electronics, depended on the stars to mark their course in the immense ocean. From here comes the analagy with the Virgin Mary who, like the star of the sea, guides us through the difficult waters of life toward the safe port that is Christ.
Because of the invasion by the Saracenes, the Carmelites were obliged to abandon Mt. Carmel. One ancient tradition tells us that before leaving, Our Lady appeared to them while they sang the Salve Regina and she promised to be the Star of the Sea for them. They also knew Our Lady by this beautiful name because Mt. Carmel rises like a star above the sea.
The Carmelites and devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel spread through the World
The Immaculate Virgin, Star of the Sea, is the Virgin of Carmel, meaning that from ages ago she has been venerated on Carmel. She accompanied the Carmelites to the measure that the order was propagated through the world. The Carmelites are known for their devotion to the Mother of God, since in her they see the fulfillment of Elijah's ideal. They are even called the "brothers of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel." In their religious profession, they are consecrated to GOd and to Mary, and they take the habit in her honor, as a remembrance that their lives belong to her, and through her, to Christ.
The devotion to Our Lady of Carmel was propagated especially in the places were the Carmelites were established.
Among the places in which Our Lady of Spain is venerated in as patron is Beniaján, Murcia. More images are seen there.
America: She is the patroness of Chile; in Ecuador she is the queen of the region of Cuenca and of Azuay, receiving the pontifical coronation on July 16, 2002. In the CHurch of the monastery of the Assumption in Cuenca she has been venerated for more than 300 years. She is venerated by many across the continent.
The Carmelite Scapular
"Devotion to the Carmel Scapular has brought a copious descent of rain of spiritual and temporal graces to the whole world” (Pius XII, 1950).
What is the Carmelite Scapular?
The Scapular is a Sacramental
A sacramental is a religious object that the church has been approved as a sign that aids us to live in holiness and increases our devotion. Sacramentals should move our hearts to renounce all sin, including venial sin.
The scapular, being a sacramental, does not communicate grace to us as do the sacraments, but does aid in making us more receptive to God’s love and a sincere contrition of our sins if we receive it with devotion.
As human beings we communicate through symbols. Just like we have flags, emblems, and also uniforms which identify us, religious communities wear their habit as a sign of consecration to God.
The lay faithful cannot wear a habit, but those who wish to associate themselves to the religious in their search for holiness can wear a scapular. The Virgin gave to the Carmelites the scapular as a miniature habit that all the faithful can wear as a symbol of their consecration to her. It consists of a cord that is worn around the neck, with two small pieces of brown cloth, one worn over the chest and the other on the back. (See picture above). It is worn under one’s clothing. Along with the rosary and the miraculous medal, the scapular is one of the most important Marian sacramentals.
St. Alfonsus Ligouri, doctor of the Church says “As men take pride in having others wear their livery, so the most holy Mary is pleased when her servants wear her scapular, as a mark that they have dedicated themselves to her service, and are of the number of the family of the Mother of God.”
What is the origin of the scapular?
The word scapular comes from the Latin "scapulae" that means “shoulders”. Originally it was a piece of clothing like an apron that would fall at the shoulders and the monks would wear during their work. With time, it was given the significance of the daily cross that as disciples of Christ we carry on our shoulders. Particularly for the Carmelites, it came to express their special dedication to the Blessed Virgin and their desire to imitate her life of complete dedication to Christ and others.
The Blessed Virgin Mary gives the scapular on July 16, 1251
In the year 1246 St. Simon Stock was named general of the Carmelite order. He understood that without intervention from the Virgin, the order had little time remaining. Simon recurred to Mary, placing the order under her care, since they all belonged to her. In his prayer he called her “Flower of Carmel” and “Star of the Sea” and he begged her protection for the whole community.
In response to this fervent prayer, on July 16, 1251 the Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the scapular for the order with this promise:
"This must be a sign and privilege for you and for all Carmelites: whoever dies wearing the scapular will not suffer eternal fire.”
Although the scapular was given to the Carmelites, with time many lay people began to feel called to live a life more committed with the Carmelite Spirituality and that is how the association of the scapular began, and many laity were added through their devotion to the Virgin and the use of the scapular. The church has extended the privilege of the scapular to all laity.
The blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Pope John XXII in the XIV century and promised that those who would comply with the requirements to this devotion “as Mother of Mercy with my pleadings, prayers, merits, and special protection, I will aid, so that free as soon as possible from their sufferings in purgatory, (…) those souls will be taken to heaven.”
Explanation of the promise:
Many Popes, saints, and catholic theologians have explained that according to this promise, whoever has the devotion to the scapular and wears it, will receive from the Blessed Virgin Mary at the hour of their death, the grace of persevering in the state of grace (without mortal sin) or the grace of contrition (repentance). For the one who has this devotion the scapular is a symbol of their compromise to live a Christian life following the example of the Blessed Virgin.
The Scapular has 3 meanings:
1) The love and maternal protection of Mary: The symbol is a small piece of cloth or cloak. We see how Mary when Jesus is born wraps Him up in a cloak. A Mother always tries to shelter her children. To wrap us up in her mantle is a very maternal sign of protection and care. A sign the she wraps us up in her maternal love. She makes us hers. She covers us from the disgrace of our spiritual nakedness.
We see in the Bible:
-God clothes Adam and Eve after they have sinned. (Cloak-sign of forgiveness)
-Jonathan gives his cloak to David: sign of friendship
- Elijah and gave his cloak to Elisha and gave him his spirit at his departure.
-Saint Paul: “For all of you, who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3: 27) - to clothe ourselves with the cloak of His virtues.
2) Belonging to Mary: We take with us a sign that distinguishes us as her chosen children. The scapular becomes a symbol of our consecration to Mary.
Consecration: “to belong to Mary” is to recognize her maternal mission over us and to allow ourselves to be guided, taught, and molded, by her and in her heart. This way we can be used by her for the growth of the kingdom of her Son.
-In 1950 Pope Pius XII wrote about the scapular: “that it may be your symbol of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which we particularly need in these dangerous times.”
In the words of the Pope we see that devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is devotion to the Immaculate.
Whoever wears a scapular must be conscientious of their consecration to God and to the Virgin and be coherent in their thoughts, words, and deeds.
3) The gentle yoke of Christ: " Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.” (Mt 11:29-30).
-the scapular symbolizes the yoke that Jesus invites us to carry but Mary helps us to take.
Whoever wears the scapular must identify themselves as Catholic without fear of the rejections and difficulties this might bring them.
You must live the meaning
The scapular is a symbol of our identity as Catholics, bound intimately to Mary with the purpose of fully living our baptism. It represents our decision to follow Jesus through Mary in the spirit of a religious but adapted properly to our vocation. This requires that we must be poor (a simple lifestyle without material attachments), chaste, and obedient for love of God.
In wearing the scapular we are constantly making a silent petition of continual assistance from our Blessed Mother. The Virgin teaches and intercedes so that we can receive the grace to live as her, with open hearts to our Lord, listening to His word, praying, discovering God in our daily lives and in the necessities of our brothers. The scapular is also a reminder that our goal is heaven and that all in this world is passing.
In moments of temptation, we take the scapular in our hands and invoke the help of our Mother, determined to be faithful to the Lord. She guides us to the Sacred Heart of her Divine Son and the devil is forced to back away, defeated.
Investiture in the Scapular:
-It is done preferably in community.
-It is necessary that in the celebration the spiritual sentiment of the graces united to the scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel are well expressed and the commitment assumed with this sign of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
-The first scapular must be blessed by a priest and must be put on while reciting this prayer:
"Receive this blessed scapular and ask the Blessed Virgin that through her merits, you can wear it without any stain of sin and that she may protect you from all evil and take you to life eternal
Can a non-Catholic receive or wear a scapular?
Yes. The scapular is a sign of the spiritual maternity of Mary and we must remember that she is the Mother of all. Many miracles of conversion have been realized in favor of good non-Catholics that have resolved to practice the devotion of the scapular.
Testimonies of Conversions
An elderly person was taken to St. Simon Stock Hospital in New York City, unconscious and dying. When seeing the patient with the Carmelite scapular, the nurse called a priest. As he prayed the prayers for the dying, he recovered consciousness and said” “Father, I am not Catholic”. “Then why are you wearing a Carmelite Scapular?” asked the priest. "I have promised my friends to use it” explained the patient. “I also pray a Hail Mary daily”. “You are dying” replied the priest. “Would you like to become Catholic?” “I have desired that my whole life” answered the elderly man. He was baptized and received the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick before dying in peace.
The Scapular Medal
The scapular medal has on one side the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on the reverse the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1910, Pope Pius X declared that a person validly investured with their cloth scapular could wear the scapular medal in its place, provided that they have legitimate reasons to substitute their cloth scapular for the medal scapular. This petition was made by the missionaries of tropical countries, where the cloth scapulars quickly deteriorate. However, Pope Pius X and his successor, Pope Benedict XV, expressed their profound desire that all people would continue to wear the cloth scapular when possible, and that they would not substitute the cloth scapular for the scapular medal unless there were sufficient motives. Vanity or fear of professing one’s faith in public cannot be reasons that satisfy our Lady. Persons with these reasons run the risk of not receiving the promises of the Carmelite scapular. (taken from the pamphlet "Give much importance to your scapular" from the World Apostolate of Fatima, Washington, NJ 07882-0976 USA).
Once the scapular is blessed, the devotee does not need to ask the blessing of future scapulars.
Worn out scapulars, if they have been blessed should not be thrown out in the trash. They can be burned or buried as a sign of respect.
Alert against abuses:
The scapular does NOT save of itself as if it were magic or good luck charm; it is not an excuse to avoid the demands of the Christian life. Msgr. Kilian Lynch, former general of the Carmelite order tells us: "Let us not come to the conclusion that the scapular is gifted with supernatural powers that will save us despite what we do or how much we sin… a sinful and perverse will can destroy the “omnipotent supplication” of the Mother of Mercy.”
The Popes and the Saints have many times warned against not abusing the promise of our Mother as if we could be saved wearing the scapular without a conversion. Pope Pius XI warns us: “Even though it is true that the Virgin Mary loves in a special way those who are devoted to her, those who desire to have her as help at the hour of their death, must in life gain that privilege by spending their lives rejecting sin and living to honor her.”
To live in sin and wear the scapular as an anchor of salvation is to commit the sin of presumption. Faith and fidelity to the commandments are necessary for all those that seek the love and protection of our Lady.
Saint Claude La Colombiere warns: “What if I want to die with my sins?” I respond, then you will die in sin, but you will not die with your scapular.”
The privilege of Saturday:
This privilege is a promise that the Virgin made and it consists of the freeing of purgatory on the first Saturday (day which the Church has dedicated to the Virgin) after death through the special intercession of the Virgin.
It originated through a papal bull proclaimed by Pope John XXII on March 3, 1322 as a result of an apparition that he had of the Blessed Virgin in which she promised that those who comply with the requirements of this devotion “as Mother of Mercy, with my pleadings, prayers, merits, and special protection, I will aid, so that free as soon as possible from their sufferings of purgatory), (…) those souls will be taken to heaven.”
Conditions so that this privilege may apply
- Wear the scapular with fidelity.
- Observe chastity according the one’s state of life.
- Pray the Liturgy of the Hours of the Virgin ((prayers and readings in honor of the Virgin) or pray daily 5 decades of the rosary.
Pope Paul V confirmed in an official proclamation that all of the faithful could be instructed in the “Saturday Privilege”.
The Scapular and the Virgin of Fatima:
It is evident that the Virgin Mary wants to reveal the scapular to us in a special way. Lucia (a visionary from Fatima, Sister Mary of the Immaculate Heart) reports that in the last apparition (October, 1917, day of the miracle of the sun), the Virgin appeared dressed in the Carmelite habit and with a scapular in her hand; she wanted to remind us, that her true children would wear it with reverence. She also asked that those who are consecrated to her would wear it as a symbol of this consecration.
The Popes and the Saints Speak:
Blessed Pope Gregory X was buried with his scapular only 25 years after the vision of the scapular. Six hundred years later when they opened his tomb, his scapular was intact.
Pope Pius XII spoke frequently of the scapular. In 1951, 700th anniversary of the apparition of our Lady to St. Simon Stock, the Pope before a numerous audience in Rome exhorted them to wear the scapular as a “Sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary” (just like our Lady of Fatima had asked). The scapular also represents the gentle yoke of Jesus that Mary helps us to overcome. And finally, the Pope continued, the scapular marks us as chosen children of Mary and it becomes for us (as the Germans call it) a “Garment of Grace”
The same day that Saint Simon Stock received the scapular and promise from Mary, he was called to assist a dying person who was in despair. When he arrived he put the scapular over the man, asking the Virgin Mary to keep her promise that she had just made. Immediately the man repented, received confession, and died in in the grace of God.
Saint Alfonsus Ligouri and Saint John Bosco had a special devotion to the Virgin of Carmel and they both wore the scapular. When St. Alfonsus Ligouri died he was buried in his priestly vestments and with his scapular. Many years later when they opened his tomb they discovered that his body and all the vestments had turned to dust, however the scapular was intact. St. Afonosus’ scapular is in exhibition at his monastery in Rome.
St. Alfonsus Ligouri tells us: “Modern heretics make fun of the use of the scapular. They discredit it as insignificant, vain, and absurd.”
St. Peter Claver, made himself slave of slaves for love. Each month there would arrive to Cartagena, Colombia a ship with slaves. Saint Peter would work for the salvation of each one of them. He would organize catechists; he would prepare them for Baptism and would invest them in the scapular. Some clergy accused him of indiscreet zeal. However he continued his mission, there were more than 300,000 converts.
St. Claude of Colombiere (St. Margaret Mary’s Spiritual Director)
« I wanted to know if in reality Mary was interested in me, and in the scapular she has given me the most evident security. I just need to open my eyes, She has given her security to this scapular: ‘Whoever shall die clothed in it will not suffer eternal fire`. »
He also said “Due to the fact that all the ways of loving the Blessed Virgin and the diverse ways of expressing that love cannot be equally pleasing to her and in effect do not help us to reach heaven in the same degree, I say it without hesitating a moment, the Carmelite Scapular is her favorite!” and he adds “No other devotion has been confirmed with greater number of authentic miracles than the Carmelite Scapular.”
"A priest from Chicago was called to help a dying man who had been away from the faith and the sacraments for many years. The dying man did not want to receive him, or talk to him. But the priest insisted and showed him the scapular that he was bringing to give to him. He asked him if he would at least allow him to put it on for him. The man accepted, as long as the priest would then leave him alone. An hour later the dying man asked for the priest to be called again because he desired to receive confession and die in grace and friendship with God.”
The devil hates the scapular. One day Venerable Francisco Yepes dropped his scapular. While he was putting it back on, the devil howled: “Take off that habit that steals so many souls from us!”
A Carmelite missionary from the Holy Land was called to administer Anointing of the Sick in 1944. He noticed that as he walked, he was sinking more and more in the mud, then trying to find solid land he slipped into a well of mud and was slowly sinking towards death. Then he thought of the Virgin and kissed his habit which was the scapular. Then he looked towards Mount Carmel screaming: “Most Holy Mother of Carmel! Help me! Save me!” A moment later he found himself on solid ground. He later attested: “I know that I was saved by the Blessed Virgin through means of her Carmelite scapular. My shoes disappeared in the mud and I was covered in it, but I walked the two miles left, praising Mary.
Saved from the Sea
In the summer of 1845 the English ship, “King of the Ocean” found itself in the middle of a furious hurricane. The waves were beating against it without mercy and it seemed like the end was near. A protestant minister whose name was Fisher accompanied by his wife and children and other passengers went to the deck to beg for mercy and forgiveness. Among the passengers was the Irish John McAuliffe. On seeing the severity of the situation, the young man unbuttoned his shirt, took out his scapular, and made with it, over the furious waves, the Sign of the Cross, and then he threw the scapular into the ocean. In that precise moment the wind was calmed. Only one more wave hit the deck, bringing with it the scapular which landed at the feet of the young man.
During the events the minister had been observing all of McAuliffe’s actions and was witness to the miracle. Upon interrogating the young man and being informed about the Blessed Virgin and the scapular, Mr. Fisher and his family resolved to enter the Catholic Church as soon as possible and so enjoy the great protection of the scapular of our Lady.
A Home Saved From the Fire
On May 1957, a Carmelite priest in Germany published an extraordinary story of how the scapular had saved a home from a fire. A whole row of homes were on fire in Westboden, Germany. The pious residents of a two family home, upon seeing the fire, immediately hanged a scapular at the front door. Sparks flew above and around it, but the house remained intact. In 5 hours 22 homes had been reduced to ashes. The only construction that was remaining intact, in the middle of that destruction, was the one that had the scapular attached to the door. The hundreds of people that came to see the place our Lady had saved are witnesses to the power of the Scapular of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Scapular Increases Fervor
On October of 1952, an official of the armed forces in Texas wrote the following: Six months after beginning to wear the scapular, I experienced a noticeable change in my life. Almost immediately I started to attend Mass daily. I lived lent with such fervor, more than ever before. I was initiated in the practice of meditation and I found myself making weak attempts in the way of perfection. I have been trying to live with God and I credit this to the scapular of Mary.
Let us remember that the scapular is a powerful sign of the love and maternal protection of Mary and of her call to us to live a life without sin and to holiness.
Wearing the scapular is a response of love to the Mother who came to give us the gift of Mercy. We need to wear it as a reminder that we belong to her, that we desire to imitate her and to live in grace under her mantle.
PRAYERS TO OUR LADY OF MT. CARMEL
Supplications in difficult times
In my thousands of difficulties:
From the enemies of my soul:
In my errors:
In my doubts and hardships:
In my sicknesses:
When I am rejected:
In my temptations:
In the most difficult hours:
With you maternal heart:
With your great power:
And when I expire:
in your arms, receive me.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pray for us.
Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
Oh Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of sinners, special protector of those who wear your sacred scapular, His Divine Majesty exalted you, choosing you as His Mother, I beg you to obtain for me from your beloved Son, the forgiveness of my sins, the grace to amend my life, the salvation of my soul, the remedy to my needs, consolation in my afflictions and the special grace that I ask for in this novena, if it is for His greater honor and glory and good for my soul; my Lady, to obtain it I rely on your powerful intercession. I desire to have the spirit of the angels, saints, and righteous ones in order to praise you worthily and uniting my voice with their affections, I greet you now and forever saying: Three Hail Mary’s.
Blessed Virgin of Mt. Carmel, I desire that all, without exceptions would take refuge in the protective shadow of your Holy Scapular and that all would be united to you my Mother.
Oh Beauty of Carmel! Look at us kneeling reverently before your holy image and grant us your loving protection. I commend to you the needs of our Holy Father the Pope, of the Catholic Church our Mother, and the needs of my nation and all nations in the world, my own needs and that of all my relatives and friends. Look with eyes of mercy on so many poor sinners, heretics and schematics, how they offend your Divine Son and so many unfaithful how they moan in the darkness of paganism. That all may convert and love you, my Mother, as I desire to love you, now and for all eternity. Amen.
Some of the testimonies are from "Stories of the Brown Scapular" by Fr. Howard Rafferty, O. Carm., published by Aylesford, Darien, Illinois, 60559 USA
History of the Apparition
Information on the Scapular
Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel