Monday, July 16, 2012

"For you and yours a privilege"

The Brown Scapular

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.   Christian contemplative hermits living upon Mt. Carmel had by the 12th century organized themselves into a religious congregation under the particular protection of the Virgin Mary.  According to tradition, on this date in 1251 AD, St. Simon Stock, a prior general of the Carmelite order, was granted a vision of Our Lady holding a brown scapular and proclaiming 'This is for you and yours a privilege; the one who dies in it will be saved."    

The brown scapular was part of the Carmelite's religious habit, and thus St. Simon's vision was at first interpreted to mean that Our Lady had promised that all those persevering in a Carmelite vocation would be saved.  However, over time, the wearing of a small brown scapular, consisting of two patches of brown wool attached by string, became popular with laypeople, and Mary's promise of salvation was understood to extend also to wearers of this small brown scapular.  Certain small formalities would first need to be observed.   To obtain the benefit of Our Lady's pledge to St. Simon, the wearer of the scapular must be a baptized Catholic, and be invested with the brown scapular according to a short rite which can be performed by any priest.   By virtue of this rite, the wearer of the scapular is deemed to have become "a member of the [Carmelite] order and pledges him/herself to live according to its spirituality in accordance with the characteristics of his/her state in life."

Courtesy of Fr. Kieran Kavanagh, OCD, here is a summary of the Church's official position on the brown 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.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us.

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