The Brown Scapular of
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of
Mount Carmel means Mary as she is honored in the
Carmelite Order. Mary is first seen as patron. The chapel
of the original hermits on Carmel was dedicated to her. By Gods
providence the name of the Order is The Brothers of the
Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. The Order is
dedicated to her, so that it becomes, as it were, her house
in which people receive the gift of divine intimacy.
The Carmelite contemplative
vocation, pondering the law of the Lord (Rule 7),
resembles Marys own vocation for the greater part of her
life; as servant/handmaid of the Lord, she becomes the model
of true discipleship, of the service of Jesus Christ which lies
at the heart of the Rule. These points are of inspiration not
only for professed members of the Carmelite Order but for all
who are touched by Carmelite devotion to Mary through wearing
the Brown Scapular.
One way in which
Mary is honored in the Carmelite family is through the Brown
Scapular. The Scapular is a symbol of Marys protection.
A garment as a symbol is found elsewhere in the Christian tradition,
most notably in the Eastern icon tradition Madonna of
the Mantle. Along with the understanding of Marys
protection, the Scapular (itself a symbol of the Carmelite habit)
includes the idea of consecration to Mary. Consecration is most
properly an act done by God, so that when we say we consecrate
ourselves to God and to Mary, we are principally stating that
we freely want Gods will, the Lordship of Jesus, to be
manifest in our lives. The wearing of the Scapular is a sign
that we want the values lived out by Mary to be evident in our
actions and dispositions.
that in 1251, Our Lady appeared to the Prior General of the
Carmelite Order, St. Simon Stock at Aylesford, England. In this
apparition, Our Lady gave him what we call the brown Scapular,
a garment that has become the symbol of the bond between Our
Lady and the Order of Carmel. The Carmelites have always been
her devoted servants. However, whether or not this apparition
actually took place is something we shall never know. But Our
Lady did not give the Scapular just to the Carmelites. She gave
it to the whole world so that all her sons and daughters could
wear an outward sign of her love for them. As a cloak
of grace and love, the Scapular represents the protection and
security we find in our heavenly mothers love. Our Lady
has given us her Scapular to wear; a garment of special concern,
a sign of belonging. Her Scapular is a mantle of grace and love.
The Carmelite Scapular
is not a magical charm to protect you, or an automatic guarantee
of salvation or an excuse for not living up to the demands of
the Christian life. The Scapular holds us to live as authentic
Christians in line with the teaching of the Gospel, to receive
the sacraments, to profess our special devotion to the Blessed
Virgin, which should be expressed each day, at least by saying
the Hail Mary three times.
- A Sign of Christian Faith and Commitment
Signs in Ordinary
The world in which
we live is full of material things which have symbolic meaning:
light, fire, water..... There are also, in every day life, experiences
of relationships between human beings, which express and symbolize
deeper meanings such as sharing a meal (as a sign of friendship),
taking part in a protest march (as a sign of solidarity), joining
together in a national celebration (as a sign of our identity).
We need signs and symbols to help us understand what is happening
at present, or what happened before, and to give us an awareness
of who we are, as individuals and as groups.
Signs in Christian
Jesus is the great
sign and gift of the Father's love. He founded the Church as
a sign and instrument of His love. Christian life also has its
signs. Jesus used bread, wine and water to help us understand
higher things which we can neither see nor touch. In the celebration
of the Eucharist and the other sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation,
Reconciliation, Matrimony, Orders, the Sacrament of the Sick)
the symbols (water, oil, the laying on of hands, the rings),
all have their own meaning and bring us into communication with
God, present in each of them. As well as liturgical signs, the
Church has others related to some event, to some tradition,
or some person. One of these is The Brown Scapular of Our Lady
of Mount Carmel.
is a Sign of Mary
One of the signs
in the tradition of the Church from many centuries ago is the
Brown Scapular 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. The word "scapular"
indicates a form of clothing which monks wore when they were
working. With the passage of time, people began to give symbolic
meaning to it, the cross to be borne every day as disciples
and followers of Christ. In some religious Orders, such as the
Carmelites, the Scapular turned into a sign of their way of
life. The Scapular came to symbolize the special dedication
of Carmelites to Mary, the Mother of God, and to express trust
in her motherly protection, as well as the desire to be like
her in her commitment to Christ and to others. Thus, it became
a sign of Mary.
Meaning of the Scapular
The Scapular finds
its roots in the tradition of the Order, which has seen in it
a sign of Mary's motherly protection. It has, therefore, a centuries'
old spiritual meaning approved by the Catholic Church.
It stands for a commitment
to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model of all the disciples
of Christ. This commitment finds its origin in baptism by which
we become children of God.
The Blessed Virgin
to be open
to God, and to His will, shown to us in the events of our
to listen to
the Word of God in the Bible and in life, to believe in
it and to put into practice its demands;
to pray at
all times, as a way of discovering the presence of God in
all that is happening around us;
to be involved
with people, being attentive to their needs.
It leads us
into the community of Carmel, a community of religious men
and women, which has existed in the Church for over eight
centuries. It calls on us to live out the ideal of this
religious family, intimate friendship with God in prayer.
us of the example of the saints of Carmel, with whom we
establish a close bond as brothers and sisters to one another.
It is an expression
of our belief that we will meet God in eternal life, aided
by the intercession and prayer of Mary.
Some practical rules:
enrolled in the Brown Scapular only once, by a priest or
can be replaced afterwards by a medal which has on one side
the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on the other,
the image of Mary.
holds us to live as authentic Christians in line with the
teaching of the Gospel, to receive the sacraments, to profess
our special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, which should
be expressed each day, at least, by saying the Hail Mary
Short Form for
Giving the Scapular
Scapular, a sign of your special relationship with Mary, the
Mother of Jesus, whom you pledge to imitate. May it be a reminder
to you of your dignity as a Christian, in serving others and
imitating Mary. Wear it as a sign of her protection and of belonging
to the Family of Carmel, voluntarily doing the will of God and
devoting yourself to building a world true to his plan of community,
justice and peace.
The Brown Scapular
a magical charm
to protect you;
guarantee of salvation;
an excuse for
not living up to the demands of the Christian life.
The Brown Scapular
is a sign which:
has been approved
by the Church for over seven centuries;
the decision to follow Jesus like Mary;
open to God
and to His will;guided by faith, hope and love;
close to the
needs of people;praying at all times;
God present in all that happens around us;
people into the Family of Carmel;
points to a
renewed hope of encountering God in eternal life with the
help of Mary's protection and intercession.
The Popes and
the Brown Scapular
Pope Leo XIII:
The Carmelite Scapular, because of the nobility of origin,
its extraordinary spread among Christian peoples for many centuries,
the spiritualizing effects produced by it and the outstanding
miracles worked in virtue of it, render the Scapular of Carmel
commendable to a wondrous degree.
Pope Pius XI:
The munificent goodness of the heavenly Mother towards
her children; it surely ought to be sufficient merely to exhort
those who belong to the scapular confraternity to persevere
in the holy exercises which have been prescribed for the gaining
of the indulgences to which they are entitled.
Pope Pius XII:
All Carmelites, whether they live in the cloisters of
the First or Second Orders or are members of the Third Order
or of the Confraternities, belong to the same family of our
Most Blessed Mother and are attached to it by a special bond
of love. May they all see in this keepsake of the Virgin herself
a mirror of humility and purity; may they read in the very simplicity
of the Garment a concise lesson in modesty and simplicity; above
all, may they behold in this same Garment, which they wear day
and night, the eloquent expressive symbol of their prayers for
Pope John XXIII:
He spoke of the Mother of God, who is honored in this
Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Devotion to her becomes
a necessity; towards Our Lady of Mount Carmel we are drawn with
a most tender, yet irresistible, attraction.
Pope Paul VI
speaking of Marian devotions , especially of the Scapular, says
Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and
devotions to the Blessed Virgin approved by the teaching authority
of the Church (Vatican II). It is Our conviction that the Rosary
of Mary and the Scapular of Carmel are among these recommended
practices. The Scapular is a practice of piety, which by its
very simplicity is suited to everyone.