[Ordinary of the Mass ]
[Our Lady of Mount Carmel English Text]
[Our Lady of Mount Carmel Latin Text]
[Blessing of Scapulars]
[Sixth Sunday after Pentecost English Text ]
[Sixth Sunday after Pentecost Latin Text ]
Today, July 16th, the Church has
us celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In that this feast
is connected with one of the most commonly used sacramentals, I thought
it might be good to say a few things about the Order of Mount Carmel and
the wearing of the Brown Scapular.
Carmel itself is a mountain in
the northern part of the holy land. It is very close to the
Mediterranean coast, due east of the places like Nazareth, Cana, and the
Sea of Galilee. Its biblical fame comes largely from being associated
with the Old Testament prophet Elias, about whom we read in the 3rd and
of Kings; but it is mentioned in several other books of the Bible.
It is said that ever since the
time of Elias their lived a gathering of devout monks on the mountain.
These were men who devoted themselves to prayer, contemplation, and the
observance of the Mosaic Law. There are several examples of such Jewish
monastic groups, but the most notable thing about the one on Mount
Carmel is that its monks very rapidly embraced Christianity. It is
likely that they were prepared by Saint John the Baptist, received
Baptism from the Apostles, and were able to converse personally with the
Blessed Virgin Mary. Thus, when they returned to Carmel they dedicated
their monastery and little church to the Blessed Mother—making it, quite
possibly, the oldest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the world.
Under Mary's protection the
order flourished modestly on Mount Carmel, until the time of the
crusades. In the 12th century, after the Latin Kingdom had been
established at Jerusalem, many westerners flocked to Carmel to join the
ranks of the holy monks. Tradition has it that the Blessed Virgin
herself influenced Pope Honorius III to recognize the centuries old—but
technically new—order, as the former monks became an order of friars. On
30 January, 1226, he approved the Carmelite Order in his Bull “Ut
But the survival of the Latin Kingdom was relatively short lived. Due
to political arguments in Western Europe, Christendom proved unable to
support this outpost in the Holy Land against the pressure of Moslem
invasion. By the middle of the 13th century, most of the monks were
forced to flee to Europe.
In 1245 the monks were
re-established with headquarters in England, and had elected Saint Simon
Stock as their Prior General (1247-1265). The Blessed Mother is said to
have given Saint Simon the characteristic habit of the order; its large
brown scapular, one which hung approximately to the knees in both front
and back, and was roughly a foot wide.
Even more significantly, when
Saint Simon received this habit on the night of the 15-16th of July
1251, the Blessed Virgin promised that anyone clothed in the habit would
be preserved from the fires of hell. A few years later (1316), the
Blessed Mother promised the future Pope John XXII that she would deliver
her Carmelite faithful from Purgatory on the first Saturday following
their death. Known as the Sabbatine privilege, this has been confirmed
by numerous popes.
The Brown Scapular of Mount
Carmel has thus become quite popular, and even to this day, wherever
Catholic tradition is observed, children are enrolled in the
Confraternity of Mount Carmel and invested with a miniature version of
the Carmelite scapular st the time of their First Communion.
It is important for us to
understand that the Brown Scapular—and this is true for all of the
sacramentals of the Church—is not a magic amulet. Wearing a scapular or
one of the medals approved by the church, or carrying a Rosary in your
pocket, or decorating your home with holy pictures and blessed palms is
of relatively little value, unless you allow those sacramentals to shape
your life along Christ-like and Mary-like lines.
To be described correctly as
“wearing the scapular,” one must associate ones' self with the prayers
and good works of the Carmelite Order. One must observe chastity
according to one's state in life, and pray the Little Office of the
Blessed Virgin. Those who cannot read may substitute fasting and
abstinence on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Those who can read may
substitute the regular Office of the Church, or may ask their confessor
for permission to substitute the daily Rosary.
It should be clear from all of
this that our Lady is not giving us a "charm" that we can wear, and then
go about sinning with abandon. Our Lady would never even consider such
a thing. But, rather, she is offering us an abundance of her favors and
God's graces, and a tool for making ourselves holy. By our use of this
tool—together with the prescribed daily prayer, chastity, and
fasting—the Blessed Virgin is able to mold us into holy people. She is
able to form us into Catholics who, with her help, will persevere in
grace at the hour of our death.
Following this Mass, we'll bless
scapulars and we'll invest any of you who feel you have not already been
invested in the Confraternity of the Scapular.
Our Lady is offering you
tremendous graces through her scapular, through her Rosary, through the
various medals and devotions given us in her honor. But remember that
these are but tools—and that it is up to you to use these tools to allow
our Blessed Mother to shape you into good and holy people.