Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Fourth Sunday of Lent AD 2005
The Brown Scapular

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

    This morning we will be privileged to invest one of our people with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  We usually do that on the feast day of our Lady, but that won’t be until July, when Robert will have gone back to the North.  But, since the feast in July usually falls on a weekday, it occurred to me that I have probably never taken the opportunity to tell you about this traditional Catholic devotion.

    Mount Carmel rises above the Mediterranean Sea, just a few miles due west of the Sea of Galilee or Tiberias, where our Lord preached from Simon Peter's boat.  There were monks on the mountain from pre-Christian times.  The Order claims descent from the sons of the prophets who followed Elias.  For many centuries, Jewish men given over to the contemplation of their expected Savior peopled the little nooks and crannies of the mountain's forest and faces.

    This family of monks, prepared by the exhortation of John the Baptist, and enlightened by the preaching of our Lord Himself, were quick to accept Baptism and to rededicate themselves as Christian anchorites.  The came to know and to enjoy the friendship of the Blessed Virgin.  Their chapel, perhaps the first dedicated to our Lady, was built on the very spot where Elias had witnessed the miracle of the rain cloud.[1]  Guided by her humble wisdom—and, after her glorious Assumption, venerating her heavenly glory—they were known as the Brethren of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel.  They enjoyed her most special protection.

    They remained on the mountain for well over a thousand years after Christ, until the Islamic scourge drove them out in the middle ages.  Their ranks actually swelled during the Crusades, but in the thirteenth century they were forced to abandon the mountain and retreat to the protection of Europe.  Perhaps in punishment for the Western nations' inability to keep peace in Christendom, the East fell under the scimitar of the Infidel.

    In 1245, the order held its first general chapter at Aylesford, England, electing Simon Stock as the as the first general of the hermits-turned-friars.  Despite the opposition of the Lateran Council to any new religious orders, Pope Honorious III confirmed the newly compiled constitutions of this centuries old religious order.  During the night of July 15-16, 1251, our Lady appeared to Saint Simon, commanding him to clothe the Order in a narrow scapular of brown wool as a sign of her continued protection.

    Our Lady appeared to James d'Euse, soon to be Pope John XXII, further confirming her patronage of the order, and promising to deliver her faithful monks from Purgatory on the first Saturday after their deaths.  Because of its extraordinary nature, this "Sabbatine Privilege," was confirmed by several popes following John XXII.  The privilege is extended to all men and women who have been enrolled in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel, who observe chastity according to their state in life, and recite the Little Office each day.  Those unable to read fulfill their obligation by observing the fasts and abstinence prescribed in their diocese, and must also abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  The Little Office may be replaced by the regular Office in the case of priests and religious; or, with the permission of one's confessor, by the Rosary in the case of the laity.

    With good reason, a medal may replace the Scapular (after enrollment), although the woolen scapular is always preferred.  The Scapular, you see, is a garment, signifying membership in the family of Carmelite orders.  By wearing this small replica of the Carmelite habit, we associate ourselves with the Order and its good works and privileges  As a garment, it may be removed at appropriate times (eg: while bathing, or when it is to be laundered) without loss of the privileges or membership in the Confraternity.  Many people wear the small scapulars of the laity all the time, simply replacing them when worn out.

    Care should be taken to realize that the Scapular is a sacramental and not a magical charm.  The intercession of the Blessed Virgin is a reward for a holy life, lived according to the rules of the Confraternity.  All of the scapulars and medals in the world will not protect someone who lives a deliberately sinful life.

    Each one of us ought to wear the Scapular as an outward sign of inward devotion to our Blessed Virgin Mother, imitating the Carmelites of old who lived, on the Mountain, a life of prayer and contemplation of the redeeming Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.


[1]   3 Kings xvii-ixx


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