Monday, July 16, 2012

Mon, July 16, 2012, Litany Lane Blog: Scapular, Jn 19:25 , Feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, History of Carmelites and Brown Scapular

Monday, July 16, 2012- Litany Lane Blog

Scapular, John 19:25, Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, History of Carmelites and Brown Scapular 

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Wonderful Week! 

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course, resolution. Trust in the power of prayer...God is always available 24/7.

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


Today's Word:  scapular   scap·u·lar  [skap-yuh-ler]

Origin: 1475–85;  < Medieval Latin scapulāre,  noun use of neuter of scapulāris  (adj.).

1. Of or pertaining to the shoulders or the scapula  or scapulae.
2. Anatomy . either of two flat, triangular bones, each forming the back part of a shoulder in humans; shoulder blade.
3. Zoology . a dorsal bone of the pectoral girdle 
1. Ecclesiastical . a loose, sleeveless monastic garment, hanging from the shoulders.
2. Two small pieces of woolen cloth, joined by strings passing over the shoulders, worn under the ordinary clothing as a badge of affiliation with a religious order, a token of devotion, etc.
3. Anatomy,  Zoology . see scapula - a dorsal bone of the pectoral girdle
4. Ornithology . one of the scapular feathers 

Reference: Courtesy of


Today's Gospel Reading -  John 19:25-27

Feast Day of our Lady of Mount Carmel
Woman, this is your son!
Behold this is your mother! 
Pieta, Michelangelo

1. Let us recollect ourselves in prayer - Statio
Come, Holy Spirit, fill our minds with your light so that we can understand the true sense of your Word.
Come, Holy Spirit, enkindle in our hearts the fire of your love to inflame our faith.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill our being with your force to strengthen what is weak in us, in our service to God.
Come, Holy Spirit, with the gift of prudence to control our enthusiasm which prevents us from loving God and our neighbour.

2. Lectio Divina: John 19: 25-27
25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 
26Seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, 'Woman, this is your son.' 
27Then to the disciple he said, 'This is your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

3.1. Understanding Today's Gospel
- With your spirit go up to Calvary up to the Cross of Jesus and try to understand what is happening.
- From the passage that you have read, ask yourself what has struck you the most and why.
- Which are the sentiments that this brief passage has aroused in you?

3.2. Key for the Reading 
Jesus holds his own destiny in His hand
We are in the middle of chapter 19 of John’s Gospel which begins with the scourging, the crowing of Jesus with a crown of thorns, the presentation of Jesus by Pilate to the crowds: “Behold the man” (Jn 19, 5), the condemnation to the death on the cross, the Way of the Cross and the crucifixion. In the account of the passion according to John, Jesus has the control in His hand of His life and of everything which is taking place around Him. And for this reason, for example, we find phrases such as: “Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and a purple robe” (v. 5), or the words said to Pilate: “You would have no power over me at all if it had not been given you from above.” (v. 11). The text presented in the daily Liturgy also shows that Jesus not only has control over everything which is happening to Him but also on what is taking place around Him. What the Evangelist describes is very important: “Jesus then, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved, said…” (v. 26). The words of Jesus in their simplicity are words of revelation, words with which He wants to express His will: “Behold your son” (v. 26), “Behold your mother” (v. 27). These words of Jesus recall to mind the words of Pilate with which he presented the person of Jesus to the crowds: “Behold the man” (v. 5). Jesus from his throne, the Cross, with His words not only pronounces his will, but also that it is truly his love for us and which is the fruit of this love. He is the Lamb of God, the Shepherd who gives his life in order to gather all in one only flock, in the Church.

Near the Cross
In this passage we also find a very important word which is repeated twice when the Evangelist speaks about the Mother of Jesus and of the disciple whom He loved. The Evangelist says that the mother of Jesus was “near the Cross” (v. 25) and the disciple whom He loves was “standing near her” (v. 26). This important detail has a very deep Biblical significance. Only the fourth Evangelist says that the Mother of Jesus was near the cross. The other Evangelists do not specify this. Luke says that “All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied Him from Galilee and saw all this happen” (Lk 23, 49). Matthew has written: “And many women were there, watching from a distance; the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” (Mt 27, 55-56). Mark says that “There were also some women, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome. They used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And many other women were there who had come up to Jerusalem with him.” (Mk 15, 40-41). Therefore, only John stresses that the Mother of Jesus was present, not following him from a distance, but was near the cross together with the other women. Standing up, like a strong woman who has continued to believe, to hope and to have trust in God, even in that most difficult moment. The Mother of Jesus is present in the important moment in which “Everything is fulfilled” (v. 30) in Jesus’ mission. Besides, the Evangelist stresses the presence of the Mother of Jesus from the beginning of his mission, in the wedding at Cana, where John uses almost the same expression: “The Mother of Jesus was there”. (Jn 2, 1).

The Woman and the Disciple
In the wedding at Cana and on the Cross, Jesus shows his glory and his Mother is present in an active way. In the wedding in Cana it is made evident, in a symbolical way, that which took place on the cross. During the feast of the wedding Jesus changed the water contained in six jars (Jn 2, 6). Number six symbolizes imperfection. The perfect number is seven. For this reason Jesus responds to his Mother: “My hour has not yet come” (Jn 2, 4). The hour in which Jesus has renewed everything, has been the hour of the cross. The Disciples asked him: “Lord, has the time come for you to restore the kingdom of Israel?” (Acts 1, 6). On the cross, with the water and blood, Jesus gives birth to the Church and at the same time the Church becomes His spouse. It is the beginning of the new time. Both at the wedding in Cana and at the foot of the cross, Jesus does not call his mother with her proper name, but calls her with the beautiful title of “Woman” (Jn 2, 19, 26). On the cross He is not speaking with His Mother moved only by a natural sentiment, of a son toward his mother. The title of “Woman” is an evidence that in that moment Jesus was opening his Mother’s heart to the spiritual maternity of his disciples, represented in the person of the disciple whom He loved who is always near Jesus, the Disciple who at the Last Supper reclined his head on Jesus’ chest (Jn 13, 23-26), the Disciple who understood the mystery of Jesus and always remains faithful to his Master up to the time of His crucifixion, and later on was the first disciple to believe that Christ is risen in seeing the empty tomb and the linen cloths on the ground (Jn 20, 4-8), while Mary of Magdala believed that they had taken away the body of Jesus (Jn 20, 2). Then, Jesus’ beloved Disciple is the one who believes and remains faithful to His Master in all the trials of his life. The Disciple whom Jesus loved has no name, because he represents you and me, and all those who are his true disciples. The woman becomes the mother of the Disciple. The woman is never called by the Evangelist by her proper name, she is not only the Mother of Jesus, but she is also the Church. John, the Evangelist likes to call the Church “woman” or “lady”. This title is found in the Second Letter of John (2 Jn 1, 5) and in the Apocalypses: “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, robed with the sun, standing on the moon, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth”. (Apoc 12, 1-2). Therefore, the woman is the image of the Mother Church which is in labour to generate new sons for God. The Mother of Jesus is the perfect image of the Church, spouse of Christ who is in labour to generate new children for her spouse Jesus.

The Disciples takes the woman to his house
If Jesus has left in the hands of the Woman (His Mother and the Church) his Disciples represented in the person of the beloved Disciple, in the same way, He has left in the hands of his disciples, the Woman (His Mother and the Church). The Evangelist says that Jesus had just seen the Disciple whom he loved next to His Mother he told him: “Behold your mother!” (v. 27). The Evangelist continues: “And from that hour the Disciple took her into his home.” (v. 27). That means that the Disciple took the woman as a very dear and valuable person. This, again reminds us all that John says in his letter when he calls himself the Elder who loves the Lady in truth (2 Jn 1) who prays for her (2 Jn, 5) so that he takes care of her and defends her against the Antichrist, that is all those who do not know Christ and seek to trouble the children of the Church, the Disciples of Jesus (2 Jn 7, 10). The words of verse 27 “And from that hour he took her into his home”, reminds us what we also find in the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. The Evangelist opens his account telling about the vision of the angel which Joseph, the spouse of Mary, had in his dream. In this vision the angel tells Joseph: “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit”. (Mt 1, 20). Matthew begins his Gospel with entrusting Mary and Jesus to Joseph, while John concludes his account with Jesus entrusting His Mother and the Church in the hands of his beloved Disciple!

3.3. Questions to orientate the meditation and the putting it into practice.
- What has struck you most in this passage and in the reflection?
- On the Cross Jesus has given us everything: His life and His Mother. And you, are you ready to sacrifice something for the Lord? Are you capable to renounce your possessions, your likes, desires, etc., to serve God and to help your neighbour?
- “From that hour the disciple took her to his home”. Do you believe that the families today continue to follow the example of the disciple whom Jesus loved? What meaning do these words have for your Christian life?

4. Oratio
Canticle of the Blessed Virgin: Luke 1, 46-55
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
because he has looked upon the humiliation of his servant.
Yes, from now onwards all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his faithful love extends age after age to those who fear him.
He has used the power of his arm,
he has routed the arrogant of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and raised high the lowly.
He has filled the starving with good things,
sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant,
mindful of his faithful love
-according to the promise he made to our ancestors --
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.

5. Contemplatio
Let us adore together the goodness of God who has given us Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as our Mother, and let us repeat in silence:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be
world without end. Amen

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel


Feast Day: July 16 
Birthday: August 5th, 16 BC* (Celebrated as Feast Day on Sept 8)

Assumption: August 13, 54 AD* (Celebrated as a Feast Day on August 15)
Patron Saint: Order of the Carmelites

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order. The first Carmelites were Christian hermits living on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land during the late 12th and early to mid 13th centuries. They built a chapel in the midst of their hermitages which they dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, whom they conceived of in chivalric terms as the "Lady of the place."


Since the 15th century, popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has centered on the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel also known as the Brown Scapular, a sacramental associated with promises of Mary's special aid for the salvation of the devoted wearer. Traditionally, Mary is said to have given the Scapular to an early Carmelite named Saint Simon Stock. The liturgical feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated on 16 July.

The solemn liturgical feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was probably first celebrated in England in the later part of the 14th century. Its object was thanksgiving to Mary, the patroness of the Carmelite Order, for the benefits she had accorded to it through its rocky early existence. The institution of the feast may have come in the wake of the vindication of their title "Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary" at Cambridge, England in 1374. The date chosen was 17 July; on the European mainland this date conflicted with the feast of St. Alexis, necessitating a shift to 16 July, which remains the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel throughout the Catholic Church. The Latin poem Flos Carmeli (meaning "Flower of Carmel") first appears as the sequence for this Mass.

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is known to many Catholic faithful as the "scapular feast," associated with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a devotional sacramental signifiying the wearer's consecration to Mary and affiliation with the Carmelite Order. A tradition first attested to in the late 14th century says that Saint Simon Stock, an early prior general of the Carmelite Order, had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in which she gave him the Brown Scapular which formed part of the Carmelite habit, promising that those who died wearing the scapular would be saved.

That there should be a connection in people's minds between the scapular, the widely popular devotion originating with the Carmelites, and this central Carmelite feast day, is surely not unnatural or unreasonable. But the liturgical feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel did not originally have a specific association with the Brown Scapular or the tradition of a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1642, a Carmelite named Fr. John Cheron, responding to scholarly criticism that Saint Simon Stock's vision may not have historically occurred (these doubts are echoed by historians today ), published a document which he said was a letter written in the 13th century by Saint Simon Stock's secretary, "Peter Swanington". Historians conclude that this letter was forged, likely by Cheron himself. It was nevertheless uncritically embraced by many promoters of the scapular devotion. The forged document's claim of 16 July 1251 as the date of the vision (16 July being the date of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) subsequently led to a strong association between this feast day, and the scapular devotion, and in the intervening years until the late 1970s, this association with the scapular was also reflected in the liturgy for that day. The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as well as that of Saint Simon Stock came under scrutiny after Vatican II due to historical uncertainties, and today neither of these liturgies, even in the Carmelite proper, make reference to the scapular.

The Prophet Elijah 
As we attempt to follow Christ more closely, we Carmelites find inspiration in the Old Testament Prophet, Elijah, and in the Blessed Virgin Mary . Elijah's memory was kept alive especially on Mount Carmel where he challenged the people to stop hobbling first on one foot and then on the other but to choose who is God in Israel - Yahweh or Baal. According to the story, which can be found in the First Book of Kings, chapter 18, Elijah's sacrifice was consumed by fire from heaven which proved to the people that Yahweh was the true God. Elijah made himself available for God's work and was sent into various situations to proclaim God's word. Elijah undertook a long journey through the desert where he began to despair. He sat down under a bush and wished he were dead but God would not allow him to die and prodded him to continue his journey to Mount Horeb. When he arrived there, God became present to Elijah. God came not with the signs usual in the Old Testament of fire, earthquake and mighty wind but in the sound of a gentle breeze. Elijah was sent back to his people to carry out God's will. From Elijah, Carmelites learn to listen for the voice of God in the unexpected and in silence. We seek to allow the Word of God to shape our minds and our hearts so that the way we live and the things we do may be prophetic and therefore faithful to the memory of our father Elijah.

The Blessed Virgin Mary
The first hermits on Mount Carmel built a church in the middle of their cells. This was the centre of their lives where they converged each day to celebrate Mass together. This little church they named in honour of Our Lady. By this fact the first group of Carmelites took her as their patroness, promising her their faithful service and expecting her protection and favour. They were proud to bear the title of "Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel" and they defended this title with vigour when their right to it was challenged.
Mary consented to God's will when she was asked to be the mother of the Saviour. She pondered on the events of her life and was able to see in them the hand of God at work. Mary did not become proud about her unique vocation but instead praised God for looking on her lowliness and doing great things in her. She was with Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry when, at the marriage feast at Cana, she made known to him the simple need, "They have no wine". She was with him as he died and there she became the mother of all believers. At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we find Mary gathered in the upper room praying with the other disciples waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For us Carmelites, Mary is a constant presence in our lives, guiding us and protecting us as we seek to follow Christ. 

The brown scapular has for many centuries summed up the Carmelite's relationship with Our Lady. The scapular is a piece of cloth based on the traditional Carmelite friar's garb. Wearing the scapular is a sign of consecration to Mary, the Mother of God, and is a symbol showing that the person is putting on the virtues of Mary and is being protected by her. Mary symbolises for the Carmelite everything that we hope for - to enter into an intimate relationship with Christ, being totally open to God's will and having our lives transformed by the Word of God. Carmelites have always thought of Mary as the Patroness of the Order, its Mother and Splendour. We seek to live in spiritual intimacy with her so that we can learn from her how to live as God's children.
Elijah and Mary are inspirational figures for all Carmelites. They play a very important part in the life and spirituality of the Order which sees itself as belonging to Mary and looks to Elijah as our spiritual father.

Carmelite Devotion to Mary

The Carmelites see in the Blessed Virgin Mary a perfect model of the interior life of [prayer] and contemplation to which Carmelites aspire, a model of virtue, as well as the person who was closest in life to Jesus Christ. She is seen as the one who points Christians most surely to Christ, saying to all what she says to the servants at the wedding at Cana, "Do whatever he [Jesus] tells you." Carmelites look to Mary as both a Spiritual Mother and Sister in Christ. The Stella Maris Monastery on Mount Carmel, named after a traditional title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is considered the spiritual headquarters of the order.
Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi, OCD, a revered authority on Carmelite spirituality, wrote that devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel means:
a special call to the interior life, which is preeminently a Marian life. Our Lady wants us to resemble her not only in our outward vesture but, far more, in heart and spirit. If we gaze into Mary's soul, we shall see that grace in her has flowered into a spiritual life of incalcuable wealth: a life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted oblation to God, continual contact, and intimate union with him. Mary's soul is a sanctuary reserved for God alone, where no human creature has ever left its trace, where love and zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind reign supreme. [...] Those who want to live their devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to the full must follow Mary into the depths of her interior life. Carmel is the symbol of the contemplative life, the life wholly dedicated to the quest for God, wholly orientated towards intimacy with God; and the one who has best realized this highest of ideals is Our Lady herself, 'Queen and Splendor of Carmel'."


  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "St. Benedict of Nursia". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
  • Gardner, Edmund G. (editor) (1911. Reprinted 2010). The Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great. Merchantville, NJ: Evolution Publishing. ISBN 978-1-889758-94-7.
  • "The Life of St Benedict," by St. Gregory the Great, Rockford, IL: TAN Books and Publishers, ISBN 0-89555-512-3 

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Today's Snippet Part I:  History of the Carmelites & Scapular


Mount Carmel, ,Haifi, Israel, Elev 1724 ft
The Order of Carmelites has its origins on Mount Carmel, in Palestine, where, as we read in the II Book of Kings, the great prophet Elijah defended the true faith in the God of Israel, when he won the challenge against the priests of Baal. 

It was also on Mount Carmel that the same prophet, praying in solitude, saw the small cloud which brought life-giving rain after the long drought. From time immemorial, this mountain has been considered the lush garden of Palestine and symbol of fertility and beauty. Indeed, "Karmel" means "garden".


St John of Acre, Mount Carmel, Israel
In the XII century (perhaps after the third crusade, 1189-1191), some penitents-pilgrims who had come from Europe, came together near the "spring of Elijah", in one of the narrow valleys of Mount Carmel, to live out their Christianity as hermits after the example of the prophet Elijah in the very land of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then and in later times, the Carmelites did not acknowledge anyone in particular as their founder, but remained faithful followers of Elijah who was associated with Mount Carmel through biblical events and through Greek and Latin patristic tradition which saw in the prophet one of the founders of the monastic life. In the middle of the cells they built a chapel which they dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus, thus developing a sense of belonging to Our Lady as Mistress of the place and as Patroness, and they became known by her name as "Brothers of Saint Mary of Mount Carmel". Thus Carmel is deeply associated with Elijah and Mary. From Elijah the Carmelites inherited a burning passion for the living and true God and the desire to make His Word intimately their own in order to witness to Its presence in the world; with Mary, the most Pure Mother of God, they are committed to live "in the footsteps of Jesus Christ" with the same intimate and deep feelings which were Mary's.

 In order to have some juridical stability, this group of lay hermits turned to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Albert Avogadro (1150-1214), who was then living at St. John of Acre near Mount Carmel. Between 1206-1214, Albert wrote for them a formula of life. Successive approvals of this formula of life by various Popes helped the process of transforming the group into a Religious Order, a fact which took place at the time of the definitive approval of the text as a Rule by Innocent IV in 1247. Thus the Carmelite Order took its place alongside the Mendicant Orders.
However, about 1235, the Carmelites were forced to abandon their place of origin due to the incursions and persecutions of the Saracens who were reconquering the Holy Land from the crusaders. Most of them went back to their country of origin in Europe.
Soon they increased and flourished in the sciences and in holiness. Later some women attached themselves to the monasteries of the friars and in 1452 became cloistered nuns living in their own communities. In the XV-XVI centuries there was some relaxation of discipline in various communities, a fact greatly opposed by Priors General such as Blessed John Soreth (+1471), Nicholas Audet (+1562) and John Baptist Rossi (+1578), and by some reforms (among others those of Mantua and Monte Oliveti in Italy and of Albi in France) to put a stop to the spread of the abuses and the mitigations. The most famous reform is certainly the one started in Spain by St. Teresa of Jesus for the reform of the nuns and then, helped by St. John of the Cross and Fr. Girolamo Gracian, for the reform of the friars. The most relevant aspect of this reform of Teresa is not so much that she opposed the mitigations introduced in the life of Carmel, but rather her ability to integrate in her project, vital and ecclesial elements of her time. In 1592 this reform, called that of the "Discalced Carmelites" or of the "Teresians", became independent from the Carmelite Order and grew rapidly in the congregations of Spain and Italy which were then united in 1875. Thus there are two Orders of Carmelites: "The Carmelites", also known as of the "Ancient Observance" or "Calced", and "The Discalced Carmelites" or "Teresians" who consider St. Teresa of Jesus their reformer and foundress.

In spite of this division, during the following centuries the Carmelite Order continued its spiritual journey. Many illustrious men and women gave new spirit to Carmel with their own spirituality and genius. There was also significant development among the laity with the institution of the Carmelite Third Order and the Confraternities of the Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel throughout the world. With the Reforms of Touraine in France, and of Monte Santo, Santa Maria della Vita, Piedmont, and Santa Maria della Scala in Italy, in the XVII and XVIII centuries the movement for a stricter observance spread everywhere. At the dawn of the French Revolution, the Carmelite Order was established throughout the world with 54 Provinces and 13,000 religious. But as a result of the French Revolution the Order suffered great losses, such that at the end of the 19th century it was reduced to 8 Provinces and 727 religious. But it was this small band of religious who during the 20th century, with determination and courage, re-established the Order in places where it had been and also planted the Order on new continents.

Video: History of the Carmelites Part I of V

Order and Confraternity

Like the other mendicant orders such as the Franciscans, the Carmelites formed a "Third Order" for lay people (the "First Order" being the friars, the "Second Order" the nuns), either married or single, who wished to participate deeply in the spirituality and charism of the order, but remain in their secular state of life. Those belonging to the Ancient Observance (O.Carm) branch of the Carmelites are today known as Lay Carmelites, those belonging to the Discalced (OCD) branch of the Carmelites are known as Secular Carmelites, members of both branches belong to communities which meet together regularly for prayer and spiritual formation. The small Brown Scapular is the habit of these Carmelite laity, with a larger ceremonial Scapular normally worn outside the clothes at community meetings and official functions.

There is also a Confraternity of the Brown Scapular. According to the 1996 version of the rite of enrollment, "The scapular confraternity of Carmel is an association of the faithful who strive for the perfection of charity in the world in the spirit of the Carmelite Order, participate in the life of the Order and its spiritual benefits in an intimate communion of thought, ideals, and works together with Mary." In Europe in the past there was often a local Confraternity group which met for fellowship and spiritual formation. Today, at least in North America, those enrolled by a priest into the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular typically have no visible group to belong to, nor is any record kept anymore of people thus enrolled. Some Carmelites such as Fr. Redemptus Valabek, O.Carm, have lamented that there is no longer a central registry of names of people enrolled in the Confraternity, and called for a return to the practice and renewed awareness of the scapular's connection to the Carmelite community and its spirituality.
The current rite of enrollment in the Brown Scapular also permits for persons to be enrolled in the scapular without joining a Confraternity or other group.

The Rule of St Albert

The Rule of The rule of life given to the Carmelites by St. Albert Avogadro between the years 1206 - 1214, was finally approved as the true and proper Rule of Carmel by Innocent IV in 1247 and later underwent mitigations which were not in the original text.
The Carmelite Rule states that it is fundamental for a Carmelite to "live a life in allegiance to Jesus Christ - how, pure in heart and stout in conscience, must be unswerving in the service of the Master" (no.2). To live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ, the Carmelites bind themselves especially to:
     - develop the contemplative dimension of their life, in an open dialogue with God
     - live as brothers, full of charity
     - meditate day and night on the Word of the Lord
     - pray together or alone several times a day
     - celebrate the Eucharist every day
     - do manual work, as Paul the Apostle did
     - purify themselves of every trace of evil
     - live in poverty, placing in common what little they may have
     - love the Church and all people
     - conform their will to that of God, seeking the will of God in faith, in dialogue and through discernment.

The Carmelite Rule is the shortest of all known Rules, almost exclusively made up of biblical precepts. To this day it is a rich source of inspiration for life.

Book of the First Monks

The Book of the First Monks (Latin: Decem Libri – Liber de Institutione Primorum Monacharum) is a medieval Christian work in the contemplative and eremetic tradition of the Carmelites. It is one of the most important documents of the Order, because it shaped many of the Saints from the Carmelite Order in the basic spirituality of the first Hermits. It is reported to have dated back before the Carmelite Rule by some medieval Carmelites, although this is disputed due to lack of evidence. It is this dispute that has caused this beautiful manuscript, filled with Elijian spirituality, to be forgotten today.

The original charism of the Carmelite hermits that remains alive today in the hearts of many Carmelites, as well as in the cloistered contemplative life of hermits, monks and nuns, was in imitation of the prophet Elijah. Carmelite tradition holds that it was Elijah who inspired the early hermits who settled near the spring on Mount Carmel. Most often quoted from the "Book of the First Monks" is the following passage in which the prophet Elijah is held up as spiritual father of the Order:
The goal of this life is twofold. One part we acquire, with the help of divine grace, through our efforts and virtuous works. This is to offer God a pure heart, free from all stain of actual sin. We do this when we are perfect and in Cherith, that is, hidden in that charity of which the Wise Man says: "Charity covers all sins " [Prov. 10:12]. God desired Elijah to advance thus far when he said to him: "Hide yourself by the brook Cherith " [1 Kgs. 17:3-4].
The other part of the goal of this life is granted us as the free gift of God: namely, to taste somewhat in the heart and to experience in the soul, not only after death but even in this mortal life, the intensity of the divine presence and the sweetness of the glory of heaven. This is to drink of the torrent of the love of God. God promised it to Elijah in the words: "You shall drink from the brook. " It is in view of this double end that the monk ought to give himself to the eremitic and prophetic life.
- Felip Ribot, O.Carm., 13th century.
The Institutes of the first monks also gives one of the oldest explanations of the Carmelite habit and what each part of the habit signified. Exemplars of the contemplative and mystical spirituality referred to in the "Institutio" include Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, Jan Tyranowski, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), and John of the Cross.

CoFraternity - Friars, O.Carm.

The First Order of Carmelite (abbreviated to O.Carm. or O.C.) has the same structure as other Mendicant Orders and is an Order with pontifical approbation. Thus its organization is that typical of Mendicant Orders: one body overseen by a Prior General and at the base there are local monasteries bonded into: Provinces, General Commissariats, Houses Under the Immediate Jurisdiction of the Prior General, Hermitical Communities Aggregated 'Pleno Iure' to the Order and Affiliated Communities. These are then grouped according to geographical or linguistic criteria. The religious who joins this one body, makes himself available to go to one of the local provincial communities, or one of the communities under the Prior General, according to the task assigned to him.
The Chapter of a Province, celebrated once every three years, brings together representatives of the Province to elect a Prior Provincial and his Council and to decide on matters of importance. The General Chapter, celebrated every six years, elects the Prior General and his Council, and discusses matters of importance to the whole Order. The Prior General with the members of the General Council, live in Rome, from where they then spread out to visit the Provinces and the communities of the Order as well as those of the Carmelite Family.
The Carmelite Order is included by the Church among the clerical institutes. It is composed of friars who profess the three vows of obedience, poverty and chastity, and who share a common purpose: to live the consecrated life according to the spirit of Carmel.

The Order is structured into Provinces, General Commissariats, and houses under the direct jurisdiction of the Prior General. (Consititutions O.Carm. no.174,177) Each entity has houses of formation in accordance with the phases which the candidate has to go through:

The pre-novitiate: Generally lasts from six months to one year.
The novitiate: Lasts one year, after which the candidate makes his religious profession.
The scholasticate: This is the time when the candidate, after his profession, intensifies and deepens his experience of following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in the Order and the Church. It includes the philosophical-theological studies and the specialization in the various sciences, the formation to the different ecclesial and specific offices of the Order, the preparation of those who are candidates to the priesthood.
The principles, indications and programs for initial and ongoing formation are explained in the Ratio Institutionis Vitae Carmelianae (Carmelite Formation: A Journey of Transformation), published by the General Curia of the Carmelites in Rome, 2000. 

Video: History of the Carmelites Part II of V

The Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS)

Officially Ordo Carmelitarum Discalceatorum Saecularis, and formerly known as the Third Secular Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and of the Holy Mother Saint Teresa of Jesus, is an association in the Roman Catholic Church, with lay persons as its primary members but can also accept members of the secular clergy, with promises to strive to live evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience and through the beatitudes. They have a "fidelity to contemplative prayer with the spirit of detachment it entails…."
Commonly known as Carmelite Seculars, it is an integral part of the Discalced Carmelite Order, juridically dependent upon the Discalced Carmelite Friars (OCD), and in "fraternal communion" with them and the cloistered nuns of the Second Order. "As a result, they share the same charism with the religious, each according to their particular state of life. It is one family with the same spiritual possession, calling to holiness and Apostolic mission."
There are two Carmelite orders in the Church: the Ancient Observance (O. Carm.) and the Discalced (OCD). The Discalced became a separate order under its foundress, Saint Teresa of Jesus (of Ávila), in order to return to the more austere and contemplative life lived by the first Carmelites. "Discalced", meaning "shoeless", signifies this greater austerity. Most Secular Carmelites do not consider foregoing shoes, an actual necessity for living this internal austerity and poverty.

Vocation and Promise

Their vocation is to live the Carmelite spirituality as Seculars and not as mere imitators of Carmelite monastic life. With the friars and nuns, they assist the Order in drawing the Church into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and His Mother, Mary, Mother and Queen of Carmel.
They are apostles of contemplative prayer, but also live intense lives of charity in their common occupations.
Carmelite Seculars make a promise to the Order patterned on the monastic vows, which guides their life. The promise is to live according to its New Constitution and to live the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience, adapted according to their lay state.
Spiritually mature members, with the recommendation of the local council and approval of the provincial superior, are permitted to make vows of chastity and obedience to the community, which are strictly personal and do not create a separate category of membership.

Way of Life

The old Rule of Life (Regula vitæ) of 1979 requires Secular Carmelites to pray for at least a half an hour each day "in an atmosphere of interior silence and solitude," to recite Morning and Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours (the Divine Office), and to attend daily Mass whenever possible. Although the Rule of Life was replaced by the New OCDS Constitution of 2003, their way of life remains the same.

The Seculars will "gladly mortify themselves in union with the Sacrifice of Christ," and their "interior life must be permeated by an intense devotion to Our Lady." They must wear the small Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (the habit of the Carmelite Secular Order), and attend monthly meetings of their communities.


Depending on the existing OCDS Provincial Statutes of each province and with the approval of the Local Community Council, the OCDS accepts Catholics in good standing in the Church, who are at least 18 years old, for entry into formation. Admission into formation is dependent on a clear indication of a Carmelite vocation and maturity in faith, and permission to profess the promise of the Secular Carmelites requires a number of years spent in spiritual formation and the study of contemplative prayer. Catholics called to this vocation by God begin by discovering a community of Seculars whom they visit for a monthly meeting and may eventually join. Communities can be found by one of the on-line provincial directories.
Carmelite Seculars are not members of the Scapular Confraternity, a much newer development that is merely a pious association of Catholics who wear the Scapular and may or may not actually follow certain principles of Carmelite spirituality. Any Catholic can be invested with the Scapular by a Catholic priest, and indeed it is the most popular and well known of Catholic scapulars because of the promises made to its wearers by the Blessed Virgin Mary. But the garment is properly the habit of the Carmelite Order, including the Secular Carmelites. Candidates for admission to the Order are clothed in the Scapular at the beginning of formal formation, usually during a Mass.

Carmelite Seculars, after the tradition of the Friars and Nuns, take a religious name or title of devotion. The custom is increasing of retaining the person's surname and/or given name depending on suitability. The name taken is generally only used in Carmelite contexts, and members use the acronym "OCDS" after their legal names if appropriate.

The OCDS Around the World

Carmelite Seculars are spread throughout the world in various communities, with each community canonically erected[12] and under the direction of the provincial superiors of each province and the leadership of the general superior of the Order in Rome. There has been tremendous growth in the United States in recent years, but membership may be decreasing in numbers in Europe. The Blessed Pope John Paul II is an honorary member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites.

Video: History of the Carmelites Part III of V

Lay Carmelites

The Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (also named Lay Carmelites) is a branch of the religious Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance and was established in 1476 by a bull of Pope Sixtus IV. It is known for devotion to Blessed Virgin Mary under her title as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Soon after the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was established in Europe in the thirteenth century, lay persons, not bound by religious vows, seem to have attached themselves to it more or less closely. There is evidence of the existence of a "Confrairie Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel" at Toulouse in 1273, and of a "Compagnia di Santa Maria del Carmino" at Bologna in 1280, but the exact nature of these bodies is uncertain owing to a lack of documents.
Somewhat later mention is frequently made of trade-guilds having their seat in churches of the order, members of which acted as their chaplains. Thus the master-bakers, innkeepers and pastry-cooks at Nîmes, the barbers and surgeons of the same town, who were also connected with the Dominicans, the goldsmiths at Avignon. Benefactors of the order received letters of fraternity with the right of participation in the privileges and good works of the friars.
Others, under the name of bizzoche and mantellatoe, wore the habit and observed the rule, e.g. "M. Phicola nostra Pinzochera" at Florence in 1308. Others again became recluses in the anchorages attached to Carmelite churches, and made profession under the form: "Ego frater N. a Spiritu Sancto ad anachoreticam vitam vocatus offero me, coram Deo, Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, et promitto me in servitio Dei secundum Scripturam sacram Novi et Veteris Testamenti more anchoreticae vitae usque ad mortem permansurum." Among the tertiaries not living in community must be mentioned Blessed Louis Morbioli of Bologna (d. 1495).
The canonical institution of the third order dates from the middle of the fifteenth century, when a community of Beguines at Guelders sought affiliation to the order, and Blessed John Soreth, General of the Carmelites, obtained a Bull (7 October 1452) granting the superiors of his order the faculties enjoyed by the Hermits of Saint Augustine and the Dominicans of canonically establishing convents of "virgins, widows, beguines and mantellatae". Also Saint Nuno of Saint Mary had participated in the developing work of the carmelite third order. Further legislation took place in 1476 by the Bull "Mare magnum privilegiorum", and under Pope Benedict XIII and his successors.
The rule observed by the tertiaries, whether living in the world or gathered into communities, was originally that of the friars with modifications as required by their status. Theodor Stratius, General of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, composed in 1635 a new rule, revised in 1678, which is still observed among the tertiaries of the Calced and the Discalced Carmelites. It prescribes the recitation of the canonical office, or else of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, or, in its place, of the Pater noster and Ave Maria to be said thirty-five times a day, five times in lieu of each of the canonical hours; also half an hour's meditation every morning and evening; fasting on all Fridays and also on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 14 September till Easter, abstinence during Advent and Lent, and various works of mortification, devotion, and charity. Superiors may in their discretion dispense from some of these obligations.
In the early 20th century it was impossible to estimate even approximately the number of tertiaries living in the world. Besides these there are numerous corporations of tertiaries established in different countries, viz. two communities of tertiary brothers in Ireland (Drumcondra and Clondalkin near Dublin) in charge of an asylum for the blind and of a high-school for boys; eighteen communities of native priests in British India belonging partly to the Latin and partly to the Syro-Malabar Churches; four houses of Brothers of Christian Education in Spain. At the start of the 21st century there were several hundred professed members of the Carmelite Third Order Secular in the British Province of Carmelites.
Far more numerous are the communities of nuns, namely twenty-three in India (Latin and Syro-Malabar rites) for the education of native girls, and four convents in Syria in connection with the missions of the Order; two congregations of tertiaries in Spain with nineteen and forty-eight establishments respectively, and one unattached, for educational work. In Spain there are also tertiary nuns called "Carmelitas de la caridad" engaged in works of charity with 150 establishments. The Austrian congregation of nuns numbers twenty-seven houses, while the most recent branch, the Carmelite Tertiaries of the Sacred Heart, founded at Berlin towards the end of the last century for the care and education of orphans and neglected children, have spread rapidly through Germany, Holland, England, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and Hungary, and have twenty houses. In Italy there are three different congregations with thirty-two convents. There are smaller branches of the tertiaries in South America with two houses at Santiago, Chile, in Switzerland with four convents, and in England with one.
The Third Order Secular of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been introduced into the United States. There are at present two congregations, with 125 members.

Video: History of the Carmelites Part IV of V

Visions and devotions

Vision of St Maria Magdalena di Pazzi, Moya 1661
Among the various Catholic orders, Carmelite nuns have had a proportionally high ratio of visions of Jesus and Mary and have been responsible for key Catholic devotions.

From the time of her clothing in the Carmelite religious habit (1583) till her death (1607) the life of Saint Mary Magdalene di Pazzi is said to have had a series of raptures and ecstasies.
  • First, these raptures sometimes seized upon her whole being with such force as to compel her to rapid motion (e.g. towards some sacred object).
  • Secondly, she was frequently able, whilst in ecstasy, to carry on working e.g., embroidery, painting, with perfect composure and efficiency.
  • Thirdly, during these raptures Saint Mary Magdalene de Pazzi gave utterance to maxims of Divine Love, and to counsels of perfection for souls. These were preserved by her companions, who (unknown to her) wrote them down.
Sister Antónia d'Astónaco, a Carmelite nun from Portugal, reported during her life a private revelation by Saint Michael the Archangel. Based on that revelation, the Archangel Michael had told in an apparition to the devoted Servant of God that he would like to be honored, and God glorified, by the praying of nine special invocations. These nine invocations correspond to invocations to the nine choirs of angels and origins the Chaplet of Saint Michael. This private revelation and prayers were fully approved by Pope Pius IX in 1851.

Sister Marie of St Peter, a Carmelite nun in Tours France, started the devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus. She said that in an 1844 vision Jesus told her: "Oh if you only knew what great merit you acquire by saying even once, Admirable is the Name of God, in a spirit of reparation for blasphemy."

St Therese of Lisieux, 1896
In the 19th century, another Carmelite nun, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, was instrumental in spreading this devotion throughout France in the 1890s with her many poems and prayers. Eventually Pope Pius XII approved the devotion in 1958 and declared the Feast of the Holy Face of Jesus as Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) for all Catholics. Therese of Lisieux emerged as one of the most popular saints for Catholics in the 20th century, and a statue of her can be found in many European and North American Catholic churches built prior to the Second Vatican Council (after which the number of statues tended to be reduced when churches were built).

In the 20th century, in the last apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fátima, Portugal, Sister Lúcia, one of the most famous visionaries of Our Lady, said that the Virgin appeared to her as Our Lady of Mount Carmel (holding the Brown Scapular). Many years after, Lúcia became a Carmelite nun. When Sister Lúcia was asked in an interview why the Blessed Virgin appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel in her last apparition, she replied: "Because Our Lady wants all to wear the Scapular... The reason for this," she explained, "is that the Scapular is our sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary". When asked if the Brown Scapular is as necessary to the fulfillment of Our Lady’s requests as the Rosary, Sister Lúcia answered: "The Scapular and the Rosary are inseparable".

The Carmelite Order Today

Since the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962 - 1965), Carmelites have reflected at length on their identity, on their charism, on what is fundamental in their lives and what is for them a "life-project", namely "to live a life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and serve him faithfully with a pure heart and a good conscience" (Rule). They found their allegiance to Christ in their commitment to seek the face of the living God (contemplative dimension), in living in fraternity and service (diakonia) in the midst of the people. They see all this in the lives of the prophet Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary who were led by the Spirit of God. Looking at Mary and Elijah, it is easy for the Carmelites to understand, to interiorise, to live and to announce the truth that makes a person free.
Carmelites, conscious of being part of the Church and of history, live in a fraternity that is open to God and to people, able to listen and give an authentic response to the evangelical life according to their own charism, and they commit themselves to build the Kingdom of God wherever they are. Indeed they are committed to evangelisation in houses of prayer, centres for spiritual exercises, parishes, Marian sanctuaries, schools, religious associations; and to Justice and Peace wherever human dignity is trodden underfoot, especially among the poor, the marginalised, the suffering.
To this vast and varied challenge of the Carmelite friars, one will find in close collaboration: communities of cloistered nuns, Congregations of sisters, Consecrated Lay people, numerous groups of Third Order Lay members and Confraternities of the Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. All these groups, born of the Spirit throughout the centuries, and inspired by the Carmelite Rule are intimately united by the bond of love, of spirituality and of the communion of spiritual goods. They constitute the Carmelite Family in the Church. At present the Carmelite Order (the friars) is formed of Provinces, General Commissariats, General Delegations, Hermetical Communities and an Affiliated Community with a total of about 2,000 religious. They are found in all the continents.

Modern history

The French Revolution, the secularization in Germany, and the repercussions on religious orders following the unification of Italy were heavy blows to the Carmelites. By the last decades of the 19th century, there were approximately 200 Carmelite men throughout the world. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, new leadership and less political interference allowed a rebirth of the Order. Existing provinces began re-founding provinces that had gone out of existence. The theological preparation of the Carmelites was strengthened, particularly with the foundation of St. Albert's College in Rome.

By 2001, the membership had increased to approximately 2,100 men in 25 provinces, 700 enclosed nuns in 70 monasteries, and 13 affiliated Congregations and Institutes. In addition, the Third Order of lay Carmelites count 25,000-30,000 members throughout the world. 

 Video: History of the Carmelites Part V of V




Snippet, Part II: Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Origin and History of the Devotion

OLMC and St Simon Stock, Novelli
In its origin as a practical garment, a scapular was a type of work apron, frequently used by monks, consisting of large pieces of cloth front and back joined over the shoulders with strips of cloth. It forms part of the habit of some religious orders including the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, the Carmelites. The first Carmelite hermits who lived on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land in the 12th century are thought to have worn a belted tunic and striped mantle typical of pilgrims; when the Carmelites moved to Europe in the mid 13th century and became a mendicant order of friars they adopted a new habit that included a brown belted tunic, brown scapular, a hood called a capuche, and white mantle.

According to traditional accounts, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared at Cambridge to St. Simon Stock, who was Prior General of the Carmelite Order in the middle of the 13th century. The earliest reference to this tradition, dating from the late 14th century, states that "St. Simon was an Englishman, a man of great holiness and devotion, who always in his prayers asked the Virgin to favor his Order with some singular privilege. The Virgin appeared to him holding the Scapular in her hand saying, 'This is for you and yours a privilege; the one who dies in it will be saved.'"

In the Middle Ages, a habit was a very essential part of the identity of members of religious orders. To remove one's habit was tantamount to leaving the Order. The Carmelite Constitution of 1369 stipulates automatic excommunication for Carmelites who say Mass without a scapular, while the Constitutions of 1324 and 1294 consider it a serious fault to sleep without the scapular. 

According to Hugh Clarke, O.Carm, "The origins of the Scapular devotion are to be found in the desires of lay people during the Middle ages to be closely associated with the Carmelite Order and its spirituality." It was customary for laypeople who belonged to confraternities, sodalities, or third orders affiliated with the religious orders to wear some sign of membership, frequently some part derived from the religious habit such as a cord, cloak or scapular. During part of their history, the lay affiliates of the Carmelites wore the white mantle which the friars wore, or even the full habit. The small brown scapular and Mary's promise of salvation for the wearer, began to be promoted to the laity in the form we are familiar with today by Giovanni Battista Rossi, prior general of the Carmelites from 1564-1578.

The Carmelite scapular is said to have been very widespread in European countries at the end of the 16th century. In 1600, the Carmelite Egidio Leoindelicato da Sciacca published a book called "Giardino Carmelitano" which includes the formulas of blessing for the Fratelli and Sorelle della Compagnia della Madonna del Carmine (laypeople who received the complete habit of the order) and the formula for the blessing of the scapular for the Devoti della Compagnia Carmelitana. This is the earliest apparent form of blessing for the small scapular. It is also noteworthy that the formula for the sisters contains no reference to the scapular, while in that for the brothers there is a special blessing for the scapular.

The Scapular 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.

The Spiritual Meaning of the Scapular

OLMC Brown 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 teaches us: 

    - to be open to God, and to His will, shown to us in the events of our lives;
    - 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.
* It reminds 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

* People are enrolled in the Brown Scapular only once, by a priest or authorized person.
* The Scapular 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.
* 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.

Short Form for Giving the Scapular

Receive this 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, voluntary doing the will of God and devoting yourself to building a world true to his plan of community, justice and peace.

The Brown Scapular is not:

* a magical charm to protect you
* an automatic 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
* stands for 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
    - discovering God present in all that happens around us
* introduces 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

Sabbatine Privilege

A central belief about the Brown Scapular is its signification of the wearer's consecration to Mary. In 1951, Venerable Pope Pius XII wrote in an Apostolic letter to the Carmelites on the 700th anniversary of the vision of St. Simon Stock, that he hoped the Scapular would "be to them a sign of their consecration to the most sacred heart of the Immaculate Virgin."

One of the beliefs most influential in popularizing the brown scapular devotion was a promise known as the Sabbatine privilege. It was associated with an apocryphal Papal Bull allegedly written in 1322 by Pope John XXII. It states that Pope John XXII had a vision of Our Lady granting that through her special intercession, Mary will come down to personally deliver the souls of Carmelites and Confraternity members out of Purgatory on the first Saturday after their death ("Sabbatine" means Saturday), as long as they fulfill certain conditions including wearing the brown scapular. 

 The Vatican has denied the validity of this document since 1613, but didn't forbade the Carmelites "to preach that the Christian people may piously believe in the help which the souls of brothers and members, who have departed this life in charity, have worn in life the scapular, have ever observed chastity, have recited the Little Hours [of the Blessed Virgin], or, if they cannot read, have observed the fast days of the Church, and have abstained from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (except when Christmas falls on such days), may derive after death — especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin — through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection." These elements are reflected in older versions of the requirements of enrollment in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular.

Today, the Carmelite Orders, while encouraging a belief in Mary's aid and prayerful assistance for their souls beyond death and commending devotion to Mary especially on Saturdays which are dedicated to her, explicitly state in their official catechetical materials that they do not promulgate the Sabbatine privilege, and are at one with official Church teaching on the matter. But the Church didn't condemn anyone who believe in the Sabatine privilege, which belongs in the field of private revelations.

“Our Lady of Mount Carmel″ is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order, and the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (also known as the Brown Scapular), is the habit of that Order.[1] In its small form, it is widely popular within the Catholic Church as a sacramental and has probably served as the prototype of all the other devotional scapulars. The liturgical feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16, is popularly associated with devotion to the Scapular.

According to the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship, the Brown Scapular is "an external sign of the filial relationship established between the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother and Queen of Mount Carmel, and the faithful who entrust themselves totally to her protection, who have recourse to her maternal intercession, who are mindful of the primacy of the spiritual life and the need for prayer."

Promises of the Scapular

The earliest form of the Scapular promise states simply that wearers of the brown scapular, the Carmelite habit, will be saved. In the first place this meant Carmelite religious who remained faithful to their vocation. Later the small Brown Scapular became popular with the laity as a sacramental.

The nature of the spiritual help associated with the Brown Scapular came to be described in greater detail and specificity. A traditional formulation of the Scapular Promise is "Take this Scapular. Whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and pledge of peace."

At times the scapular has been preached as an easy way to heaven, which has led to criticism of the devotion.Devotees of the Brown Scapular have sometimes been accused of straying into superstition. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that sacramentals such as the Brown Scapular "do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it."

Believers in the traditional scapular promise sometimes argue that Mary's intercession either grants conversion, final perseverance, and/or last rites to the wearer, to secure the assurances of the Scapular Promise. Possibly another argument is that the scapular is despised by faithless and godless souls, rejecting the Virgin's promise, and so they come nowhere near to wearing it. Another argument is that in cases of stubborn unrepentant sinners the scapular will somehow, miraculously or not, be taken off the wearer, this was suggested by Saint Claude de la Colombière.

The 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia states that a list of indulgences, privileges, and indults of the Scapular Confraternity of Mount Carmel was approved on July 4, 1908, by the Congregation of Indulgences.

Historical difficulties

With modern scholarship shedding light on the first centuries of the Carmelite Order, very great difficulty has arisen for the historicity of Our Lady's scapular vision to St. Simon Stock. The first mention of the vision appears in the late 14th century, almost 150 years after the date in 1251 when it is sometimes stated to have occurred, and is not noted in the earliest accounts of St. Simon Stock's life and miracles. The history of the Carmelite habit and legislation and discussion relating to it within the Order during that time span, do not mention nor seem to imply a tradition about the Blessed Virgin giving the Scapular to the Carmelites, nor do the notable Carmelite writers of the 14th century, such as John Baconthorpe, mention the scapular. History even records an instance in 1375 when an English Carmelite named Nicholas Hornby engaged in a public debate with a Dominican friar in which Hornby ridiculed Dominican claims to have received their habit from the Blessed Virgin—this was a claim common to several different orders in the Middle Ages. Hornby showed no sign of being aware of any similar claim that had been made by a fellow English Carmelite in the preceding century.

Amidst confusing evidence, it has been suggested that some other Carmelite than Saint Simon Stock had a mystical vision, the story of which was later associated with him. A Dominican history compiled by Gerard of Frachet in 1259-1260 tells of the 1237 drowning death of a holy Dominican, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, off the coast of Acre, Israel (near Mount Carmel), and mentions "a certain brother of the Order of Carmel" who was tempted to abandon his vocation because God had permitted this to happen to so holy a man; Bl. Jordan was said to have appeared then to the brother in a vision, reassuring him that "all who serve the Lord Jesus Christ to the end will be saved." Gerard concludes: "the brother himself, and the prior of the same Order, brother Simon, a religious and truthful man, have related these things to our friars." This story which bears a notable similarity to the traditional story of the scapular vision and promise of salvation, with obvious differences, is one of very few known references to Saint Simon Stock written during his lifetime. It has also been pointed out that in the Middle Ages, careful history of the kind we expect today was an exception to the rule, and it was very common to clothe spiritual and theological beliefs in the form of a story.

Fr. Kieran Kavanaugh, OCD, writes that "from a scholar's historical point of view, we must admit that there is a lack of documentary evidence that would demonstrate irrefutably the truth or historicity of the apparition. At the same time, there exists no cogent reason for denouncing the apparition as false and definitively denying its truth." The Carmelite Order (O.Carm) states on their website that even if the apparition is not historical, "the scapular itself has remained for all Carmelites a sign of Mary's motherly protection and as a personal commitment to follow Jesus in the footsteps of his Mother, the perfect model of all his disciples." 


The scapular must consist of two pieces of brown cloth with one segment hanging on the wearer's chest, and the other hanging on his/her back. These pieces are joined by two straps or strings which overlap each shoulder—hence the word "scapular" (shoulder blade). Images sewn onto the Brown Scapular are unnecessary. In the past the scapular was required to be 100% wool but this is no longer required; the habits of the Carmelite religious are also now typically made of other, less expensive and more durable materials. It is normally worn under the clothes but not pinned to undergarments.

Because wool deteriorates rapidly in tropical climates, since 1910 those properly invested into a confraternity may wear a properly blessed scapular medal with the depiction of Jesus with his Sacred Heart on one side and Mary on the obverse. However, Pope Saint Pius X expressed his preference for the cloth scapular. Pope Benedict XV has also proclaimed the Church's strong preference for cloth to be worn rather than the medal. This preference is because cloth is important to the sign value of the scapular as a garment, a habit.

Enrollment in the Brown Scapular

Any Catholic priest may invest a baptised Catholic with the Brown Scapular. Lay people may not bless a Scapular. There is a form of the blessing and investiture in the Book of Blessings which will normally be found in any Catholic parish. The most recent Rite for the Blessing of and Enrollment in the Scapular, approved in 1996 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is available in booklet form, the "Catechesis and Ritual for the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel", published in 2000 and distributed by ICS Publications. The rite can also be found on the website of the Carmelite Order.

The short form of the investiture is as follows:
Receive this 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.
According to a 1996 doctrinal statement approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, "Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is bound to the history and spiritual values of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and is expressed through the scapular. Thus, whoever receives the scapular becomes a member of the order and pledges him/herself to live according to its spirituality in accordance with the characteristics of his/her state in life."


  • Ratio Institutionis Vitae Carmelianae (Carmelite Formation: A Journey of Transformation), published by the General Curia of the Carmelites in Rome, 2000. 
  • *The Mystical City of God: Life of the Virgin Mother of God, manifested to Sister Mary of Jesus of Agreda, 1602-1666 - Imprimatur H. J. Alerding, Bishop of Fort Wayne. Rome City, Ind., Aug. 24, 1912.
  • Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religion
  • Copsey, Richard and Fitzgerald-Lombard, Patrick (eds.), Carmel in Britain: studies on the early history of the Carmelite Order (1992–2004).
  • "The Carmelite Order" by Benedict Zimmerman. The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908.