Our Lady Of Mount Carmel
Nine centuries before Christ, the great prophet Elias went to the heights of Carmel to beg God to send rain after three and a half years of drought. In answer to his prayers Elias saw a small cloud rise out of the sea – a promise of the Immaculate Virgin Mary who would give us her Son to save mankind from the punishment of original sin.
At the time of the Crusades there were hermits living on Mt. Carmel in imitation of Elias. In their midst was a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. To the medieval members of the Order, Mary was the Gracious Lady who protected them from danger, who won for them the favor of Christ, her Son.
The one gift that unites all Catholics to Our Blessed Lady of Mt. Carmel is her scapular. The scapular was given to St. Simon Stock, prior general of the Carmelite Order, on July 16, 1251. Our Lady appeared to the Saint when there was great danger that her order would perish. The words of St. Simon were the prayer, Flower of Carmel, still said daily by Carmelites around the world: “Flower of Carmel, Vine, Blossom-laden, Splendor of Heaven, Child bearing maiden, none equals thee; O Mother benign, who no man didst know, on all Carmel’s children thy favors bestow, Star of the Sea.”
The Blessed Mother answered Simon’s prayers by giving him the scapular, telling him: “Receive this habit, this shall be a sign of salvation. Whosoever dies clothed in this shall not suffer eternal fire.”
Seven centuries have shown what a generous gift our Mother gave us when she made for us the garment of her scapular. German Catholics call the scapular Mary’s “garment-of-grace”.
Mary’s habit is a humble garment, simply two pieces of cloth joined by strings. Yet, we do not measure God’s gifts by ordinary standards. The very simplicity of the scapular is a lesson in modesty and purity. The Queen of Heaven has made the scapular the pledge of her protection, especially at the hour of death. Our mother has clothed us, her children, with her garment of choice. Wearing it, we show that we have dedicated ourselves completely to her service, and are reminded to imitate our Mother. The continual wearing of it is a prayer for Mary’s protection, a sign of our complete dependence on her.
The second promise Mary made is known as the Sabbatine Privilege—Saturday, because our Lady promised scapular-wearers who perform certain additional acts in her honor prompt delivery from Purgatory, especially on the Saturday after death. We believe that God grants all graces through His Mother. Mary showed herself to Bernadette at Lourdes for the last time on July 16; in her last vision at Fatima, she appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. When we were enrolled in the scapular, the following prayer was said: “May Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, bless you whom he has been pleased to receive into the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel. We beg her to crush the head of the ancient serpent in the hour of your death, and in the end obtain for you the palm and crown of your everlasting inheritance. Amen.”