Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

This feast of Our Lady is not just for Carmelites - it is for the Universal Church.
Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church. By its simplicity, its anthropological value and its relationship to Mary's role in regard to the Church and humanity, this devotion was so deeply and widely accepted by the People of God that it came to be expressed in the memorial of 16 July on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church. - Blessed John Paul II
One can remain a lay person and belong to the family of Carmel through devotion to the Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  Membership in the Secular Carmelites is a special vocation, but enrollment into the Scapular Confraternity is open to all laity, priests and religious alike.  Otherwise, anyone may devoutly wear the Scapular as a sign of devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

John Paul II as a layman,
secular Carmelite,
wearing scapular

"The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother's loving presence in their lives." - JPII
Who may invest people with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel? 
According to the Rite for the Blessing and Enrollment in the Scapular of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, approved by the Holy See in 1996, any priest or deacon has the faculties for blessing the scapular.  A person given authority to act in the name of the order may receive people into the confraternity of the scapular.  The official ritual provided by the Holy See makes no provision for someone other than a priest or deacon to bless the scapular. - Catechesis
Triptych Madonna of the Scapular,
side panels, Prophet Elijah and St. Elisha,
and St. Simon Stock receiving the scapular.
Personal speculations regarding the scapular.
It's an article of clothing, as the Holy Father noted in the address cited above, it is essentially a habit.  Scapulars go back a long time.  The scapular became a sign of taking upon oneself, the yoke of Christ.  Religious Jews wear a similar garment, somewhat analogous with the Roman Catholic habit of wearing the Scapular:
The tallit katan (Yiddish/Ashkenazic Hebrew tallis koton; "small tallit") is a fringed garment traditionally worn either under or over one’s clothing by Jewish males. It is a poncho-like garment with a hole for the head and special twined and knotted fringes known as tzitzit attached to its four corners. The requirements regarding the fabric and fringes of a tallit katan are the same as that of a tallit gadol. Generally a tallit katan is made of wool or cotton. - History here.
The scapular as an article of Christian religious clothing goes further back than medieval times - it was part of the monastic habit - in one form or another - going back at least to St. Pachomius (4th century), who was believed to have received it from an angel, as part of the monastic 'schema' - still worn by Orthodox monks.

The scapular originally was thought to be part of the work habit amongst monastics, and was prescribed in the Rule of St. Benedict.  Yet as I mentioned earlier, Eastern monasticism traces it back to the 4th century and St. Pachomius and the 'Angelic habit'.  John Cassian likewise records the habits of the Egyptian desert fathers, which includes the malfor, or scapular.  That text here:
Chapter VI.
Of their Capes.
Next they cover their necks and shoulders with a narrow cape, aiming at modesty of dress as well as cheapness and economy; and this is called in our language as well as theirs mafors; and so they avoid both the expense and the display of cloaks and great coats. - Cassian, Bk. I: The Dress of Monks

A 'prophetic garment' - an 'evangelical garment'.

Perhaps it is a stretch on my part but I have always seen the Scapular of Mt. Carmel somehow prefigured as it were, in this episode in the Book of Kings when Elijah passes on the mantel to Elisha. It seems to me when Our Lady gave the scapular to St. Simon there was a similar significance. To be sure it is a sign of her favor and protection, first to Carmel and then to the lay person who wears her 'livery' as the medieval word refers to it. Ponder the idea and consider it's meaning.

Elijah passes on the mantel to Elisha.

The Order of Carmel has always seen the prophets Elijah and Elisha as the 'proto-founders' of the order. In the passage from Kings wherein Elijah sees the "little cloud rising from the sea" from his perch atop the summit of Mt. Carmel many have written that this little cloud prefigures the Virgin who would bear the Savior. Archaeological evidence tells us hermit followers of Elijah inhabited Mt. Carmel even in Old Testament times, and of course Christian hermits lived there later, in the spirit of Elijah, hence the origins of the Order of Mt. Carmel.

The affiliation to the Order of Carmel (indeed, simply being a baptized and confirmed Roman Catholic) gives our lives a prophetic character, that of witnessing to our faith, albeit sometimes silently and hidden, much as the Scapular we discreetly yet devoutly wear next to our heart.

Bl. Isidore Bakanja


  1. Terry, I like the old testament imagery of the Scapular of Mt Carmel. I always was fascinated by the connection of the Carmelites with Elijah.

    I thought this was interesting:


    The easiest way to witness to someone is to wear the cloth Scapular. People get so curious about it that they have to ask what it is and why you’re wearing it. That’s why the Brown Scapular with the Holy Face of Jesus that we often wear is so powerful.

    I pull it out. Then I ask, “Have you seen the "Passion of The Christ" movie?” Usually they say yes, or that they know about it. I then go on to mention how Mother Mary wiped up Jesus’ blood and wore one of the cloths to remember the sufferings of Her Son for the sins of the world. and how years later she appeared and gave a duplicate of that cloth, stained to dark brownish red to Saint Simon Stock and asked that everyone wear it in honor of the Precious Blood and her suffering heart.

    “It’s kind of like wearing one of those prayer cloths, like they talk about in the Bible,” I say.

    I then go on to repeat Mary’s promise that ANYONE WHO DIES CLOTHED IN THIS SCAPULAR WILL NEVER SUFFER ETERNAL FIRE. Why? Because if you persist in wearing this as a sign of love and sympathy for Mary or her Son, God will touch your heart with sorrow for all of your sins before you die so that you can be saved.

    In my experience, if I tell the whole story and then mention that I have a pamphlet on the Scapular, (with one attached to it), people will take it. I have NEVER seen anyone refuse it or throw it away.

    Easy, no brain witnessing-yippee!

    You might say, what good does that do? They probably won’t wear it seriously. After a while, they’ll forget about it. Well, I have a real life Scapular story that shows the power of this little piece of cloth."

    1. oops! I forgot the source link : http://pastor-t.tripod.com/holymartyrsofpurity/id3.html

  2. Thank you Terry! Love the scapular of Our Lady of Mt Carmel and believe your version of Elijah passing his mantle on to Elisha is very likely a precursor. The first little chapel on Mt Carmel built by the little Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary was called Our Lady of the Place. I have never been able to visit Mt Carmel. Some say that Christ and Our Lady may well have walked it.

  3. This is why I love coming to your blog Terry! Wisdom and art! I am just starting to read the Bible (I know....) and information like this makes me want to read more.


Please comment with charity and avoid ad hominem attacks. I exercise the right to delete comments I find inappropriate. If you use your real name there is a better chance your comment will stay put.