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 IIOne 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,
"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.
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