On October 13, 1917 God performed a Miracle at Fatima. Recent studies show that over 100,000 people watched the sun “dance” and spin, and the three little seers were privileged with other visions. The last vision was seen by Lucia alone. Our Lady appeared, dressed as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth, Her little Son upon Her knee. When she was asked the significance of this appearance, Lucia answered that the Mother of God wanted everyone to wear the Scapular. Father Howard Rafferty, Third Order Provincial of the Carmelites in the United States, was able to question Lucia about Fatima and the Scapular. The following is part of that interview:
Father Rafferty: “In some books on Fatima some authors do not make a mention of the Scapular as a part of the message.”
Sister Lucia: “Oh, they are wrong!”
Father: “What indicated that the Virgin appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the last vision of Fatima?”
Sister Lucia: “Because She held the Scapular in Her hands. The Holy Father has said to all the world that the Scapular is the exterior sign of our consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Father: “Is the Scapular therefore necessary in order to fulfill the Message of Fatima?”
Sister Lucia: “Yes.”
Father: “Would you say that it is as necessary as the Rosary?”
Sister Lucia: “The Rosary and the Scapular are inseparable.”
At Fatima, Our Lady emphasized the importance of the Brown Scapular; Her appearance as Our Lady of Mount Carmel reminded people about the promise She had made to St. Simon Stock almost 670 years previously.
History of the Carmelites and the Scapular
The Brown Scapular is a miniature of the brown woven wool mantle that the Carmelites wear. The Order itself has its origins on Mount Carmel near the fountain of the prophet Elias. Elias, one of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament, was the founder of the Carmelite Order, and his zeal, love and fear of God was the inspiration of the early Carmelites. It was at his prayer that the famed three-and-a-half-year drought ended (3 Kings, ch. 18). The first rain to fall came from a cloud rising out of the sea in the shape of a human foot. The cloud grew and grew until it covered the whole land and a great rain fell. Elias and his hermit companions saw in this cloud a prefiguration of The Woman who God promised would crush the serpent’s head, “thou shalt lie in wait for Her heel and She shall crush thy head…” (Genesis 3:15). Several Saints and Doctors of the Catholic Church also explain to the world how this cloud, rising pure out of the bitter sea and leaving all impurities behind, is a figure of the Immaculate Virgin who would rise pure out of the sea of humankind, free of its universal impurity of original sin. After Elias had seen the cloud, he bade his followers to pray for the coming of The Virgin who was to bring forth man’s Savior.
Their prayers were answered. Not only did the Immaculate Virgin give birth to the God-man, but several years later, on their return from Egypt, the Holy Family sought food, shelter and rest amongst these saintly monks. After the Holy Family left them, these men of God built the first chapel on earth ever to be dedicated to the Mother of God. These men found in the Ark of the Covenant the perfect example of Elias’ teachings of prayer and meditation. They took Her as their model, and She taught them how to offer to God everything with a clean heart. For centuries before they had to leave Palestine they called themselves “Hermits of St. Mary of Mount Carmel.”
When the Saracens invaded, the Carmelites had to leave their beloved mount and to find another place where they could worship God. The Carmelites prayed to Our Lady, their perfect example, for guidance and She led them to Aylesford, England in 1241 with the help of Saint Simon Stock. Their first thought on reaching their refuge was to build a shrine in honor of their Patroness. In 1246 Simon Stock became the General of the entire Order. They had many trials, most of which seemed insurmountable. There were difficulties from within the Order occasioned by the great change due to the transfer from Palestine to England. There was trouble from outside the Order. The whole secular clergy attacked this “new” order. They seemed to hate the Carmelites, and especially the habits these people from the east wore. The old monks, fiercely loyal and loving towards their ancient cloak derived from Elian tradition, felt this particular persecution deeply. Simon Stock, who always had recourse to Our Lady, turned to Her now when all the problems he faced seemed to have become too great for him to handle. One day, July 16, 1251, Simon Stock went to his cell and prayed with all his heart for Our Dear Mother’s intercession. He prayed,
“Flower of Carmel
Splendor of Heaven
None equal Thee!
O Mother benign,
Who no man didst know,
On all Carmel’s children
Thy favors bestow,
Star of the Sea!”
Suddenly the Saint’s cell was flooded with light. Our Lady appeared to him, holding the Scapular in Her hand, even as she wore it full size on Herself, and She made this, the Scapular, a sign of Her special love and protection for them. She said to Saint Simon, “THIS SHALL BE TO THEE AND TO ALL CARMELITES A PRIVILEGE, THAT WHOSOEVER DIES CLOTHED IN THIS (Scapular) SHALL NOT SUFFER ETERNAL FIRE.”
After the Vision a miraculous change took place in peoples’ attitudes towards the Order. The Pope approved the Order, and ordered that Ecclesiastical censures be used against anyone who further persecuted the Carmelites. He issued letters to Bishops and Archbishops, telling them to treat the Hermits of Saint Mary of Mount Carmel with more charity and consideration. After that, both civil and Ecclesiastical authorities helped the Carmelites.
A few years later the Blessed Virgin appeared to Pope John XXII. She revealed to him a second great promise which was to be attached to the Scapular: the Saturday, or “The Sabbatine” Privilege. That is, members of the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular who 1) faithfully wear the Scapular of Mount Carmel, 2) observe chastity according to their state in life, and 3) recite daily five decades of the Rosary (when substitution of the Rosary for the Little Office is granted*) will be freed from the pains of purgatory on the first Saturday after death.
Ever since Our Lady blessed the Scapular of Mount Carmel in 1251 it has been a Sign of Consecration to Mary. For a long time this special sign of consecration belonged exclusively to the Order. People outside the Order became anxious to be associated with Carmel, the Scapular, and its promises. So in the thirteenth century the Third Order and Confraternity of the Scapular of Carmel arose.
*All Catholics enrolled in the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel may receive the benefit of substituting 5 decades of the Rosary daily for the Little Office of Our Lady, by filling out our Fatima Crusade pledge and on it requesting this benefit, and sending the pledge to us at Fatima Crusade Headquarters.
What do we gain from belonging to the Confraternity of Mount Carmel?
The enrolled wearers of the Brown Scapular gain not only the promise of Salvation and the Sabbatine Privilege granted by the Mother of Grace, (which in itself should be sufficient reason for wearing it) and many indulgences granted by several Popes, but they also gain in the participation in all Masses, prayers and good works performed by the Religious of Mount Carmel.
When we wear the Scapular, we wear a garment blessed in Heaven, promoted on earth by Our Lady Herself. We wear what Our Blessed Mother wore when She made the unconditional promise of Salvation for all who were duly enrolled into the Confraternity, and who wore, at the hour of their death, the cloth which is a sign of Her love for us.
Catholic theologians and authorities like St. Robert Bellarmine, Pope Benedict XIV, Vermeersch etc., explain the promise to mean that anyone who dies in Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Confraternity, and wears the Scapular at the time of death, will receive from Her, at that hour, either the grace of perseverance in the state of grace or the grace of final contrition. Saints and Pontiffs, however, often warn us of the foolhardiness of abusing Mary’s promise. At the same time that Pope Pius XI joyfully professed: “I learned to love the Scapular Virgin in the arms of my mother”, he also warned all the faithful that “although it is very true that the Blessed Virgin loves all who love Her, nevertheless those who wish to have the Blessed Mother as a helper at the hour of death, must in life merit such a signal favor by abstaining from sin and laboring in Her honor.” One can take it as certain that if he continually sins because of Mary’s Scapular Promise, he shall not die in the Scapular. To lead a sinful life while trusting in the Scapular Promise is to commit a sin, the horror of which borders on sacrilege; its punishment will not only be eternal but far worse than if we had led a sinful life without making the Mother of God an excuse for crucifying Her Son.
St. Alphonsus says, “Modern heretics make a mockery of wearing the Scapular. They decry it as so much trifling nonsense.” Yet there have been nine official, formal confirmations of the privilege. There have been nine different Popes who validly established the privilege. St. Pius V said: “With Our Apostolic authority and by tenor of the present we approve each of the privileges of the Scapular and also the Sabbatine.” St. Pius X also approved them, as did also Pope Paul V: “It is permitted to preach … that the Blessed Virgin will aid the souls of the Brothers and Sisters of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel after their death by Her continual intercession, by Her sufferings and merits and by Her special protection, especially on the day of Saturday …” Pope Pius XI, commemorating the sixth centenary of the Sabbatine Privilege, said, “It surely ought to be sufficient merely to exhort all the members of the Confraternity to persevere in the holy exercises which have been prescribed for the gaining of the indulgences to which they are entitled and particularly for the gaining of that indulgence which is the principal and the greatest of them all, namely that called the Sabbatine.” Pius XII wrote about the Scapular, “Let it be your sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which We are particularly urging in these perilous times.” On February 2, 1965, in explaining what the Second Vatican Council meant about devotion to Our Lady, Pope Paul VI said, “… ever hold in great esteem the practices and exercises of the devotion to the most Blessed Virgin which have been recommended for centuries by the Magisterium of the Church. And among them we judge well to recall especially the Marian Rosary and the religious use of the Scapular of Mount Carmel.”
In 1276 the remains of Pope Gregory X were laid to rest at Arezzo. In 1830 his body was placed elsewhere. When they opened the tomb, they found, on the pontiff’s shoulders, his Carmelite Scapular, incorrupt. It is still perfectly preserved and is one of the greatest treasures of the Arezzo museum. Pope Gregory X was the first person to wear a small Scapular.
Forty years after the death of St. Alphonsus Liguori, his body was exhumed and everything corruptible in it had turned to dust: all except his Brown Scapular. The clothes he had on over the Scapular, the skin under the Scapular had decayed, but his Scapular remains to this day intact, and even the cotton picture attached to the wool is as clear as it was when he died, and the cotton thread fastenings are still strong.
St. John Bosco, who had preached about the Scapular and who had enrolled thousands, had a similar thing happen in his tomb. All decayable had gone except the Scapular. It would seem God was showing, in these cases, how important the Brown Scapular and its promises are.
Our Lady’s promise to Saint Simon Stock was for eternal life after earthly death. But the wearers of the Brown Scapular have also received singular graces of bodily protection. Mary Herself said: “Take this Scapular, whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a Sign of Salvation a protection in danger and a pledge of peace”.
On its way to Australia in 1845, the English ship, King of the Ocean was hit by a wild storm. A protestant minister, Rev. Fisher, his wife, children and other passengers went on deck to pray and ask for God’s mercy, as the ship seemed doomed.
An Irish crewman, John McAuliffe, opened his shirt and took off his Scapular. Making the Sign of the Cross over the ocean he threw the Scapular overboard. The wind immediately died, the waves calmed. Only one more wave washed the deck before the storm blew out. When the wave receded, the Brown Scapular John had thrown into the ocean was left at his feet.
The minister and his wife saw what had happened and questioned John. He told them about the Blessed Virgin, Her Scapular and Her promise of protection. They were so impressed that they determined to become Catholic so that they too could enjoy such a great protection.
In May, 1957 an entire row of houses had caught fire in Westboden, Germany. The family of one of the homes, realizing what was happening, immediately fastened a Scapular to the main door of the house. Sparks flew over it and around it but it did not catch on fire. Within five hours twenty-two houses were reduced to ashes. The one with the Scapular on it remained unharmed, in the midst of the destruction.
Many more events proclaiming Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s intercession have been recorded, and some of these we hope to pass on. Extraordinary events of this kind happen to ordinary people like us. We too can enjoy the protection of the Queen of Heaven and Earth, our own Dear Mother, by wearing the shield She so lovingly gave us.
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