Incredible saints have come from the Carmelite religious order: Saints John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux represent this Catholic spirituality. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the Spiritual Mother of the Carmelites.
The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16th. During the late 14th century, St. Simon Stock received a vision of Mary who advised him to wear a scapular as a sign of her protection.
Before I go further, I have to clarify something to avoid getting a ticket from the grammar police. I am aware I misspelled Carmel in the title (who hasn’t said caramel in place of carmel at least once?). I did not know much about the Brown Scapular (or any for that matter—there is blue, green, and white too!) until a few years ago. This Catholic devotion provides a sweet win over sin. However, God planted many hints of this devotion in my childhood.
Before my son’s First Communion earlier this summer, we showed him some sacramentals I received for my First Communion and on the top right of the felt-laden box was a brown scapular. My mother also made it a point to frequent the local Carmelite monastery when Mass was open to the public.
Sacramental, not magic
The Brown Scapular is not a talisman—it does not bestow magical protection for the wearer. According to the Catholic of the Catholic Church paragraph 1677, “Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men (and women) to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.”
While Mary promised protection (and salvation) to all wearing the Brown Scapular upon death, the sacramental is a sign pointing at sacramental living. I had a priest bless my Brown Scapular. It is suggested you make a consecration to Mary as well.
Initially, Marian consecration seemed excessive (I already pray the Rosary). But the more I petition Our Spiritual Mother for guidance the closer I am to Her Son. St. Louis de Montfort wrote, “We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor his Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor him all the more perfectly. We go to her only as a way leading to the goal we seek—Jesus, her Son.”
We give titles to people we honor
I have learned that the more a person learns about a subject or person there exists a direct correlation in an increased amount of titles or synonyms to describe them. For example, I had a lot of nicknames as an infant and toddler because of my parent’s love toward me. I have inherited that same knack to create multiple monikers for my children as well.
Within the Catholic Church, our honor toward Mary, the Mother of God, lends itself to a burgeoning of titles to reference her, too. She has over 2,000 titles! Her title Our Lady of Mount Carmel reminds us that closeness to Mary is closeness to Jesus. Mary’s promised Simon Stock, “Whosoever dies in this garment shall not suffer eternal fire.” Again, the Brown Scapular is not a lucky charm or talisman. Instead, it is an outward sign of an interior lifestyle. The principles of Carmelite spirituality include:
- Frequent participation in the Mass and reception of the Eucharist
- Frequent reading of and reflections on the Word of God in Sacred Scripture
- The regular praying of at least part of the Liturgy of the Hours
- Imitation of and devotion to Mary, the woman of faith who hears the Word of God and puts it into practice
- The practice of the virtues, notably charity, chastity (accordion to one’s state of life), and obedience to the will of God.
Mount Carmel—a place of sweet victory
Another interesting fact about the Carmelites is Mount Carmel is the same mountain where the Old Testament prophet Elijah challenged 450 prophets of Ba’al. Elijah lived during a time when Israel succumbed to idol worship. His complete trust in God allowed him to be an instrument for God’s power and majesty (1 Kings 18: 20-39).
Our Lady of Mount Carmel testifies to the power of God in an even better way than Elijah. Mary’s total obedience to God the Father’s will led the birth of Jesus Christ—our savior. The Blessed Mother of God leads us to the Son. You will battle sin all your life. Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel protects us and leads us to victory (through trusting in Jesus) over sin.
Featured image: Wikimedia commons.