(NOTE: This transcription has been automatically generated through an AI program. Consequently, this transcript may not match everything you hear in the podcast episode, and it may contain errors such as spelling, grammar, word choice, etc., due to the limitations of current AI technology.)
Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s episode of Midnight Carmelite, this is your host Andrew Gniadek. This week, I wanted to talk a little bit about St. Simon Stock and the scapular, St. Simon Stock was born around the year 1165. There’s a lot of information about him from various sources. I’m just going to go with what I think is going on and indicate any possible pitfalls or could be one way, it could be the other. Most sources indicate that St. Simon Stock lived in the trunk of a tree, which is one reason they think he was called “Stock” and the trunk of the tree was his cell and that’s where he pondered the law of the Lord day and night.
There’s other claims that the name Stock was a surname, we don’t really know for sure what was going on there. St. Simon Stock was extremely devoted to Mary from an early age and during this time period, devotion to Mary was especially high. You think of someone like St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Saint Simon Stock being devoted to Mary at this time wouldn’t have been unreasonable or surprising. So the Carmelites were already founded at this point in the Holy Land, but they now were establishing themselves a little bit in Western Europe.
The Carmelites established themselves in England and Saint Simon Stock joined the order. He studied to be a priest and he even actually went to Mount Carmel. Some sources say twice during his life, but at least in the beginning, he definitely went so that he could be where the order started and drink from the source, so to speak. Finally, in the year 1224, St. Simon Stock became the Vicar General. He was appointed apparently by St. Cyril of Constantinople to be Vicar General of the European provinces of the Carmelites. Ultimately he became the General of the Carmelite order in 1245.
At that time, the Carmelites were dealing with major, major major issue and this was the legitimacy of their order. And what’s important to understand here is that there are a number of reasons that the Carmelites faced this at this time. So the first major reason was that the Carmelites had come from the Holy Land; they weren’t founded in Western Europe, like the Franciscans and the Dominicans. And there was a plethora of religious orders at the time. Things were going crazy because there are tons of foundings happening. So there was this movement to kind of create more efficiency and streamline things by removing orders that were extraneous.
And since the Carmelites weren’t founded in Western Europe, their ways were foreign to the Europeans, the western Europeans, they struggled to prove that they shouldn’t be basically suppressed. For example, when the Carmelites started coming to Europe, they were following the what I’ve called in previous podcasts, the Star-Network model where you have the chapel and the gathering point of the community in the center and then coming out from the center, you have different huts where the different Carmelite monks would go into their cell to meditate on the law of the Lord day and night.
And when they transpose that model into Western Europe, Western Wurope had increasingly more and more people were going to cities for opportunities and you had this order of probably what they considered more eastern monks who no one really knew what they were about. They had striped cloaks at the time. But regardless, they ended up switching to the white cloak that we know today. Anyway, the problem was, is this Star-Network model wasn’t conducive to your Western European life. So the Carmelites were struggling on that front and the second struggle was due to this unfamiliarity.
The Western Europeans were not so sure that the Carmelite shouldn’t be suppressed and they weren’t so sure about the legitimacy their founding again, because they were found in the Holy Land rather than Western Europe. So no one knew what was going on. And more importantly, the Carmelites had a problem where they were claiming that they were founded by Elias and Eliseus. If this was true, this would make them the oldest order in the church spanning both the Old and New Testament. So you can obviously see here, you have this order coming from the Holy Land.
They made claims about whether they’re the oldest order or not. They dress in a specific way that’s unfamiliar. You put all these multiple things together and obviously that’s a stew for conflict or a ripe situation for conflict. So this is the environment where St. Simon Stock found himself which he was trying to navigate. So the first Saint Simon stock made new foundations of the Carmelites in the university cities and this was obviously advantageous for two reasons. The first reason is to educate the Carmelites to contribute to their own education as well as the education of others and to provide their perspective in a sphere when back then writing was rare and the universities were where scholarship was pushed forward and he felt that they should be engaged in these great discussions at that time.
And number two is obviously for recruits, young people who would meet those standards of scholarship entering the universities, they would hopefully want to join the Carmelites or at least see them as just as legitimate as say, a Franciscan or Dominican. The enemies of the order became more fervent though. Pope Honorius III issued a bull called “Ut vivendi normam,” which approved the Carmelites. So they were approved by the Pope, but people still didn’t buy that they were legitimate. Saint Simon stock was becoming desperate. So Saint Simon Stock prayed that God would help the Carmelites and specifically he prayed to Mary for aid, especially given that the Carmelites were called the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.
And the rest is history. On July 16 1251, St. Simon Stock prayed a prayer that he composed for Mary and I’m going to read the Latin and then I’ll read my translation in the English and the Latin, it says
sed viri nescia
Flower of Carmel,
Splendor of Heaven,
Virgin with child,
Yet ignorant of man
On your Carmelites
Star of the Sea.1
So Saint Simon Stock had composed this prayer to Mary. This is only the first two verses of it. If you read the rest of the prayer, it’s clearly him appealing to Mary for help at this stressful time for the Carmelites. During his prayer, on this day, Mary appeared, she had told him the Baby Jesus in her arms, and this is what has been told and brought down to us essentially. That, she said, she said, number one, received the scapular of your order. This is a sign of her confraternity and a guarantee for the privilege she’s obtained for the children of Carmel.
And it says those who die clothed with this habit will not suffer eternal fire. It is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in perils and the pledge of peace and sign of my special protection to the end of time, a lot of things going on here. So first that’s one account of what she said. The reason I just read it that way is that’s the account that sounds right to me of what might have been said based on what I’m seeing in the most recent Catechesis on the Brown Scapular.
What’s important is when Mary says things like this, you will not suffer eternal fire, she’s not saying you just wear the scapular and you won’t go to hell, you have to lead a Christian life. What it is saying, according to the Catechesis, you’ll be granted the grace of final perseverance if you meet certain qualifications. And these qualifications would include practicing some form of Carmelite spirituality, since the Brown Scapular is the habit of the Carmelites and then this privilege, which she obtained for the children of Carmel.
Another thing to consider here is that the scapular is meant to bring you closer to Mary and to be a sign of that protection. Like she says here, that it’s a pledge of peace of my special protection. So it’s something that I think is helpful, especially today. The issue with the Carmelites was resolved. So St. Simon Stock’s prayers worked. So let’s get into some examples of what Carmelite spirituality is, since that’s attached the scapular and that’s attached to the story of Saint Simon Stock.
Some examples of Carmelite spirituality are practices that engender a life of prayer and penance, you frequently attend mass, you receive communion, you meditate on Scripture, and you have devotion to the Blessed Mother. And so obviously this is not all of Carmelite spirituality, but it’s definitely the basics and that should help you get started for everything. It should be mentioned too, that this is a habit of the order, so you are associating yourself in some sense with the Carmelites by wearing the scapular and practicing the spirituality, which is as a devotion has been recommended for a long time for amongst Catholics.
So given that time period, I think it’s a good thing. May we all receive privileges and protection from the Blessed Virgin Mary and double our prayers and penance in her month of May so we can be closer to her and through her, we can be closer to her Son. So this is a shorter episode this week. I just wanted to kind of touch on the story of Saint Simon Stock and kind of put us in a Marian mood given that it’s May. Also, I think what’s powerful about the story is he’s beset on all sides and he appealed to Mary, prayed to Mary, and Mary came through for him.
And you know, you see that you’ll see coming up this week. It’s our feast of Our Lady of Fatima. We see Mary never lets her Children down. So that’s another thing I hope you get out of in this simple story that Mary will always look out for you. That’s it for this week’s episode.
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All translations in this podcast are my own. ↩︎