A Brief History of the Brown Scapular
St. Simon Stock joined the Order when it arrived in England around the time Christians were driven out of the Holy Land. He was known for his sanctity, studied so that he could preach, and was eventually elected General of the Order. He wanted to bring the Carmelites into university cities both for recruitment purposes and for whatever the Order could gain from the educational opportunities afforded by the universities.
The Order at this time focused on its mendicant aspect, that is, its demands of adaptability.
The Bull of Honorius III in 1226 stopped people from saying the Carmelites were not legitimate, but others persecuted the order despite the Bull. St. Simon stock saw the effects of this persecution, and prayed to Mary to help address the issue. He did so because the Order belonged to her.
He wrote the Flos Carmeli prayer, and on July 16th, 1251, St. Simon Stock saw a vision where the Mother of God appeared with a legion of angels with great light holding baby Jesus in her arms, and holding the Scapular of the Order. She said, “Receive, my dear son, this scapular of your Order, as a distinctive sign of my confraternity, and as the guarantee for the prvilege which I have obatined for you and for the children of Carmel. Those who shall die clothed with this habit will not suffer eternal fires. It is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in perils, and the pledge of peace and of my special protection to the end of time.”
The Church holds the scapular is not a magic get-out-of-Hell charm, but that a person who is not in a state of mortal sin and lives up to the responsibilities associated with wearing it, is granted the grace of final perseverance.
Do you wear the brown scapular, or are you considering enrolling in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular? Many people wear the brown scapular without realizing the full benefits or responsibilities that accompany it. Below you will find three things that are useful to know for anyone interested in the brown scapular devotion.
You can be Carmelite without joining a third order as a layperson.
If you wear the brown scapular and practice Carmelite spirituality, you are affiliated with the Carmelite order and will receive the graces of the scapular even if you never enrolled in the Scapular Confraternity.
The brown scapular is not a magic get-out-of-Hell charm.
The Blessed Mother assured St. Simon Stock that people who remain faithful to their Carmelite vocation until death will receive the grace they need for final perseverance.
Simply wearing the brown scapular, then, does not save you from Hell. You need to live a Christian life; you cannot die in the state of mortal sin. To receive the grace of final perseverance that the Blessed Mother promised for the Carmelites, you must fulfill your responsibilities as a Carmelite.
If you are committed to fulfilling these responsibilities, the brown scapular becomes a beautiful sign of the promise you can be confident will be fulfilled. When you look at the brown scapular, you are being reminded of the protection that Mary gives to the Carmelite order.
Wearing the brown scapular comes with responsibilities.
The brown scapular requires you to have some familiarity with Carmelite spirituality and its practices. For example, Carmelites live a life of prayer and penance, and they focus on building virtue. They also regularly attend Mass and receive communion, meditate on Scripture, and remain devoted to the Blessed Mother.
If you wear the brown scapular, which is a habit of the Carmelite order, even if you are not enrolled in the Scapular Confraternity, you still have these responsibilities.