What is it?
The scapular of Mt. Carmel is the external sign of Marian devotion that consists of the consecration to the Most Holy Virgin Mary by the inscription in the Carmelite order, in the hope of its maternal protection.
The external symbol of this inscription or consecration is the small brown scapular, well known by all.
The scapular of Mt. Carmel is a sacramental one, that is to say, according to Vatican Council II, "a sacred sign, according to the model of the sacraments, through which mainly spiritual effects are obtained by the intercession of the Church" (S.C. 60).
The "Great Promise"
At a time of great affliction to the Order of Mt. Carmel, St. Simon Stock begged to the Mother of God to give him a sign of Her protection. And on July 16, 1251 the Most Holy Virgin appeared to him with Baby Jesus and presented him a Scapular, promising to him that all those that died with it would not suffer eternal fire. "It is, thus, a sign of salvation, safeguard from dangers, alliance of peace and of everlasting protection", said the Mother of God.
The meaning of this promise is that the person who dies with the Scapular will receive from the Virgin Mary at the time of death the grace of the perseverance in the state of justice if it is in him, or, in opposite case, the grace of conversion and final perseverance.
This "great promise" is valid not only for the monks who die with the long Scapular, but also for the faithful who carry the small Scapular or the scapular medal.
The Saturday Privilege
The predilection of Most Holy Mary for Mt. Carmel was confirmed still in a more maternal way in the following century, when it appeared to the future Pope Juan XXII, then cardinal, in Avignon, France. There She promised a special assistance to him for those wearing the Scapular of Mt. Carmel, saying that they would be free from Purgatory the first Saturday after their death.
In order to enjoy the privileges of the scapular it is necessary:
1) To have received the Scapular properly, that is to say, imposed by a priest while being able to do so (at the moment any priest with legitimate use of orders has that power).
2) That the Scapular is as prescribed by the Church, that is to say, done with two pieces of wool (and not of another material) united to each other by cords, of quadrangular or rectangular form and brown in color.
3) One part must fall on the chest, and the other on the back.
4) To keep chastity according to civil state (perfect for singles, and matrimonial for the married ones).
5) Recite the prescribed prayers by the priest who imposed it.
By its deep Marian symbolism, by its great privileges and by the great love and privileged attendance, that has shown through the centuries the Most Holy Virgin of Mt. Carmel to those who dress their scapular very devotedly, is the reason why this pious devotion has extended so prodigiously everywhere to dress the scapular.
Here are the reasons of the spiritual value of the devotion to the holy scapular:
"Mainly by its rich symbolism: to be son of Mary, to see in it all the virtues of Mary, to be symbol of our filial consecration to the Amiable Mother. To die in grace of God, whoever wears it piously. They will leave Purgatory promptly whoever dies wearing the holy scapular devotedly. It protects at all moments from life to death, and after. "In life It protects; in death It helps, after death It saves ", are its credentials by the innumerable prodigies obtained. Due to its connections with the most recent appearances in Lourdes and Fátima. By the many indulgences that those who dress this scapular receive".
When dressing the scapular and during the life, is very important that we know and appreciate its deep and rich meaning, like belonging to an Order, to the order of Mt. Carmel, with obligation to live according to its rich spirituality and its own charisma. Whoever dresses the scapular must always try to have in mind the Most Holy Virgin and try to copy her virtues, her life and to act like Her, Mary, acted, according to her words: "Here is the slave of the Lord, do unto me according to your word".
"In addition to the great promise to preserve from hell, the singular Saturday privilege and the honorable title of Brothers of the Virgin [the friars of Mt. Carmel are called ' Brothers of the Fortunate Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel] and the safeguard in dangers, as well as great number of indulgences, those that dress the Scapular of Mt. Carmel enjoy the participation in all good works that they practice in all the Order of Mt. Carmel. This means that in the Order of Mt. Carmel, everything what falls under the common denominator "good deeds" - like virtues, satisfactions, Masses, prayers, preaching, fasting, disciplines, sacrifices, fruits of the Missions, practice of the vows, austerity of the cloister life, healthy effects of the apostolate to the devotion to the Virgin of Mt. Carmel and her holy Scapular etc. - form a common bond or a social capital that is shared and distributed amongst each and all members that by virtue of profession (religious) or by virtue of the privilege of the aggregation, belongs to this Order of the Virgin of Mt. Carmel".
The scapular of Mt. Carmel is a MEMORIAL of all the virtues of Mary. Thus it was reminded to all monks, tertiary and confreres, "that form, by a special bond of love, a same family of the Most Holy Mother” by Pope Pio XII, on February 11, 1950
"Acknowledge in this memorial of the Virgin a mirror of humility and chastity. Note, in the simple form of her demeanor, a compendium of modesty and candor. See, above all, in this uniform, that is worn daily, filled with eloquent symbolism, the prayer whereby divine assistance is invoked. Recognize, finally, in it your consecration to the Most Holy Heart of the Immaculate Virgin, recently committed by Us ".
Here are the plenary and partial indulgences for those who dress the scapular:
A) Plenary indulgences: 1. The day that one gets dressed the scapular and the day that is registered in the Third Order or Confraternity. 2. In the celebration of the feast: of the Virgin of Mt. Carmel (July 16), of St. Simeon Stock (May 16), of St. Elias prophet (July 20), of St. Teresa de Jesus (October 5), of St. Teresa of the Boy Jesus (October 1), of St. John of the Cross (December 14), and of all the Carmelite Saints (November 1)
B) Partial Indulgence: partial indulgence is obtained if the Holy Scapular is used piously. It can be obtained by kissing it, or by any other act of affection and devotion. And not only to the scapular, but also to the medal scapular.
From the XVI century - that is when the use of the scapular of Mt. Carmel extends through Christianity - almost all the Popes have dressed it and propagated it use. Suffice it to remember that Pope Paul VI, referring to the guidelines from Vatican II, said: "We think that among the forms of Marian mercy, specifically the rosary and the devoted use of the SCAPULAR OF MT. CARMEL must be considered". And it adds, taking the affirmations from Pío XII: "This last practice, by its simplicity and adaptation to any mentality, has obtained ample diffusion between the faithful with immense spiritual fruit". John Paul II, who is tertiary Carmelite, has reminded us in diverse occasions that he dresses with devotion, since boyhood, the scapular of Mt. Carmel.
The celebration of the feast of the Virgin of Mt. Carmel – July 16 is among the celebrations "that today, by the reached diffusion, can be considered truly ecclesiastic" (M.C. 8).
Mary will always be a way to arrive at Jesus. Among the devotions that the Christians dedicate to honor Maria – Pope Pio XII said on February 11, 1950 - "the devotion of the scapular of the Carmelites should be put in first place".
For that reason we recommend that the Mt. Carmel scapular should be worn day and night – Mary’s dress - but its permanent use is not indispensable to gain the indulgences.
The fabric scapular - that is recommended to symbolize better the dress and consecration to Maria - can be replaced by the scapular - medal.
Whoever wears the scapular of Mt. Carmel must distinguish itself by a deep, sincere and filial devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, making an effort to know, to love, to imitate and to imitate Mary, since the Order of Mt. Carmel - to which the dress belongs, - its likely purpose is to live Her life, and extend Her cult. The official title of the Carmelite brothers is: BROTHERS OF THE FORTUNATE VIRGIN MARY OF MOUNT CARMEL.
All this must animate all Christians to dress in devotion the scapular of the Virgin Mary who so many prodigies has brought through the centuries and that promises a special aid and maternal protection to me from Mary. This will be ideal or motto that we shall endeavor to live at all costs:
"That MY SCAPULAR always accompanies me. That in it I may always sees my Celestial Mother. That when kissing it, I do it like a loving son with the promise to love and serve her better. That its memory and its presence in my chest encourage me to be more faithful to her Son and to Her. That in it I may see all the virtues of my celestial Mother and try to imitate. That its constant presence on my heart helps me avoid sin and practice virtue. That its memory never allows me to forget Her, thus being sure that She will never abandon me."
Actuality of this devotion
The Virgin Mary herself insisted on its necessity for the present times. The impressive sequence of great Marian appearances that began on the XIX century, in a pressing call to request the conversion and penance for sins of the world, forms a discreet and constant bond with this devotion that dates to the Middle Ages.
In fact, the apparition to St. Bernadette in Lourdes took place on July 16, 1858, liturgical celebration of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and anniversary of the delivery of the Scapular to St. Simeon Stock. And in Fátima, on the sixth apparition, during which the miracle of the sun took place to prove its authenticity, the Virgin wanted to appear to the three seers - Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco under the invocation of the Carmel, with the Boy Jesus in her arms and the Scapular.
To this end, Sister Lucia, in a interview granted to R.P. Howard Rafferty, O.C.D.on August 15, 1950, confirmed that in the vision the Virgin wanted that the Scapular be taken as part of the message, adding: “now the Holy Father has affirmed it to the entire world saying that the Scapular is a sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart ( ). The Rosary and the Scapular are inseparable"
Upon our reception of the holy scapular, we consecrate ourselves to the Virgin, choosing the “easy, short and safe way to arrive at the union with Our Lord that is the perfect state for a Christian.”
Thus was taught by the saints, particularly St. Louis Maria Grignion de Montfort, and She herself in Fátima said so. And through the voice of its shepherds, the Church reaffirms it, since as John Paul II remembering Pío XII said recently: "the most authentic form of devotion to the Most Holy Virgin, expressed by means of the humble sign of the Scapular is the consecration to her Immaculate Heart".