It is widely known among Catholics that the Blessed Virgin Mary made a number of appearances to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France in 1858, and that her first appearance was on 11 February 1858. But only few Catholics knew that Our Lady's last appearance to St. Bernadette was on July 16, 1858 which happens to be her feast as the Lady of Mount Carmel.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the patroness of the Carmelite Order. On July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock in Cambrige, England. She appeared to him holding in her hands the Scapular. She said: "This is for you and yours a privilege, the one who dies in it will be saved." This was probably in answer to the prayer of St. Simon Stock who was Prior General of the Carmelite Order at that time. He always asked the Blessed Virgin Mary in his prayers to favor his Order with some singular privilege.
|cc photo by jeromz on flickr|
But the authenticity of the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock was questioned many times by religious scholars since there was no documentary evidence that would support the truth of the apparition. There was even a time when St. Simon Stock's feast was removed from the Carmelite liturgical calendar when some 20th century scholars revealed the historical uncertainties of the apparition. But the saint's feast was restored in 1979 as an optional memorial on the condition that the Scapular vision would not be mentioned. But in spite of that, devotion to the Scapular remains strong and widespread.
In 2001, on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the bestowal of the Scapular, Pope John Paul II addressed the Carmelite family saying, "Over time, this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church. By its simplicity, its anthropological value and its relationship to Mary's role in regard to the Church and humanity, this devotion was so deeply and widely accepted by the People of God that it came to be expressed in the memorial of 16 July on the liturgical calendar of the universal church."
Nowadays, there are some people who wear the Scapular without any respect; they wear it as if they're wearing an amulet.
The Scapular is NOT
- a magical charm to protect you
- an automatic guarantee of salvation
- an excuse for not living up to the demands of the Christian life.
(from a Carmelite leaflet)
The Scapular is a special sign of having a personal relationship with the Lord through the Blessed Virgin Mary, a sign which stands for the decision to follow Jesus. It should be worn with reverence.