OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL
When I was a youngster, about 12 years old, I was a Boy Scout. Now I loved the brown uniform that we wore and was always proud when I went to the weekly meetings wearing it. Once I even marched in a parade up Fifth Ave. in New York, wearing my Boy Scout uniform and carrying a large American Flag. It was really a difficult march cause the wind was blowing hard and I really had to struggle to keep the flag upright. Boy, was I exhausted at the end of the march!
A few years later, when I was 17, I joined the Navy! What drew me was the uniform. I loved my naval uniform and really took care of it. I even "spit" shined my black naval shoes so that you could see your face in them. I also bought some "special gabardines," a custom made uniform that had a button flap front, bell bottoms and engraved silk cuffs with dragons sewed on the inside. Totally against the rules you know!
Now why am I telling you all this? Because today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and for the past 37 years I have worn the uniform (livery) of Our Lady: The Brown Scapular! And I have never taken it off (when one wears out, I immediately replace it with another), except once when I had to get an MRI and the technician asked me to take it off. I felt naked without it. Why? Well, let me tell you the story of the Brown Scapular:
Today's Feast takes its name from Mount Carmel in Palestine where some hermits centuries ago formed an order called Brothers of Mount Carmel or Carmelites. They were the first to celebrate this feast, which later spread throughout the Church.
Now devotion to the Brown Scapular is intimately bound up with the feast! Over seven hundred years ago, Saint Simon Stock, the Carmelite General Superior, in order to unite the devout follows of Our Lady, established a Confraternity of the Scapular.
On July 16, 1251, The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him in a vision, which he reported to the community of Carmelites at Cambridge, England. Describing how our Blessed Lady Herself gave him the Scapular, he said She was surrounded by a brilliant light and offered the scapular saying: "Take, beloved son, this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and for all who wear it a special grace; whoever dies in this garment will not suffer everlasting fire. It is a sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of covenant."
Imagine the joy and affection of St. Simon when he received this heavenly stamp of approval on his efforts. From that moment he strove with untiring zeal to announce the glories of Mary to the world, and to persuade all people to wear Her Scapular. Thousands eagerly embraced this uniform of Our Lady. Children, youth and parents, public officials, soldiers and sailors, hurried to enroll under Mary's protection. The Popes promoted the devotion. Pope Benedict XV declared: "All should have a common language and a common armor: the language, the words of the Gospel; the common armor, the scapular of the Virgin of Carmel, which all ought to wear, and which enjoys the singular privilege of protection, even after death."
The Scapular is a means to a pious, prayerful life, and that in turn is the means to a happy death. Those who wear it with devotion, (I kiss my scapular every morning as I wake up and say the Morning Offering) will be protected by the Blessed Virgin in a special way and receive many graces in life and at the moment of death.
Just as I was so proud of belonging to the Boy Scouts and the Navy by wearing their uniforms, so I am so proud to wear Our Lady's uniform, the Brown Scapular, the badge and pledge of my enrollment and consecration in Mary's Army. When you looked at my naval uniform you knew which branch of the service I belonged to. When you look at the scapular hanging around my neck, which I can feel, you know that I belong to Our Lady and the family of God! What a Gift!