Another recommended Marian devotion is wearing the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There are many Scapulars, all valuable, but this one is eminent among them. To wear the Scapular of Mount Carmel is to trust in Our Lady who has great power of intercession before Her Son.
The Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was a garment given by Our Lady Herself to St. Simon Stock, General of the Carmelite Order, at Aylesford in Kent, England, on July 16, 1251, with this promise: "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a sign of peace and a safeguard in times of danger."
The privilege was later extended to lay persons who were duly installed by a priest into the confraternity of Mt. Carmel. This promise is called the Sabbatine Privilege because in it the Blessed Virgin is said to have promised that She would free any Carmelite or Confraternity member from Purgatory, on the first Saturday after death.
In his Bull "Sacratissimo Uti Culmine", dated March 3, 1322, Pope John XXII claims that the Blessed Virgin appeared to him on behalf of the Carmelites and their associates, asking that he, as Vicar of Christ on earth, should ratify the indulgences which Christ had already granted in Heaven. Our Lady informed the Pope that She Herself would graciously descend into Purgatory on the Saturday after their death and bring to Heaven all Confraternity members She found there.
The conditions for the Sabbatine Privilege are:
1. Wear the Brown Scapular faithfully;
2. Observe chastity according to one's state;
3. Say five decades of the Rosary daily, when substitution of the daily Rosary has been granted in place of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Scapular of Mount Carmel consists of two small panels of cloth joined by strings and worn over the shoulders. Generally, one panel bears a woven or printed image showing the vision of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to Saint Simon Stock, while the other panel bears the image of Our Lady with the Child Jesus.
In the last Apparition at Fatima during the Miracle of the Sun on October 13, 1917, Mary appeared as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and held out the Brown Scapular. Lucia, the eldest of the three children, interpreted it as Our Lady's desire that we wear the Brown Scapular. Later on, Lucia was to state that the Rosary and the Scapular are inseparable.
People are enrolled in the Scapular by a priest only once. Worn scapulars are simply replaced. The Scapular requires us to live as authentic Christians in line with the teaching of the Gospel, to receive the sacraments, to profess our special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, which should be expressed each day through penance, prayer, and chastity in accordance with one's state in life.
In 2001, the Carmelites therefore celebrate the 750th Anniversary of the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For the occasion, Pope John Paul II sent a Message to the Superiors of the Carmelite Order. Here are some excerpts:
Carmelites have chosen Mary as their Patroness and spiritual Mother, and always keep before the eyes of their heart the Most Pure Virgin who guides everyone to the perfect knowledge and imitation of Christ. Thus an intimacy of spiritual relations has blossomed, leading to an ever increasing communion with Christ and Mary. For the members of the Carmelite Family, Mary, the Virgin Mother of God and mankind, is not only a model to imitate but also the sweet presence of a mother and sister in whom to confide. St Teresa of Jesus rightly urged her sisters: "Imitate Our Lady and consider how great She must be and what a good thing it is that we have Her for our Patroness" (Interior Castle, III, 1, 3).
This intense Marian life, which is expressed in trusting prayer, enthusiastic praise and diligent imitation, enables us to understand how the most genuine form of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the Scapular, is consecration to Her Immaculate Heart. In this way, the heart grows in communion and familiarity with the Blessed Virgin, "as a new way of living for God and of continuing here on earth the love of Jesus the Son for His Mother Mary."
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 July 16 on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church.
The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother's loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a "habit". Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel, and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church (cf. "Formula of Enrolment in the Scapular").
Those who wear the Scapular are thus brought into the land of Carmel, so that they may "eat its fruits and its good things" (cf. Jer 2: 7), and experience the loving and motherly presence of Mary in their daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest Him in their life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity (cf. "Formula of Enrolment in the Scapular").
Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life's journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to Her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in Her honour on certain occasions, but must become a "habit", that is, a permanent orientation of one's own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the Sacraments, and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
In this way, the Scapular becomes a sign of the "covenant" and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of His Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to Her, who became our spiritual Mother.
A splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which inwardly moulds individuals and conforms them to Christ, the first-born of many brethren, is the witness to holiness and wisdom given by so many Carmelite saints, all of whom grew up in the shadow and under the protection of their Mother.
I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time! Out of my love for our common heavenly Mother, whose protection I constantly experience, I hope that this Marian year will help all the men and women religious of Carmel and the devout faithful who venerate Her with filial affection to grow in Her love and to radiate to the world the presence of this Woman of silence and prayer, invoked as Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope and Grace.
With these wishes, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing to all the friars, nuns, sisters and lay people of the Carmelite Family, who work so hard to spread among the people of God true devotion to Mary, Star of the Sea and Flower of Carmel!
From the Vatican, March 25, 2001