Our Lady of Carmel
Pawel Kulasiewicz (L)
Naturally, we do not mean the sweet delicacy but Mount Carmel located in Palestine. It was known from the Old Testament texts, concerning the prophet Elijah. Then the hermits, called the Carmelites, founded a monastery on Mount Carmel. Because of the Muslim persecutions in the 12th century they arrived in Europe. The order developed especially in England. It was St Simon Stock that fostered the development to a considerable extent in the 12th century. He saw the Mother of God during fervent prayer. She was to give him a brown garment as a badge of her confraternity (scapular). She also promised that 'whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire.' That holy man received the scapular with great joy and spread the promise all over the world.
Thus the scapular has become one of the most popular forms of the Marian cult, the expression being numerous pictures, altars and churches dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In the beginning the scapular was as if 'an apron', which the monks used in their daily jobs in order to keep their habits clean (some orders still wear such garments today). Nowadays it is a garment, which expresses an external part of membership of a given fraternity.
The laymen, who were not religious, and who wanted to join the fraternity of the scapular, could not wear a religious scapular. Therefore, the scapular was changed into two segments of cloth suspended from cords. One piece was to be worn over the shoulder to rest on the front and the other on back of the body. This form has been kept until today. In the 20th century the scapular was allowed to be substituted by a scapular medal.
The Carmelite scapular bears on one side the image of our Lady of Mount Carmel and on the other side the image of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rulers and saints wore a scapular. The Mother of God herself appeared holding a scapular in Lourdes and in Fatima. The Holy Father John Paul II received a Carmelite scapular at the age of ten and wore it until his death.