Around 860 B.C. the prophet, Elias, founded a community of prophets on
Mount Carmel, on the northwestern coast of Palestine. As Christianity
spread to the area, the pious hermits became known as Carmelites. Leading
a life of contemplation, the spiritual sons of Elias were devoted to the
Blessed Virgin, so much so that they became known as the Brothers of Our
Lady of Mount Carmel.
When the Saracens invaded, and Jerusalem was destroyed, they were forced
to migrate to Europe. It was in England, where the story of Simon Stock
begins. Born in Kent about the year 1165, the youthful Simon had begun to
live as a hermit, residing in the trunk of a hollowed out oak tree, which
eventually earned him the name Simon Stock, after the stock of the tree.
Simon, later to become St. Simon Stock, became an itinerant preacher,
before entering the Carmelite order and becoming a friar when the Order
came to England. He then traveled to Rome and on to Mount Carmel in
Palestine where he spent many years in the monastery.
In 1247, at the age of 82 years, Simon was elected the sixth
Superior-General of the Carmelites at the first chapter held in Aylesford,
England. In the year 1251, while the Carmelites were experiencing
oppression from the secular clergy and intolerance from other Orders, Our
Lady of Mt. Carmel appeared to Simon Stock, on Sunday July 16th, holding
the child Jesus in one arm and the brown scapular in the other hand. She
presented it to Simon with the words: "Take, beloved son, this scapular of
thy Order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a
special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer
After experiencing the Apparition, Simon moved the Order forward, and was
important in the formation of Carmelite houses in cities of that time with
Universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Bologna, and Paris. Throughout the rest
of his life which extended well into his 100th year, he wrote chants and
canticles to the Blessed Mother in her honor. He died in the Carmelite
monastery at Bordeaux, France on the 16th of May, 1265.
The Apparition was officially approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587.
The cloth itself, known as a scapular is derived from the Latin for
shoulder, or scapula. Originally a strip of fabric protecting the
front and back of the habit of a monk or nun, it has a hole in the center
so that it can hang over the shoulders. Eventually, it was reduced in
size and miniaturized in the 16th Century, to become the size of two small
double squares of woolen cloth of various colors that could be suspended
from the shoulders by two strings, one to be worn on the front and one on
the back. There are about 20 variations, including eight dedicated to the
The scapular has a long history in medieval Europe, first appearing around
550 A.D. when the monastic orders were founded. By wearing this item of
clothing, the monks were attendant to the words of Jesus in the gospels:
"My yoke is sweet and my burden is light." In 1917, when the Apparition
of the Blessed Virgin appeared in Fatima, Portugal, She requested the
devoted to pray The Rosary and to wear her Brown Scapular.
The faithful do not consider the item to be a magic charm nor an automatic
guarantee of salvation, an excuse for not living up to the demands of a