Church Column by Father Paul Dowling

Father Paul Dowling.
Father Paul Dowling.

On 16 July, the Catholic Church calendar celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The feast was probably first celebrated in England in the later part of the 14th century.

Its object was thanksgiving to Mary, the patroness of the Carmelite Order, for the benefits she had accorded to it through its rocky (on Mount Carmel in Palestine) early existence. Since the 15th century, popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has centred on the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel also known as the Brown Scapular, a sacramental associated with promises of Mary’s special aid for the salvation of the devoted wearer.

St Marys Roman Catholic Church, Market Weighton.

St Marys Roman Catholic Church, Market Weighton.

Traditionally, Mary is said to have given the Scapular to an early Carmelite named Saint Simon Stock. The wearing of the Brown Scapular (worn around the neck) is still done today.

The wearer, which can be any lay person who wishes to enter into and live the spirituality of the Carmelite Religious Order. In 1996, a doctrinal statement approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments states that “Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is bound to the history and spiritual values of the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel and is expressed through the scapular.

Thus, whoever receives the scapular becomes a member of the order and pledges him or herself to live according to its spirituality in accordance with the characteristics of his or her state in life.”

According to the ways in which the Church has intervened at various times to clarify the meaning and privileges of the Brown Scapular: “The scapular is a Marian habit or garment. It is both a sign and pledge. A sign of belonging to Mary; a pledge of her motherly protection, not only in this life but after death.

“As a sign, it is a conventional sign signifying three elements strictly joined: first, belonging to a religious family particularly devoted to Mary, especially dear to Mary, the Carmelite Order; second, consecration to Mary, devotion to and trust in her Immaculate Heart; third an urge to become like Mary by imitating her virtues, above all her humility and spirit of prayer.”