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The Brown Scapular.

(Feast of Our Lady of Carmel July 16th.) Aylesford Priory and The Brown Scapula:

The Priory and the Brown Scapula stem from the middle of the 13th century and the moving of the Blessed Virgin's Carmelite Order from the Holy Land to Aylesford in Kent. Tradition tells us of how it was at this time that the Blessed Virgin also brought to Her Order a great gift; the Brown Scapula.

The Order of Carmelites originated in the Holy Land, on Mount Carmel, near the fountain of the prophet Elias (Elijah) not far from Mary's home in Nazareth. Elias was the inspiration for the early Carmelites. Tradition tells us that, in a vision, he had seen the Virgin who was to give birth to the Messiah, and that he instructed his hermit disciples to pray for the coming of this Virgin Mother.

Mary did not forget them! Tradition tells us that during Her lifetime on earth, She visited the hermits and that they converted to Christianity after Pentecost, through Her prayers.

The Carmelites turned to the Blessed Virgin when the invasion of the Saracen forced them to leave Mount Carmel, and it was during this period that She appeared to the Carmelite Saint Cyril of Jerusalem and said:

"Carmel is to be a light, not for Syria and Palestine
alone - its rays must illumine the entire world"

The Blessed Virgin guided them to Aylesford in 1241 and used the services of Saint Simon Stock [1165-1265]. Simon was, from an early age, especially devoted to the Blessed Virgin through his having dedicated himself in his youth to being close to Our Lord, through Her. Tradition tells us that as a young man, he received a revelation from Mary; She told him that in a few years time a religious order, especially dedicated to Her service, was coming from Palestine to England and whom he should join.

Simon recognized the Order when they arrived, joining them and studying for the priesthood. Well known for his great piety, it was in1245 that he was appointed Vicar-general of the Order, but it was during this period that he also became fully aware of the very difficult role of transferring the Order fully to England. The Carmelites, whilst retaining a contemplative identity, were also becoming an Order of mendicant friars. The Order did not adapt well, Simon found his task daunting and it looked increasingly as though devastation and ruin lay ahead.

It was with all this in mind, in July1251, that he spent a night in fervent prayer. Throughout the night of July15th, Simon prayed on his knees to Our Lady of Carmel and with these beautiful words he invoked Her protection and direction; particularly under Her title Stella Maris [Star of the Sea]:


"Flos Carmeli,...……"Flower of Carmel,
Vitis Florigera,...…...Blossom-laden vine,
Splendor Coeli,...…..Splendour of Heaven,
Virgo Puerpera,...…..Virgin - Mother

Mater Mitis,...………..Tender Mother,
Sed Viri Nescia,...…..Yet Virgin too,
Carmelitis……………..To the Carmelites
Da Privilegia!...……...Grant favours!
Stella Maris!...……....O Star of the Sea!"

Tradition tells us of how, towards dawn, the Blessed Virgin appeared with the Infant Jesus in Her arms, "living and moving in dazzling splendour, surrounded by hosts of bright angels." Our Lady of Mount of Carmel held in Her hand a large brown scapula with a square opening for the head. Giving this to Simon, She said:

"Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy Order: This shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in it shall not suffer eternal fire."

Simon thanked Her profusely for this great gift, this "garment of grace." The exemption from hell is interpreted by the Church as: the guaranteed final perseverance, or final repentance, for those who wear it whilst observing due devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

The Carmelites were strengthened. The Friars, now in their distinctive brown habit, attracted many to the Order, throughout Europe and beyond. Simon himself instituted the confraternity of the scapular to unite the devotees of the Blessed Virgin "in certain regular exercises of religion and piety."

The Small Scapula

The wearing of the brown habit or the habit in miniature, the brown scapular for lay people; two small pieces of brown cloth on a cord, became the badge of those associated with the Carmelite Order and with a total consecration to Jesus through Mary. The scapular, distributed throughout Christendom, was richly indulged by many Popes.

Aylesford priory suffered terribly at the Reformation but is back in use (since 1949.)

Note as concerns the Brown Scapula.

It is long established that St Simon Stock himself instituted the confraternity of the Scapula.

That it was indulged richly by many popes.

That it always retains its traditional meaning and identity.


Source: Brown, Raphael: Saints Who Saw Mary.

Traditional Carmelite writings.

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