Do you remember receiving a brown scapular, perhaps at the time of your First Communion? Did you know that the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, celebrated on July 16th, commemorates Our Lady’s bestowing of the scapular on St. Simon Stock in 1251 as a special sign of mercy, peace, and protection? You can see this scene depicted in the large stained glass window over the entry doors of our church, with Simon kneeling at the feet of the Virgin and Child (see below).
You may also recall that in May 1981, Pope John Paul II underwent surgery after an assassination attempt. The pope, who had reportedly worn a scapular since he was a child, insisted that doctors not remove this sacramental while operating on him – he considered it a habit (like those worn by people in religious orders, but also symbolically or interiorly) employed to show one’s dedication to the service of Our Lady for the good of the Church.
Devotion to [Our Lady], he said, cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honor 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.
Like other sacramentals, the scapular is more than just a sign – it is a sacred habit that prepares us to receive God’s grace, a habit we all might ponder, weaving our own Christian identity as we strive to live in imitation of Jesus and his mother Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Image source 2: Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, Mill Valley, California