In the mid-1240s, the Carmelite order left Mt. Carmel for England because of persecution from the Saracens. The Carmelites were small in number before migrating to Europe, and now the order appeared to be on the verge of extinction as some opted not to make the journey. The Carmelites faced further hardships in their new location, where they were met with bishops and other clergy who thought that the order should be suppressed. In 1251, St. Simon Stock, the then superior general of the Carmelite Order, was very concerned about the future. On July 16 of the same year, he was praying and fasting, asking Mary “by some sign of grace” to show her maternal care and protection of the Carmelites. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel then appeared to St. Simon with a brown scapular in her hand. Mary said to him, “Take this scapular, it shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace. Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”
Before referencing some of the popes and saints who promoted the scapular and its associated promises, it would be good to ponder the reasonableness of the devotion. Imagine if someone decided that they wanted to honor you by wearing a photo of you on a necklace day and night, year after year. Suppose they regularly kissed the image with love before going to bed. You would be quite touched by these actions and would want to support such a person in any way you could. Mary’s immaculate heart, full of goodness and love, is moved by her children wearing the scapular in her honor. While we are weak and have limitations which may prevent us from lending as much aid as we would sometimes like to those who are dear to us, Mary is, as her litany teaches us, most powerful. As the Queen of Heaven and Earth, Mary can use her power to ensure that the faithful devotees of her scapular die in the state of grace.
Another motive for giving credibility to the brown scapular devotion is all the miracles wrought through the scapular. St. Augustine once wrote, “It would be against all divine attributes for God to approve a lie with miracles.” St. Claude de la Colombiere wrote, “I venture to say that among all the pious devotions of the faithful to honor the Mother of God, there is no other so safe as devotion to her scapular, since no other has been confirmed by such wonderful and authentic miracles.”