By: Sister Mary Colombiere
The devotion of the Brown Scapular originates in the history of Our Lady of Mount Carmel when Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock in the 1200s presenting to him the scapular and promised: “This is a privilege for you and your brethren: whoever dies wearing it, will be saved.”
This tradition falls within the context of our Catholic faith since it honors Mary as the first and foremost of her Son’s disciples. While Christ alone has redeemed us, Mary directs us always to Him. As the loving Mother that she is, she embraces us as her spiritual children and the scapular is an outward sign of her protection to us individually and to the Carmelite Order and to those associated with it. This patronage and protection came to be symbolized in the scapular, the essential part of the Carmelite habit.
God wants to draw close to us, but He has given us freedom, which we often misuse. We are not robots; we are human and God desires a relationship with us, so much so that He Himself, while wholly retaining His Divinity, took on our human nature from a human mother. He knew what it was to look into her tender eyes, to nestle up against her, to be comforted by her love and care. She was His teacher and the love and concern He learned from her manifested itself when He corrected His disciples’ attitude toward children when He said:
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
But Mary also knew that her Son was the long-awaited Messiah and became His first disciple.
Jesus came to preach the Kingdom of God. His was a message of love, acceptance and forgiveness. He walked among us as both the Message and the Messenger. Even today Jesus continues to come to relay His message in various ways while at other times He sends His Mother to bring His message to one of us to relay to others. Often children have been the recipients of such a visit. The message is always the same as at the wedding feast of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.”
Just as the angel cautioned Mary at the Annunciation, “Do not fear, Mary”, she too puts those she visits at ease:
To Juan Diego (Mexico, 1531) – “Am I not your Mother?”
To Melanie Mathieu, age 14 and Maximin Giraud, age 11 (La Salette, France 1846) – “Come closer, my children.”
To Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, ages 7-10 (Fatima, Portugal, 1910) – “Please don’t be afraid of me, I’m not going to harm you.”
Mary’s visits to us are always to draw us back to her Son, to renew our covenantal faithfulness to Him, to “recalculate” directions on the road to salvation when we get “off course”.
Through His beloved disciple John, Jesus gave her to us as our Mother, as the gift of His last Will before He died on the Cross. Let us embrace her as our Mother!