Damien F. Mackey
“On seeing the urgency of the situation, the youth opened his shirt, took off his Scapular, and, making the Sign of the Cross with it over the raging waves, tossed it into the ocean. At that very moment, the wind calmed. Only one more wave washed the deck, bringing with it the Scapular which came to rest at the boy’s feet”.
Connection with Elijah
and Mount Carmel
Whilst Catholics are generally familiar with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the promises associated with wearing it faithfully, they, being Catholics, may not be over familiar with its Old Testament antecedents.
The Order of Carmelites tells of its origins in “Elijah and Mary”, at:
The Prophet Elijah
Elijah’s memory was kept alive especially on Mount Carmel where he challenged the people to stop hobbling first on one foot and then on the other but to choose who is God in Israel – Yahweh or Baal. According to the story, which can be found in the First Book of Kings, chapter 18, Elijah’s sacrifice was consumed by fire from heaven which proved to the people that Yahweh was the true God.
Elijah made himself available for God’s work and was sent into various situations to proclaim God’s word. Elijah undertook a long journey through the desert where he began to despair. He sat down under a bush and wished he were dead but God would not allow him to die and prodded him to continue his journey to Mount Horeb. When he arrived there, God became present to Elijah. God came not with the signs usual in the Old Testament of fire, earthquake and mighty wind but in the sound of a gentle breeze. Elijah was sent back to his people to carry out God’s will.
From Elijah, Carmelites learn to listen for the voice of God in the unexpected and in silence. We seek to allow the Word of God to shape our minds and our hearts so that the way we live and the things we do may be prophetic and therefore faithful to the memory of our father Elijah.
The Blessed Virgin Mary
The first hermits on Mount Carmel built a church in the middle of their cells. This was the centre of their lives where they converged each day to celebrate Mass together. This little church they named in honour of Our Lady. By this fact the first group of Carmelites took her as their patroness, promising her their faithful service and expecting her protection and favour. They were proud to bear the title of “Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel” and they defended this title with vigour when their right to it was challenged.
Mary consented to God’s will when she was asked to be the mother of the Saviour. She pondered on the events of her life and was able to see in them the hand of God at work. Mary did not become proud about her unique vocation but instead praised God for looking on her lowliness and doing great things in her. She was with Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry when, at the marriage feast at Cana, she made known to him the simple need, “They have no wine”. She was with him as he died and there she became the mother of all believers. At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles we find Mary gathered in the upper room praying with the other disciples waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For us Carmelites, Mary is a constant presence in our lives, guiding us and protecting us as we seek to follow Christ.
The brown scapular has for many centuries summed up the Carmelite’s relationship with Our Lady. The scapular is a piece of cloth based on the traditional Carmelite friar’s garb. Wearing the scapular is a sign of consecration to Mary, the Mother of God, and is a symbol showing that the person is putting on the virtues of Mary and is being protected by her. Mary symbolises for the Carmelite everything that we hope for – to enter into an intimate relationship with Christ, being totally open to God’s will and having our lives transformed by the Word of God. Carmelites have always thought of Mary as the Patroness of the Order, its Mother and Splendour. We seek to live in spiritual intimacy with her so that we can learn from her how to live as God’s children.
Elijah and Mary are inspirational figures for all Carmelites. They play a very important part in the life and spirituality of the Order which sees itself as belonging to Mary and looks to Elijah as our spiritual father.
[End of quote]
The importance of the Brown Scapular was emphasised in the most emphatic manner when it was presented as one of the stunning tableaux during the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima in 1917. And so we read at: http://unveilingtheapocalypse.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/our-lady-of-mt-carmel-visions-of-fatima.html
During the Miracle of the Sun, which took place at the Cova da Iria, Fatima, on 13th October, 1917, the three shepherd children saw something very different from the spectacular solar miracle witnessed by the rest of the vast crowd which had assembled there. While the spectators among the throngs saw the now famous dance of the Sun, the children had experienced a vision of the Holy Family, and Our Lady appeared to them in various forms – including that of Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. There was undoubtedly some hidden symbolism behind these visions, which may provide a key insight into exactly what was being communicated by the extraordinary occurrence of the Miracle of the Sun. The below excerpt is taken from Sr. Lucia’s Fourth Memoir, detailing what the children saw while the miraculous dance of the Sun was taking place:
We reached the holmoak in the Cova da Iria. Once there, moved by an interior impulse, I asked the people to shut their umbrellas and say the Rosary. A little later, we saw the flash of light, and then Our Lady appeared on the holmoak. “What do you want of me?” “I want to tell you that a chapel is to be built here in my honour. I am the Lady of the Rosary. Continue always to pray the Rosary every day. The war is going to end, and the soldiers will soon return to their homes”. “I have many things to ask you: the cure of some sick persons, the conversion of sinners, and other things…” “Some yes, but not others. They must amend their lives and ask forgiveness for their sins.” Looking very sad, Our Lady said: “Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended.” Then, opening her hands, she made them reflect on the sun, and as she ascended, the reflection of her own light continued to be projected on the sun itself. Here, Your Excellency, is the reason why I cried out to the people to look at the sun. My aim was not to call attention to the sun, because I was not even aware of their presence. I was moved to do so under the guidance of an interior impulse. After Our Lady had disappeared into the immense distance of the firmanent, we beheld St. Joseph with the Child Jesus and Our Lady robed in white with a blue mantle, beside the sun. St. Joseph and the Child appeared to bless the world, for they traced the Sign of the Cross with their hands. When, a little later, this apparition disappeared, I saw Our Lord and Our Lady; it seemed to me that it was Our Lady of Dolours. Our Lord appeared to bless the world in the same manner as St. Joseph had done. This apparition also vanished, and I saw Our Lady once more, this time resembling Our Lady of Carmel.
(Fatima in Lucia’s Own Words, pp172-173)
[End of quote]
Faithful wearers of the Brown Scapular down through the centuries can attest to – and many have so done – some extraordinary vases of protection from potential fatal situations.
Here is one such case, which must remind one of the prophet Jonah incident at sea:
Saved from the Sea: In the late summer of the year 1845, the English ship, “King of the Ocean” found itself in the middle of a wild hurricane. As wind and sea mercilessly lashed the ship, a Protestant minister, together with his wife and children and other passengers, struggled to the deck to pray for mercy and forgiveness, as the end seemed at hand. Among the crew was a young Irishman, John McAuliffe. On seeing the urgency of the situation, the youth opened his shirt, took off his Scapular, and, making the Sign of the Cross with it over the raging waves, tossed it into the ocean. At that very moment, the wind calmed. Only one more wave washed the deck, bringing with it the Scapular which came to rest at the boy’s feet. All the while the minister (a Mr. Fisher) had been carefully observing McAuliffe’s actions and the miraculous effect of those actions. Upon questioning the young man, they were told about the Holy Virgin and Her Scapular. Mr. Fisher and his family were so impressed that they were determined to enter the Catholic Church as soon as possible (which they did after landing in Australia), and thereby enjoy the same protection of Our Lady’s Scapular. ….