Dear Parish Family,
“Wear your sweater or you’ll catch your death of cold!” Has your grandmother or mother ever told you something like this? (The pastor must be crazy to be writing about sweaters in July!) Loving mothers or grandmothers who care for family members are always taking care of us: preparing home-cooked meals, readying us for school, making sure we are presentable as we leave the house. Our moms always watch over us.
If this is true in our families, on the natural level, how much more true is this of our spiritual mom, the Blessed Mother? Our Lady wants us to be saved by being baptized into Christ, and we receive a baptismal garment then. But is there anything else she wants us “to wear”? How can we be clothed in the love of God, and our Lady’s love?
Our Lady can “clothe” us in her love, and watch over us with the the brown scapular of the Carmelite Order. The Church has highly indulgenced and encouraged her children to wear the scapular of the Carmelite order as a sign of our commitment to the Blessed Mother and our living relationship of devotion to her.
The Carmelites are an order of religious men and women who began in the Holy Land, around the twelfth century, in Palestine. In the the thirteenth century, they moved to Europe, and one of their early leaders was Saint Simon Stock. An ancient tradition holds that Our Lady encouraged Saint Simon, and subsequent Carmelites, to spread the devotion inviting people to wear a modified brown scapular out of love for the Blessed Mother. For nearly 750 years, this devotion has been enhanced by blessings from popes and the Church to encourage this practice.
The members of this religious community wear what is called a “scapular.” Part of the garments they wear, it hangs over the front and back of their clothing, covering the scapular bone. A smaller, simpler version was developed which consisted of two pieces of cloth, connected by strings, which also hang over the shoulder and scapular bones, and lay on the front and the back of the person. Usually quite small, it is normally worn under our regular clothing.
A scapular is not a good luck charm. It is a sign that we entrusted ourselves to Our Lady, and are dedicted to a life of devotion to her. In the process of being enrolled by a priest, it originally required the practice of praying a liturgical office, and certain penitential practices. Today priests can replace these practices with simpler devotional practices and omitting the penitential requirements. For centuries, popes have taught all those who are enrolled in the brown scapular by any priest, who practice simple devotions in honor Our Lady, and who commit to living as disciples of Jesus, will be assisted by the Blessed Mother in this life, especially at the hour of death, and if we go to purgatory.
This Tuesday, July 16th is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I would like to encourage you to learn about, and consider being enrolled in the brown scapular, grow in your relationship with Our Lady, and cloth yourself with heavenly protection. This garment of grace can be a sign of your love for the Blessed Mother and a reminder of her care for you every day of your journey to heaven. Entrust yourselves to Her powerful care, and receive the graces She wishes to share with you.
Become part of this rich, living tradition of entrusting our lives, and all who are dear to us, to the Blessed Mother.
In Our Lady's Immaculate Heart,
Rev. Bjorn C. Lundberg