May is the month of mothers, when we give special appreciation to our moms by bringing them flowers, taking them out to dinner, and buying them gifts. After all, our mothers gave us life, came to our aid whether we wanted her help or not, and gave us each words of motherly wisdom, words which we each live by even today.
May is also the month when we venerate the Blessed Mother, the New Eve who’s obedience to God brought eternal life to us, and to the whole world. She is our intercessor, our Lady of Good Council, our Lady of Compassion. Jesus gave Her to us from the Cross with the words, “Behold, here is your mother.” She also had words of wisdom for us. The last words of Mary recorded in scripture were at the wedding at Cana when She told the servants: “Whatever He tells you, do it.” Words to live by… eternally. We cannot take the Blessed Mother out to dinner on Mother’s Day, so how can we show Her our love and appreciation?
On Pentecost, the first to accept the message of Christianity and be baptized by the Apostles were descendants of the prophet Elias who came down from Mount Carmel. After their baptism and meeting the Blessed Mother, they returned to Mount Carmel and constructed the first chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and began what would be known as the Carmelite Order. Centuries later on July 16, 1251, Saint Simon Stock, Superior General of the Order, prayed to Mary. He asked Her intercession to help him and all Carmelites, who were beset by persecutions and internal division. Our Blessed Mother appeared to him, holding in her hands the Brown Scapular of the Order, and said: “This shall be to you and to all Carmelites a privilege that anyone who dies clothed in this shall not suffer eternal fire.” Saint Simon Stock established the Confraternity of Mount Carmel shortly thereafter, which extended the promise of eternal salvation to members of the Carmelite Confraternity who died wearing the Brown Scapular. Catholic theologians explain the promise to mean that they will receive from Her, at the hour of death, either the grace of perseverance in the state of grace or the grace of final contrition.
Many miracles over the centuries have come to light surrounding those invested in the Brown Scapular. For example, in 1845, a young Irish boy named John McAuliffe was on a British ship in the middle of a hurricane. The storm was tremendous and all were in fear of their lives. John removed his Scapular, made the sign of the cross with it, and threw it into the sea. The storm calmed immediately and only one more wave broke over the ship’s bow, which brought John’s Scapular back to his feet.
More recently is the story of Father John Higgins, who was called to the ER at his local Catholic hospital when a man had come in with a heart attack. When he got there, the nurse who called him came to him and said, “Sorry, Father John, you’re too late. He’s gone.” As Father John recounts on his website: “I noticed that he was wearing a Brown Scapular, one of the old cloth ones. I reached and said ‘He’s wearing an old fashioned Scapular’. When I touched it there was a beep from a monitor, then another. The nurse, Anne, said ‘What did you do?’ I said ‘Nothing!’ She and another nurse jumped to work, reconnecting wires and calling for help. The Paramedics stood with their jaws dropped. The patient opened his eyes and said (in an Irish accent) ‘Oh, good, Father. I’ve been waiting for you. I want to go to Confession.’ I nearly fell over. I’d done nothing but seen and touched his Scapular. […] A couple of weeks later the man came to me for Confession and told me […] the Paramedics had come to see him in the hospital and shown him their notes. At the bottom of the page they’d written the time and place of his death and then in big bold letters had added ‘BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE BY GOD’.”
The Brown Scapular is not a good luck charm or talisman. It is the uniform of those who have made the choice to give special devotion to the Mother of God, who has given us the gift of eternal salvation. Those who choose to wear it, and pray the Rosary daily, do it as a symbol of their eternal love for our Blessed Mother.