ST. SIMON STOCK
Simon was born in the county of Kent, England, and left his home when he was but twelve years of age, to live as a hermit in the hollow trunk of a tree, whence he was known as Simon of the Stock. Here he passed twenty years in penance and prayer, and learned from our Lady that he was to join an Order not then known in England. He waited in patience till the White Friars came, and then entered the Order of our Lady of Mount Cannel. His great holiness moved his brethren in the general chapter held at Aylesford, near Rochester, in 1245, to choose him prior-general of the Order. In the many persecutions raised against the new religious, Simon went with filial confidence to the Blessed Mother of God. As he knelt in prayer in the White Friars’ convent at Cambridge, on July 16th, 1251, she appeared be fore him and presented him with the scapular, in assurance of her protection. The devotion to the blessed habit spread quickly throughout the Christian world. Pope after Pope enriched it with indulgences, and miracles inumberable put their seal upon its efficacy. The first of them was worked at Winchester on a man dying in despair, who at once asked for the Sacraments, when the scapular was laid upon him by St. Simon Stock. In the year 1636, M. de Guge, a cornet in a cavalry regiment, was mortally wounded at the engagement of Tehin, a bullet having lodge near his heart. He was then in a state of grievous sin, but had time left him to make his confession, and with his own hands wrote his last testament. When this was done, the surgeon probed his wound, and the bullet was found to have driven his scapular into his heart. On its being withdrawn, he presently expired, making profound acts of gratitude to the Blessed Virgin, who had prolonged his life miraculously, and thus preserved him from eternal death. St. Simon Stock died at Bordeaus, A.D. 1265.
Today, May 16, marks the feast day of Saint Simon Stock (1164-1265), Superior General of the Carmelite Order, and blessed receiver of a vision and gift from the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Through the visitation of Our Lady, the world was presented with the brown Scapular, referred to as “the armor of Our Lady” by Pope Benedict XV, a devotional aid in the consecration of our lives to Our Holy Mother.
Simon was born in Aylesford, England, to one of the most well-known and respected Christian families in the County of Kent. While still an infant, he was chosen by the Blessed Mother for her own, with his parents and others hearing him recite the Angelic Salutation of the Archangel Gabriel long before he had learned to speak. Prodigious as a child, he learned and memorized the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin before he was able to read, reciting it on a daily basis. He was observed to read the Holy Scripture, kneeling in his room, by the age of six.
At the age of twelve, Simon left home, living as a hermit in the hollowed trunk of a large oak tree, earning him the name Simon “Stock.” There he triumphed over the demon, as he would later tell his religious, only by the assistance of the Most Holy Virgin. While living as a hermit, he drank only water and ate only herbs, roots, and wild apples. Eventually, after eight years of solitude, Simon felt called back to communion with others, and joined the Carmelite Order. He finished his studies at Oxford, and later (in 1215) was appointed Vicar General of the Order.
Saint Simon worked tirelessly to spread the Carmelite Order throughout Europe, rounding many communities in university towns such as Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna. He was responsible for the revision of the Rules of the Order, leading the community from lives as hermits to those of mendicant friars. Known for his deep devotion to Our Blessed mother, as well as for the spiritual gifts of miracles and prophecy, Simon was elected as the sixty Superior General of the Carmelites at age 82. He continued to govern the order for twenty years, demonstrating holiness, vision, and prudence.
During his tenure as Superior General, Simon was graced with a visitation from the Blessed Mother, to whom he was so devoted. Radiantly surrounded by a multitude of Angels, Our Lady of Mount Carmel appeared to him as he knelt in prayer at Aylesford, England. Presenting to him the Carmelite Brown Scapular, She made Her Promise of unparalleled generosity to him, his spiritual children, and to all those who wished to consecrate themselves to her by this special sign: Her words were: “Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of your Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for you and for your children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”
The scapular (from the Latin, scapula, meaning “shoulder blade”) consists of two pieces of cloth, one worn on the chest, and the other on the back, which were connected by straps or strings passing over the shoulders. In certain Orders, monks and nuns wear scapulars that reach from the shoulders almost to the ground as outer garments. Lay persons usually wear scapulars underneath their clothing, consisting of two pieces of material only a few inches square. Although the scapular may be worn by any Catholic, even an infant, proper investiture must be done by a priest. Subsequently, the scapular must be worn in the proper manner, the individual forfeiting its holy benefits if neglectful or careless.
Saint Simon Stock died on May 16, 1265, at the age of 100 and was buried in the cathedral of Bordeaux, where he was visiting at the time of his death. The Saint’s bones are still preserved in a cathedral in Bordeaux; a tibia was brought to England in the 1860s for the Carmelite church in Kensington, a part of the skull was enshrined at Aylesford in 1950.
Vine ever blossoming,
Virgin who bore a child.
No one is like thee.
Mother gentle and kind.
Yet never touched by man!
To Carmelites give thou the privilege.
Help us Star of the Sea.
(written by Saint Simon Stock)
The brown Scapular of the Carmelite Order has gained considerable popularity and use among those devoted to the Blessed Mother. The following prayer, addressed to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, prays for her continued protection and grace for those who wear the scapular:
O all-blessed, immaculate Virgin, ornament and glory of Mount Carmel, thou who dost look with most gracious countenance on those who have been clothed with thy venerable livery, look kindly also on me and take me under the mantle of thy maternal protection. Strengthen my weakness with thy might; enlighten the darkness of my heart with thy wisdom; increase in me faith, hope and charity. So adorn my souls with graces and virtues that it may always be dear to thy divine Son and thee. Assist me during life, comfort me in death with thy most sweet presence, and present me as thy child and faithful servant to the most Holy Trinity, that I may be enabled to praise and extol thee in heaven forever. Amen.
In 1322, Pope John XXII issued a document known as a Papal Bull in which he included a promise from Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In his document, the Pope revealed that he had received an apparition of Our Blessed Mother, during which she made a promise to all mankind. Her “Sabbatine Privilege” was as follows: on the First Saturday after the death of one of the faithful, Our Blessed Mother would free from Purgatory her Scapular children who have fulfilled certain conditions. She stated to Pope John XXII: “I, the Mother of Graces, shall descend on the Saturday after their death, and as many as I find in Purgatory I shall free.”
The Church has since formalized the Sabbatine Privilege, based on this revelation. Containing three conditions, those who follow practice true devotion will be released from Purgatory by Our Lady’s intercession on the Saturday after their death. As set forth by the Church, the three conditions include: 1)Wear the brown scapular devoutly, once you’ve been enrolled in the Scapular Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel; 2) Observe chastity according to your state in life; 3) Recite daily the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (Given the length of this beautiful prayer, with permission of a priest you can substitute five decades of the rosary, abstinence from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays or another approved good work). His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, wrote concerning the Sabbatine Privilege, “Certainly, this most gentle Mother will not delay to open as soon as possible, through Her intercession with God, the gates of Heaven for children expiating their faults in Purgatory.”
Once one has been enrolled in the Scapular Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel, one shares in the daily prayers and other spiritual benefits of the Carmelite Order. Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s scapular promise of salvation to Saint Simon Stock and the Carmelites applies to the enrollee as well!
Many popes and other religious figures over the centuries have extolled the virtues of the brown scapular devotion. Pope Pius XII went so far as to say: “The Scapular is a practice of piety which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone, and has spread widely among the faithful of Christ to their spiritual profit.” More recently, Pope Paul VI said: “Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin … the Rosary and the Scapular of Carmel.” Still, they caution that, although our Lady of Mount Carmel promised that the scapular would protect us from eternal fire, wearing it in itself doesn’t guarantee our salvation.
The scapular is not to be worn as a substitute for leading a devout life of love and obedience to our Lord. The Most Reverend. Kilian Lynch, former prior general of the Carmelite Order, warned that the scapular was not “endowed with some kind of supernatural power which will save us no matter what we do or how much we sin.” He said, “Fidelity to the commandments is required by those seeking ‘the special love and protection of Our Lady.’”
The immeasurable benefits of the Scapular result from the fact that the wearing of “the armor of Mary” is not merely an external act of devotion– it is a sign of our internal consecration to the Immaculate Virgin. The scapular recommends us to her endless grace and generosity. At Fatima in 1917, the Mother of God ncouraged all people to consecrate themselves to Her Immaculate Heart. And in the final Fatima vision on October 13th, the Blessed Virgin appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, wearing the robes of the Carmelite Order, holding aloft the Brown Scapular. On that occasion, Our Blessed Mother reminded us that the devoted living of the Brown Scapular consecration, paired with daily prayer of the Holy Rosary, is a necessary part of the amendment of life– the random of a sinful world– for which she so earnestly pleaded. Pope Pius XII stressed this important truth: “May the Scapular be a sign to them (all who wear it) of their consecration to the Most Pure Heart of the Immaculate Virgin.” In wearing the brown scapular devoutly, in living in love and obedience to God, we join our hearts to Mary’s and thus, to her divine Son’s Sacred Heart as well!
You called St. Simon Stock to serve You in the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
Through his prayers help us like him to live in Your presence and to work for man’s salvation. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns
with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.