Monday, July 16, 2018

You may not have time tomorrow

Today God invites you to do good;
do it therefore today.
Tomorrow you may not have time, or
God may no longer call you to do it.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel


By Plinio Maria Solimeo

One day, a long time ago, walking the streets of Rome, three outstanding men of God bumped into one another. Friar Dominic of Guzman was recruiting members for the Order of Preachers, later known as the “Dominicans,” which he had founded. Brother Francis of Assisi, the Poverello, had just brought together some men to serve what he called Lady Poverty. The third, Friar Angel, had come from Mount Carmel in Palestine, and was called to Rome because he was a great preacher.
Illuminated by the Holy Ghost, the three recognized one another, and during the conversation made many prophecies. Saint Angel, for example, predicted God would give Saint Francis the stigmata. And Saint Dominic prophesied, “One day, Brother Angel, the Blessed Mother will give your Carmelite Order a devotion that will be known as the Brown Scapular, and to my Order of Preachers a devotion that will be called the Rosary. And one day she will save the world through the Rosary and the Scapular.”
On the spot where that meeting took place, a chapel was built which exists in Rome to this day.1


Mother and Splendor of Carmel
It was on the celebrated Mount Carmel, on the coast of Palestine, that Saint Elias, the “Prophet of Fire,” saw the little cloud that, in a period of great drought, was a forerunning sign that a redeeming rain would fall upon the parched earth.
Through a supernatural intuition he figured that the simple cloud, in the form of a human footprint, symbolized that blessed woman, later mentioned by Prophet Isaiah in chapter 7, verse 14 (“Behold a virgin will conceive, and bear a child . . . .”), who would be the Mother of the Redeemer.
From her virginal bosom would come He who, washing with His blood the earth dried out by sin, would open the life of grace for mankind.
According to tradition, the Order of Carmel, of which Mary is the Mother and splendor, was born from the followers of Elias and his successors.
And, in Isaias’ words, “[T]he glory of Libanus is given to it: the beauty of Carmel, and Saron” (Is. 35:2).
From Palestine, the hermits of Mount Carmel moved to Europe, laying down roots in several countries, including England, where Saint Simon Stock lived.

Saint Simon Stock: Noble and Holy
Saint Simon was born in 1165 in the castle of Harford, in Kent, England, thanks to the prayers of pious parents who were both very virtuous and from the highest nobility. Some authors believe they were related to the royal family.
His mother consecrated him to the Blessed Mother before he was born. Before breastfeeding him, in gratitude for her happy delivery and asking special protection for her son, the young mother would offer him to the Virgin Mary and say three Hail Marys on her knees. What a beautiful attitude by such a noble lady!
The boy learned to read at a very tender age. Like his parents, he began to pray the Little Office of Our Lady, and soon also the Psalter. At the age of seven, the young genius started to study fine arts at Oxford College and was so successful that his professors were surprised. At that time he also received his First Communion and consecrated his virginity to the Blessed Mother.
Persecuted by his envious older brother, and heeding an interior voice that gave Saint Simon a desire to leave the world, at the age of twelve he left home and found refuge in a forest where he lived entirely alone for twenty years in prayer and penance.

The Carmelite Order
Our Lady then manifested to Saint Simon her wish that he join some monks who were to come to England from Mount Carmel in Palestine, “especially because those religious had been consecrated to the Mother of God in a special way.” Simon thus left his solitude and, obeying another order from Heaven, studied theology and received Holy Orders.
He devoted himself to preaching until 1213, when two Carmelite friars finally arrived. He was then able to receive the habit of the Order in Aylesford.
In 1215, as the fame of Saint Simon’s virtues reached the ears of Saint Brocardo, Latin General of the Carmelite Order, he wished to make Simon lieutenant general of the Order. In 1226, Saint Brocardo appointed Saint Simon vicar-general of all Carmelite provinces in Europe.
Saint Simon had to face a real storm unleashed against the Carmelites in Europe, which the devil raised with men supposedly zealous for Church laws. On various pretexts, those men wanted at all cost to suppress the entire Order. But the pope issued a bull declaring the existence of the Carmelite Order to be legitimate and in accordance with the Lateran decrees, and allowed it to continue to establish new houses in Europe.
In 1237, Saint Simon participated in the General Chapter of the Order in the Holy Land. In 1245, in a new chapter, he was elected the sixth prior-general of the Carmelites.

The Great Promise: You Will Not Go Into the Fire of Hell
If the papal bull had momentarily placated the wrath of the enemies of Carmel, it did not stop it completely. After a period of calm, the persecution started again with more intensity.
Devoid of human aid, Saint Simon resorted to the Blessed Mother with all the sadness of his heart, asking her to help his beleaguered Order and to send a sign of her alliance with it.
In the morning of July 16, 1251, he was begging in earnest the Mother of Carmel for her protection, reciting a beautiful prayer he had composed, Flos Carmeli.2 As he reported to his secretary and confessor, Father Peter Swayngton, suddenly,
the Virgin appeared to me with a great retinue, and, having the habit of the Order in her hand, told me, “Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire . . . . It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace. Whoever dies clothed in this Scapular will not suffer eternal fire.”3
That most special grace was immediately distributed in places where the Carmelites were established and confirmed by many miracles to such an extent that the enemies of the Brothers of the Most Holy Virgin of Mount Carmel were silenced.
Saint Simon attained old age and extremely high holiness, working many miracles, and also receiving the gift of tongues. He surrendered his soul to God on May 16, 1265.


The Sabbatine Privilege: Free of Purgatory on the First Saturday After Death

In addition to this special grace of eternal salvation, connected with the Scapular, Our Lady gave another, which became known as the Sabbatine Privilege. The following century, on March 3, 1322, she appeared to Pope John XXII, communicating to those who wear her scapular, “As a tender mother, I will descend into Purgatory on the Saturday after their death and will deliver them and bring them to the holy mountain, into the happy sojourn of life everlasting.”4
What are, then, the specific promises of Our Lady?
1. Whoever dies clothed with the Scapular, will not suffer the fire of Hell.
What did Our Lady mean with these words? First, on making this promise, Mary does not mean that a person who dies in mortal sin will be saved. Death in mortal sin and condemnation are the same thing. Mary’s promise undoubtedly translates into these words, “Whoever dies clothed in this Scapular, will not die in mortal sin.” To make that clear, the Church often adds the word “piously” to the pledge, “He who dies piously will not suffer the fire of Hell.”5

2.
Our Lady will free from Purgatory the person wearing her Scapular on the first Saturday after his or her death.
Although this privilege is often interpreted literally, that is, the person will be freed from Purgatory on the first Saturday after his or her death, “everything that the Church has officially stated on several occasions to explain these words, is that those who fulfill the conditions of the Sabbatine Privilege, through the intercession of Our Lady, will be freed from Purgatory shortly after death, and especially on Saturday.”6
In any case, if we are faithful in observing the words of the Blessed Mother, she will be much more faithful in observing her own, as shown in the following example:
During the preaching of some missions, a young man who was touched by grace decided to quit his life of sin and receive the Scapular. Some time later he lapsed again into disorderly passions and became even worse. Nevertheless, he kept wearing the holy Scapular.
Being the mother that she is, the Most Holy Virgin struck him down with a serious illness. During his illness the young man dreamed that he found himself before the most just tribunal of God, Who condemned him to eternal damnation for his perfidy and his wretched life.
In vain did the hapless young man argue with the Supreme Judge that he was wearing the Scapular of His Holy Mother.
“And where are the customs that match this Scapular?” God asked him.
Not knowing what to answer, the unfortunate young man turned to Our Lady.
“I cannot undo what my Son has done,” she answered.
“But, Madam!” The young man exclaimed, “I will change!”
“Do you promise?”
“Yes.”
“Live then.”
At that point the patient awakened frightened to death by what he had seen and heard, and resolved thenceforth to wear Mary’s Scapular with greater seriousness. Indeed, he was healed and joined the Order of Premonstratensians. And after an edifying life, he surrendered his soul to God, as the chronicles of the Order narrate.7

The Scapular and Fatima
Is the Scapular related to Fatima in any way?
Yes. After the last appearance of Our Lady at Cova da Iria, the seers saw three different scenes. In the first, the Mother of God appeared as Our Lady of the Rosary, standing by Saint Joseph and holding the Child Jesus on her lap. Then, she appeared as Our Lady of Sorrows, by the painful Christ on His way to Calvary. And finally, she appeared in glory, crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth, as Our Lady of Carmel, with the Scapular in her hand.
“Why do you think Our Lady appeared with the Scapular in that last vision?” Lucia was asked in 1950.
“That’s because Our Lady wants everyone to wear the Scapular,” she replied.
“And this is why the Rosary and the Scapular, the oldest, most privileged, universal and valuable Marian sacramentals are more important today than in any past period in history.”8

Origin and Historical Evolution of the Scapular
Both the Scapular (from the Latin scapulae, shoulders), and the monastic habit and liturgical vestments developed from lay clothing.
Over time, the monastic Scapular evolved until the twelfth century when it attained its present form, becoming an integral part of almost all monastic habits, including the Carmelite one. But it did not have the meaning that it later acquired, as we shall see.
With the development of the First Orders (monks or friars), there arose the Second Orders (nuns), and then the Third Orders or Oblates, formed by single or married lay people living with their families.
Members of the Third Orders were bound to the First Orders by vows or promises according to their state, and participated in the spiritual benefits of the Order.
These Third Order members received a simpler religious habit, which they wore every day or, more commonly, only on Sundays and religious feast days.
Later came the Confraternities for lay people unable to join the Third Orders.
According to Father María Simón Besalduch, the Confraternity of Our Lady of Carmel is as old as the Scapular.

The Scapular Protects a Young Lady from the Devil
A young lady went to confession to the Cure of Ars, Saint John Vianney.
Before she began her confession, Saint John Vianney said to her, “Remember a few days ago in the ballroom a good-looking young man who danced with all the girls but you? And you felt ashamed? And remember you saw sparks coming off his feet when he left? Know that it was the devil in human form, and the only reason he didn’t dance with you is because you were wearing the Scapular. Thank the Blessed Mother for that.”


Notes:
1. Cf. John Haffert, Maria na sua promessa do Escapulário (Edições Carmelo, Aveiro, Portugal, 1967), 265–266. [back to text]
2. In Latin, that beautiful prayer says, “Flos Carmeli, Vitis florigera, Splendor Coeli, Virgo puerpera, Singularis; Mater mitis, sede viri nescia. Carmelitis da privilegia, Stella maris!” (Flower of Carmel, blossoming vine, Splendor of Heaven, incomparable and singular Virgin! O loving and ever virgin Mother, give Carmelites the privileges of thy protection, of Star of the Sea!). [back to text]3. Monsignor Paul Guérin, Les Petits Bollandistes (Bloud et Barral, Paris, 1882), 592. [back to text]4. Father Simón Ma. Besalduch, OCD, Enciclopedia del Escapulario del Carmen (Luis Gili Editor, Librería Católica Internacional, Barcelona, 1931), 243-293. [back to text]5. John Haffert, supra note 1, at 34. [back to text]
6. Id. at 112. [back to text]
7. Father Simón Ma. Besalduch, OCD, supra note 4, at 167. [back to text]
8. John Haffert, supra note 1, at 269, 272. [back to text]

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel can be traced back to the hermits living on Mount Carmel in Israel during the Old Testament. This ancient community prayed for the advent of the Virgin-Mother through whom salvation was promised to mankind. In Hebrew, “Carmel” means “garden”. In ancient times this mountain was celebrated for its lush, verdant, and flowery beauty.

It was also on Mount Carmel that the Prophet Elijah prayed to God for rain during a terrible drought afflicting Israel for its sins and idolatry of Baal. The first sign that his prayer was answered was a tiny cloud that appeared in the sky out over the Mediterranean, the precursor of a great rainfall.

Elias saw the cloud as a symbol of the Virgin mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah (7:14). The hermits took after his example and prayed likewise for the advent of the much-awaited Virgin who would become the mother of the Messiah. Praying thus became their spiritual mission.

Theologians see in that little cloud a figure of Mary, bringing salvation in the seventh age of the world. As the clouds arise out of the sea without the weight and the salinity of the waters, so has Mary arisen out of the human race without its stains.

In the twelfth century, St. Berthold, a Frenchman, pilgrim or crusader, came to Mount Carmel seeking to visit Elijah’s cave, and ended by founding a community imbued with the Marian spirit of the holy prophet and the hermits of old.

St. Brocard, successor of St. Berthold, set their way of life to a Rule, which was approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1247. From the time of St. Brocard, these monks were known as the “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel cannot be mentioned without also mentioning her brown scapular. On July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, an English Carmelite monk, and then General of the Carmelite Order. On one arm she held the Child Jesus and on the other a brown garment called a scapular, to be draped over the front and back of a person. As she showed him this garment she said, “This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall be saved.”

This privilege is extended to lay persons who, wishing to participate in this promise, choose to be enrolled in a small version of the scapular by an officiating priest or deacon.

This practice must not be understood superstitiously or “magically”, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are required for salvation.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

When evil rears its ugly head

The refusal to take sides on great moral issues
is itself a decision.
It is a silent acquiescence to evil.
The tragedy of our time is that those who still believe in honesty
lack fire and conviction,
while those who believe in dishonesty
are full of passionate conviction.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure, “The Seraphic Doctor”, was born Giovanni di Fidanza in the vicinity of Viterbo, Tuscany in 1221. Nothing is known of his childhood except the name of his parents: Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria Fidella.

Legend has it that when seriously ill as a child, his mother took him to St. Francis of Assisi. As the saint prayed over him, he was shown the infant's future spiritual greatness and exclaimed, “O, buona ventura!” O good fortune!”

He entered the Franciscan Order at age twenty-two and after taking his vows, was sent to Paris to study under the great Alexander Hale, and then John de la Rochelle. In Paris he became close friends with St. Thomas Aquinas, and both received their doctorate at the same time. Like St. Thomas, Bonaventure was held in high esteem by King St. Louis IX.

Already while in Paris he was a great preacher and discourser and wrote Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, a work covering the whole field of scholastic theology. He wrote extensively on philosophy and theology throughout his life. It is said of St. Bonaventure that he united in himself two elements: tender piety and profound learning, from whence proceeded all that is most noble, sublime, great and beautiful in the Middle Ages.

At thirty-five Bonaventure was chosen General of the Franciscans, and restored peace in the place of disturbances generated by internal dissensions. While some friars were for an inflexible severity, others were for a more relaxed rule. The saint steered the wise road of balance, reforming and restoring the spirit of his order and writing a life of St. Francis. It is said that St. Thomas Aquinas once entered Bonaventure’s cell while he was writing this biography and found him in ecstasy, “Let’s leave a saint to write about a saint,” said the Angelic Doctor.

In 1265, Pope Clement IV nominated Bonaventure to the archbishopric of York, which the saint humbly turned down to the acquiescence of the Pope.

But in 1273 Pope Gregory X elevated him to ecclesiastical dignity, and made him Cardinal, Bishop of Albano. At the Council of Lyons, he was the Pope’s right hand in preparing the matters to be addressed. Before the council began, St. Bonaventure abdicated the office of minister general of his order.

The Council of Lyons was instrumental in the effective reunion of the Greeks, a union desired by Emperor Michael Palaeologus. St. Thomas died on the way to this council, and St. Bonaventure was the council’s outstanding figure. But amidst his triumph, Bonaventure died rather suddenly during the night of July 14-15. According to the chronicle of his secretary, Peregrinus of Bologna, discovered in 1905, Bonaventure was poisoned.

He was canonized in 1482, and declared Doctor of the Church in 1588.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

All or nothing

You cannot be
half a saint;
you must be a whole saint
or no saint at all.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Tekakwitha, baptized Kateri, “The Lily of the Mohawks” was born in 1656 near the town of Auriesville, New York, the daughter of a Mohawk warrior, and a captured, Christian Algonquin woman, Tagaskouita.

Between 1661 and 1663 a small pox epidemic afflicted Kateri’s tribe. Both her parents and her brother died, and though also contracting the disease, she survived though her face was left scared and her eyesight affected. She was adopted by a paternal aunt and her husband, a chief.

At seventeen the young Mohawk girl turned down an offer of marriage, and though pressed, still refused.

Under the influence of missionary priests introduced into her tribe after the Mohawks were defeated by the French, Kateri converted to Catholicism at eighteen, and was baptized when twenty. Members of her tribe were hostile to her by reason of her Faith, but she persevered.

The Jesuit missionaries described Tekakwitha as a modest girl who covered most of her head with a blanket because of her scars.

In 1677 Kateri moved to the new Christian colony of Indians in Canada under the direction of Jesuit fathers where she found peace. There, she lived a life dedicated to prayer, penance and the care of the sick and the aged.

Every morning, even in the bitterest cold, young Kateri stood before the church until it opened at four o’clock. Once inside, she attended every Mass, her greatest devotions being the Eucharist and Christ Crucified. She undertook severe penances, seeking to mortify her flesh so as to help her soul reach union with her beloved God.

In the Lent of 1680 friends noticed that Kateri was failing. She died on Wednesday of Holy Week around three o’clock. Her last words were, “Jesus, I love You.”

As she lay still in death, those around her noticed that her scars had disappeared and her face was white and beautiful.

Pope Benedict XVI canonized Kateri Tekakwitha on October 21, 2012.