A little brown cloth, often dirty and torn, worn over a person's shoulders, is one of the richest Sacramental in the possession of the Catholic Church. It is called the Brown Scapular and is a small imitation of the Scapular of the Carmelite order. This Religious order has its spiritual origin in the prophet Elias. Elias' home was Mount Carmel, the site of his refuge from Jezebel, and the theatre of his victory over the priests of Baal (II Kings 18). Long after his death, the Carmelite order was founded on the sacred spot.
During the Crusades of the Middle ages, these holy hermits impressed Christian Knights, while St. Simon Stock, the Superior of the Order, who had practiced the hermitic life on Mount Carmel, founded many monasteries in Europe and had great success in preaching. Resulting jealousies from the other European communities caused him to flee to Our Lady, and Her solution was to change the habit of his order, giving him the Brown Scapular with these words: "Receive my beloved son, this Habit; whosoever dies clothed in this shall not suffer eternal fire."
Desirous of belonging to Mary's family and certain of her promise to save them from the fires of Hell, Catholics of every rank and nation have worn the Brown Scapular. Its bold promise is the clearest sign that it is from the Mother of God – "never has it been known that anyone fled to Thy protection without being aided.” In this way, a Catholic enrolled in the Scapular becomes a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Scapular and belongs to the family of Mary and is affiliated to the Carmelite order. Thus, the Carmelite order has been called the "family of Our Lady", being an extension, as it were, of Her family ties.
Since it "has been confirmed with miracles more numerous" than any other devotion, the Church has enriched it with many Indulgences to encourage Catholics to its use. The Church intends that wearing the Scapular is not merely a devotion to save one at the last moment, but it inculcates the spirit of Mary, the habits of Her household and the imitation of Christ. And just as Mary clothed her first-born Son, so with a Mother's love She desires to clothe all her children. Those who live by Her motherly love, will not be cast away by their heavenly Father and those who surpass others in Her love and service will be singularly rewarded by Christ.
Devotees of the Scapular must be duly enrolled by a Priest and may obtain a Plenary Indulgence by visiting a Church and saying the Holy Rosary there, or by saying the Rosary with other members of the Confraternity on the following Feasts: St. Simon Stock, May 16, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel July 16, St. Elias July 20, St. Theresa of Lisieux Oct. 3, St. Theresa of Avila Oct. 15, All Carmelite Saints Nov. 14, St. John of the Cross Nov. 24.