THAT THE Mother of God appeared to Saint Simon Stock, promising that anyone who died in her Scapular would not suffer eternal fire, is as certain as the fact that George Washington defeated Cornwallis, in 1781, at Yorktown. There are documentary proofs; the Catholic Church has propagated the devotion for seven centuries; and more miracles have been worked through the Brown Scapular than through almost any other Sign this world has ever had. [BI. Claude de la Colombiere, in Serm. pour la Fete du Scap., among other holy authors.]
While one miracle-----one operation above the power of nature-----is God's word, innumerable miracles are decidedly a bit of Divine emphasis. Hence we might say that one has more ground for believing in the Scapular Promises than for believing in the defeat of Cornwallis or the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Besides documents, we have the word of the two greatest authorities in existence: God and His Church.
Since elsewhere the authority of God and of the Church will show itself in support of the Scapular Vision, the reader is invited to consider, here, the documented history. Nor is this invitation extended because the reader might not be sympathetic to miracles and to universal Catholic sentiment.
A short time ago, the Scapular was presented to a man who was at the point of death. Gazing at it in mingled pain and frustration, he sobbed: "Oh, if only I could believe in that!" [Enciclopedia de la Virgen del Carmen: pg. 335.] But he had not learned the facts of the Scapular in life. Faced with death, he could not believe even while his whole being cried out for the sweet, Marian assurance it brings.
Reading the documented history of the Vision to Saint Simon Stock, which lessens the demands on our faith, we cannot fail to acquire a greater reverence and a deeper appreciation of that historical descent of a Mother from Heaven to earth, where She lovingly folded Her children beneath Her mantle to assure their salvation.
It must be pointed out in the very beginning, however, that obviously a tremendous force has been at work to destroy historical monuments of the Scapular Vision and even to hide, under a cloud of controversy, those documents that have proved indestructible. The printing press was not invented until two hundred years after the Vision and therefore almost all the first-hand records of the Vision were unique documents. These documents were, so far as we know, archived in the Carmelite libraries at Bordeaux [where Saint Simon Stock died and where his body now lies], and at London. [Enciclopedia: no.143.] After the Black Plague, less than a hundred years after the Vision, the Bordeaux library was burned by city officials, to prevent the possible spread of contagion. In the beginnings of the Anglican schism, the heretical Henry VIII ordered the London library razed to the ground. Moreover, it seems never to have occurred to the Catholic World of those first four centuries after the Vision that seven centuries later we might like to see some documents. Most of the information we have is either indirect or left to us by chance. Perhaps, however, that is the explanation of its power.
After the Vision [July 16, 1251], the Scapular Devotion spread throughout the universal Church, being richly indulgenced by the Popes and being the vehicle of miracles, until the middle of the seventeenth century. At that time, a bitter enemy of the Holy See and especially of Religious Orders [the Gallican, Launoy], dipped his pen into the red ink of negative argument to smudge the Scapular. "It is a legend," he declared, "there is no documentary evidence of it until two hundred years after the alleged vision." [Cf. R. P. Magennis: Scapulare B. 17. M. de Monte Carmelo: Joannes Cheron et Fragmentum Petri Swaningtoni, pp. 184, Rome, 1915.] Unfortunately, where were the documents? No one had thought of such things and the London and Bordeaux libraries were gone . . . . .
The Church answered by putting Launoy's book on the Roman Index of Prohibited Books and by adding more indulgences to the Scapular. Others responded like the great Jesuit General, Father Aquaviva, who ordered his whole Order to propagate the devotion with fervor as one of its very missions. [R. P. Clarke, S.J.: "The Brown Scapular and the Catholic Dictionary" in The Month, 1886.] Father Papebroech, S. J ., when accused of siding with Launoy considered the accusation a calumny because "the Scapular is a devotion approved by the Sovereign Pontiffs and by celestial favors." [R. P. Papabroech: Responsiones, De Rev. Accusatio II, n. 28: "It would be wicked to deny that this devotion of the Scapular has been honored by graces and privileges granted by the Supreme Pontiffs and approved by celestial favors: N. B.: Father Papebroech was the greatest hagiologist of his day and probably of all time. cf. P. E. Magennis: "The Scapular and Some Critics," pg. 139.]
Benedict XIV, one of the most learned theologians of all time, not only argued against Launoy but expressed the opinion that only a contemner of religion could deny the authenticity of the Scapular Vision. [De festis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi et Beatae Mariae Virginis, lib. II, c. V, n. 1-10; Prati, 1831.]
But Launoy's book, although placed on the Roman Index and banned as utterly unCatholic, continued to be quoted. The negative arguments against the Scapular persisted and, to our amazement, solid documentary evidence offered in refutation was belittled, its whole force gradually smothered in a cloud of doubt stirred from disputes over one document that was probably spurious. [8 Launoy was answered by Father John Oteron, O. Carm.. with a letter which the latter claimed to have been written by Swanington, the secretary of Saint Simon Stock. This letter (Fragmentum Vitae S. Simonis Stockii) was taken to be the foundation for the historicity of the Vision, or at least the corner stone. When it was called into question at the turn of the present century, repercussions were felt in the mightiest volumes of the day: the Encyclopedias. The two greatest figures in the modern debate were the R. P. Benedict Zimmerman, O.D.C., and the R. P. Elias P. Magennis, O. Carm. Both died within a month of each other in 1937. Most writers of historical note are now agreed that it is best to completely ignore the Swanington fragment, regardless of its possibilities, together with all doubtful documentation.] It was not until recently that the historicity of the Scapular has been undeniably established not only on circumstantial evidence but even on a documentary basis.
The scattered ashes of perished documents could hardly be resurrected, but the record of the vision in one book written, by a man of unquestionable character who was sure of his facts, in the century after the vision-----is authentic.
How the Promise is Kept
THE AUTHOR vividly remembers the day that he heard the parting word of an old priest who had just spent several hours going over the theological background of the Scapular Promise. It was in the semi-darkness of a seminary room that was atmosphered by piles of often consulted books in a background of more dusty tomes. The old Doctor, who had been teaching Theology in a large diocesan seminary for more than a quarter of a century, slowly rose to his feet. "Young man," he said earnestly, "what I have outlined to you in these few hours is a formulation that took me forty-two years . . ."
What he had outlined has, in its clarity, opened new vistas of thought and shed abundant light upon most vital truths. And in the comprehension of those truths lies a comprehension of the Scapular Promise and why it is kept . . .Almost everyone has heard that all Grace comes to man through Mary. How many know the explanation of it? Acquainted with the picture on the miraculous medal, of the Blessed Virgin with rays of light streaming from Her hands in representation of the flow of Grace, are there some who think that this is how grace flows through Mary, through Her hands? To really understand the answer, the reader is invited to see (1) what Grace is, (2) how it comes to man at all and, then, (3) how Mary is positioned in its flow, see following, click NEXT.