Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 58

Saint Simon StockArticle

Means to Avoid Purgatory – Great Devotion to the Blessed Virgin – Father Jerome Carvalho – Saint Bridget – The Scapular of Mount Carmel

A Servant of God sums up these means, and reduces them to two, saying, “Let us cleanse our souls by water and by fire”; that is to say, by the water of tears, and by the fire of charity and good works. In fact, we may classify them all under these two exercises, and this is conformable to Holy Scripture, where we see that souls are cleansed from their stains, and purified like gold in the crucible. But since we must seek above everything to be practical, let us follow the method we have indicated, and which has been practiced, with so much success, by the saints and by all fervent Christians.

In the first place, in order to obtain great purity of soul, and in consequence to have little reason to fear Purgatory, we must cherish a great devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary. This good Mother will so assist her dear children in cleansing their souls and in shortening their Purgatory, that they may live in the greatest confidence. She even desires that they should not trouble themselves on this subject, and that they should not allow themselves to be discouraged by excessive fear, as she herself deigned to declare to her servant, Jerome Carvalho, of whom we have already spoken. “Have confidence, my son,” she said to him. “I am the Mother of Mercy for my dear children in Purgatory, as well as for those still living upon earth.” In the Revelations of Saint Bridget we read something similar: “I am,” said the Blessed Virgin to her, “the Mother of all those who are in the place of expiation; my prayers mitigate the chastisements inflicted upon them for their faults.” (Book 4, chap. 1).

Those who wear the holy scapular have a special right to the protection of Mary. The devotion of the holy scapular, unlike that of the Rosary, does not consist in prayer, but in the pious practice of wearing a sort of habit, which is as the livery of the Queen of Heaven. The scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, of which we here speak, traces its origin back to the thirteenth century, and was first preached by Blessed Simon Stock, fifth General of the Order of Mount Carmel. This celebrated servant of Mary, born in Kent, England, in the year 1165, whilst yet young, retired into a solitary forest to apply himself to prayer and penance. He chose as his dwelling the hollow of a tree, to which he attached a crucifix and a picture of the Blessed Virgin, whom he honored as his Mother, and ceased not to invoke with the tenderest affection. For twelve years he entreated her to make known to him what he could do that would be most agreeable to her Divine Son, when the Queen of Heaven told him to enter the Order of Mount Carmel, which was particularly devoted to her service. Simon obeyed; and, under the protection of Mary, became an exemplary Religious and the ornament of the Order of Mount Carmel, of which he was elected Superior General in 1245.

One day – it was the 16th of July, 1251 – the Blessed Virgin appeared to him surrounded by a multitude of heavenly spirits, and, with a countenance radiant with joy, she presented to him a scapular of a brown color, saying, “Receive, my dear son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the badge of my Confraternity and the pledge of a privilege which I have obtained for thee and for thy brethren of Mount Carmel. Those who die devoutly clothed in this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in peril, a pledge of peace and special protection, until the end of time.” The happy old man everywhere published the favor he had received, showing the scapular, healing the sick, and working other miracles in proof of his marvelous mission. Immediately, Edward I, king of England, Louis IX, king of France, and after their example almost all of the sovereigns of Europe, as also a great number of their subjects, received the same habit. From that time commences the celebrated Confraternity of the Scapular, which was soon afterwards canonically erected by the Holy See.

Not content with granting this first privilege, Mary made another promise in favor of the members of the Confraternity of the Scapular, by assuring them of a speedy deliverance from the sufferings of Purgatory. About fifty years after the death of Blessed Simon, the illustrious Pontiff, John XXII, whilst at prayer in the early morning, saw the Mother of God appear surrounded with light, and bearing the habit of Mount Carmel. Among other things she said to him, “If among the Religious or members of the Confraternity of Mount Carmel there are any who, on account of their faults, are condemned to Purgatory, I will descend into the midst of them like a tender Mother on the Saturday after their death; I will deliver them and conduct them to the holy mount of eternal life.” These are the words which the Pontiff places in the lips of Mary in his celebrated Bull of 3rd March 1322, commonly called the Sabbatine Bull. He concludes in these words: “I therefore accept this holy indulgence; I ratify and confirm it upon earth, as Jesus Christ has graciously granted it in Heaven through the merits of the most Blessed Virgin.” This privilege was afterwards confirmed by a great many Bulls and Decrees of the Sovereign Pontiffs.

Such is the devotion of the holy scapular. It is sanctioned by the practice of pious souls throughout the Christian world, by the testimony of twenty-two Popes, by the writings of an incalculable number of pious authors, and by multiplied miracles during the past 600 years; so that, says the illustrious Benedict XIV, “he who dares call in question the validity of the devotion of the scapular or deny its privileges, would be a proud despiser of religion.”

MLA Citation