In Hebrew, the mountain located in Eastern Israel where the Carmelite order started is called “Hakkarmel,” which means the garden and vineyard of the Lord. After some time, the mountain was called simply as “Karmel” and in Arabic, “Kurmul.” It is now known as “Jebel Mar Elias” or the Mountain of Elijah.
The New Testament did not mention anything about Mount Carmel but it is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. Even during the early days the mountain is considered sacred by the Israelites, and even before the arrival of Elijah there is already an altar built in the summit to praise Yahweh. But this mountain was first popularized in the Book of Kings (1 Kings 18:17-40). This is where Israelites assembled when Elijah proved that Yahweh is the true God and now Baal who is the god of King Ahad and 450 prophets. Here, Elijah proved that God is the true God through fire. He challenged the prophets of Baal to simultaneously offer sacrifice. They all put firewood in their own altars for sacrifice. After they pour water in the altars they all put bulls to burn in their altars.
When the prophets in side of King Ahab prayed to Baal to send fire to burn their sacrifice, no fire came even if they prayed for almost the entire day. When Elijah’s turn came to pray to Yahweh, a fire suddenly came from the skies and burned the sacrificial bull. When the entire kingdom saw what happened, they returned to Yahweh yelling: “Yahweh is the God! Yahweh is the God!”
In two consecutive years, Israel suffered a drought. It is also here in the summit of Mount Carmel Elijah told to his follower that it will rain. In accordance to what he said, a small cloud was seen from the ocean. A few moments later, the skies turned dark, strong winds blew and it rained hard. (1 Kings 18:41-46)
This mountain was related by the philosopher Iamblicus to the Prophet Elijah since the 4th century BCE and also the rabbis during the 13th century AD. They consider that the Mountain of Prophet Elijah is the most sacred of all places. As a result, there are Jews, Christians, priests and prophets who live in this holy place.
According to the tradition of the Carmelites, their order began as a group of hermits in Mount Carmel. According to them, they are the ones who took over to the schools of the prophets during the early days in Israel. Because of this, there are no available records of the hermits before 1190 but it is evident that before 1190 there are already pilgrims or former crusaders who live here since this mountain is considered the mountain of Elijah. In this mountain, a monastery was built in honor of Mary (circa 12th century) which led to their call name Order of Virgin of Mount Carmel or Carmelites; between the years 1206-1214 they accepted the legato of the Pope. After 1229, Saint Simon Stock went to Mount Carmel and stayed there for six years. In 1237, he joined the Carmelites’ general chapter which was called by Alanus, the 5th general of the order. In the meeting, they decided to transfer to Europe because of the threat of the Saracens.
During the years 1245-1247 when Alanus resigned, St. Simon Stock was assigned as the 6th general. He is already 82 years at that time. He founded the Confraternity of the Scapular that was approved by the Pope. According to history, way back 1251, he called on the Virgin Mary to help his order – the Carmelites because of the hardships they suffer. As a response, on 16 July 1521, the Virgin Mary appeared to him in Cambridge, England holding a scapular and said: “please accept this scapular my beloved son as a sign of my confraternity. This is for you and for all the Carmelites, this is a special symbol of my grace. Whoever dies wearing a scapular, will never suffer the fire of hell. This is a sign of salvation, shield from dangers and a promise of peace and testament.” This apparition was formally recognized by Pope Sixtus V in 1587. This is called the “brown scapular” of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Back then, the feast of Mount Carmel was celebrated on 15th of August, the day of Mary’s ascension to heaven but it was transferred to 16th of July, the day the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Simon Stock.
The scapular is a special protection from Virgin Mary to the Carmelites and to the one’s wearing it. It is a symbol of salvation. But it should also be noted that it is not similar to an amulet that when worn, the wearer will not be hit by bullets. Even if the scapular is worn, it is possible to be hit by bullets and die. It is not a magic that will directly send the wearer to heaven even if s/he has committed a mortal sin. But, according to experts, wearers of the scapular will surely believe in God and Virgin Mary and through this faith s/he will be able to obey the will of God. But in case s/he commits a sin, the Virgin Mary will help him/her to ask for forgiveness on the time of death, assuming no mortal sin was committed. Because of the scapular, the Virgin Mary will intercede to keep the wearer from being sent to hell. From this promise, the scapular spread throughout Europe in the 16th century and even the popes and saints wear the scapular.
But at present, only few people wear it because they do not know the importance of the scapular. To address this, the parish of Barasoain, when Msgr. Angelito Santiago, Jr. arrived as the parish priest on June 2007, he wanted to bring back the devotion and the wearing of scapular because this is a symbol and promise of salvation of Virgin Mary to the wearer.
From 2007 to 2008, the parish gave free scapulars to the churchgoers every 6:00 AM mass. On 2009, the parish also gave scapular to all masses on one Sunday; from 2007 up to the present every novena mass as preparation to the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel scapulars were also given to churchgoers. But to the wearers, they are reminded to pray the rosary every day, follow the will of God and to be pure-hearted in accordance to status in society to achieve salvation.