Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles, Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1308-1311

A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to John. 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world In regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Transcription of Sermon

Today, the Church celebrates feasts of several saints, one of whom is named Simon Stock. Simon was an Englishman who became a hermit in the Holy Land and a member of the ancient Carmelite order. He was very well regarded in his own order, and it was a hermit order, and their full name is the Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. And as an Englishman, and the desire to expand the spirituality and the conventional houses of the Carmelites, he was sent to England. As an Englishman it made sense. But he was asked to Europeanize their covenantal living. And so, there was a Chapter of the Carmelites which met together in order to see how they could adapt what they had been living in the Holy Land to a somewhat different style of life in Europe in order to make it expand more quickly. And that’s exactly what they did. He was then elected the sixth Prior General of the Carmelites and was known for his great love for Our Lady, which would be expected of a Carmelite.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saints, Pietro Novelli, 1641

Our Lady appeared to him and gave him the scapular, the Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel, and told him whoever dies with this habit on will not suffer the Eternal Flames of Hell.

Some people criticize this act of piety as having something of a talisman-like quality. I noticed that the only people who say that are ones who do not wear it. Those who wear it, don’t understand it as a sort of a talisman, a magical charm that will save me from hell and I can live a depraved life far from Christ but I’ve got my scapular. I don’t know anybody who wears the scapular who thinks in those terms. I don’t know anybody who wears the scapular who doesn’t love Our Lady.

It’s called a habit, and a habit is above all a virtue. So, it’s an external sign of an interior disposition, but with it comes a certain compact with Our Lady which means that I will wear your habits to give you honor, and I ask your graces to persevere. And so, there’s promise and commitment. There is giving and receiving. It’s a relationship. So, the Brown Scapular of Carmel helps to foster our relationship with Our Lady.

Simon Stock, he’s called Stock because, you know, back then people didn’t have last names, but he was a hermit that lived in a large trunk of a tree, and so, is the stock of a tree. I guess they did a pool of what sounds better Simon Tree Trunk or Simon Stock and they opted for Simon Stock. And so, that’s how he’s known, because people didn’t have last names back then, it was more of an indicator of his identity. And because he had carved out a cell in a massive tree and that was where he lived. That’s where he slept. That’s where he prayed. And, he was known for his great holiness and that’s why he was entrusted with great missions, and, ultimately, as Superior General of the Carmelites.

Today is also the feast day of St. John Stone. John was an English Augustinian during the times of Henry VIII – very difficult times to be a Catholic in England. This was at a time when Henry VIII was seeking yes men to appease his uneasy conscience because of his attempts at remarriage. He made it illegal to not recognize his marriage. That was one strike against John Stone. Another strike against him was with the Act of Supremacy. The Act of Supremacy was Henry VIII’s attempt to style himself as the head of the Church in England. Certainly not a moral leader of the Church of England and his going through ex-wives with a stroke of a pen or an axe, and, nonetheless, he called himself the head of the Church of England, and it was an act of treason to not recognize this. 

This put the Catholic Church in a very difficult spot in England, in which religious priests were forced to recognize this pretender as the head of the Church, and therefore apostatize or suffer martyrdom. Saint John Stone knew he had no choice in this. He couldn’t go against his conscience. He couldn’t go against Church teaching. He couldn’t go against the Vicar of Christ. And so, he refused. He was put in a dungeon and eventually was hung, drawn, and quartered in a horrible martyrdom. And we think of what was going on in his mind. Knowing that I love Christ, I’m part of the Bride of Christ, and whatever the price that I must pay is worth it, in order to be faithful to my Bridegroom. And Christ is the Bridegroom of every soul. He is our spouse, our divine spouse, and He’s faithful.

So, we have such things as the Scapular to help us to be faithful. And the scapular invites us to a deeper relationship with Our Lady, which will then help us to be faithful spouses of the Divine Bridegroom.

When John Paul II, suffered his assassination attempt, and they were going to operate on him, He said, “Please don’t take my scapular off,” right before surgery. He was a great lover of Our Lady, a faithful son of Mary, and truly devoted to the Brown Scapular.

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, the Holy Spirit. Amen.

— Fr. Ermatinger