Having voluntarily chosen to deprive himself of human conversation, he was favored with that of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the angels who urged him to persevere in his life of sacrifice and love. The Queen of Heaven told him that some hermits from Palestine would soon land in England, adding that he should join those men whom she considered as her servants.
Indeed, Lord John Vesoy and Lord Richard Gray of Codnor returned from the Holy Land, bringing with them several hermits from Mount Carmel. Simon Stock joined them in 1212 and was elected Vicar General of the Carmelite Order in 1215. He begged the Virgin Mary by fervent prayers and tears to defend this Order, which was devoted to her, and she appeared in a dream to Pope Honorius III, so the pope finally confirmed the Rule of Carmelites in 1226.
Another time the Mother of God appeared to Simon, surrounded by a dazzling light and accompanied by a large number of blessed spirits, with the scapular of the order in her hand. This scapular she gave him with the words: “Hoc erit tibi et cunctis Carmelitis privilegium, in hoc habitu moriens salvabitur” – This shall be the privilege for you and for all the Carmelites, that anyone wearing this habit shall be saved.
Through Saint Simon Stock the devotion of the scapular spread throughout the world, not only among the people, but also among kings and princes who found themselves very honored to wear the sign of the servants of the Blessed Virgin. Stock breathed his last in the city of Bordeaux while visiting monasteries, in the 20th year of his office as Vicar General. The Church added his last words to the Angelic salutation: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
Another important aspect of wearing the Scapular is the Sabbatine Privilege. This concerns a promise made by Our Lady to Pope John XXII. In a papal letter he issued, he recounted a vision that he had had. He stated that the Blessed Virgin had said to him in this vision, concerning those who wear the Brown Scapular: “I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting.”
In order to receive the spiritual blessings associated with the Scapular, it is necessary to be formally enrolled in the Brown Scapular by either a priest or a lay person who has been given this faculty. Once enrolled, the enrollment is for life and need not be repeated. Anyone, adult or infant, who has not previously been enrolled may be enrolled in the Brown Scapular.
Pope Pius XII went so far as to say: “The Scapular is a practice of piety which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone, and has spread widely among the faithful of Christ to their spiritual profit.” In our own times, Pope Paul VI said: “Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin … the Rosary and the Scapular of Carmel” and in another place referred to the Scapular as: “so highly recommended by our illustrious predecessors.”
One of the most common forms of whisky that is sought after is Irish Whisky, and perhaps appropriately so. The origins of the word Whisky can be found in the Gaelic Language. Uisce Beatha was the original name of whiskey in classical Gaelic, which ultimately became Uisce Beatha in Ireland and Uisge Beatha in Scotland. Both of these names mean “Water of Life” and tells us just how important and vital this particular distillation was to the Gaels. It was later shortened to just Uisce/Uisge, and then anglicized to Whisky. So now you know, when someone is concerned about your whisky consumption, you can just tell them you’re drinking the water of life!
St. Joan of Arc is remarkable in so many ways. I would like to draw attention to a few aspects of her life and character that hold pointed lessons for us today.
First, as a young woman, Joan practiced a deep, humble, and serious piety. The age-old practices of the Catholic faith were enough to take her to the heights of sanctity and the gift of herself for her country and her Lord. She listened to the Lord’s voice as He spoke to her through the saints and through circumstances, and she obeyed His will unflinchingly. St. Michael the Archangel addressed her as “Jehanne the Maid, Child of God,” for this is what she was and always remained. Instead of allowing herself to be distracted by worldly motivations, she followed the path God set for her, in spite of its difficulty. She is, in other words, the exact antithesis of churchmen today who would water down the demands of God’s law, the necessity of self-denial in adhering to it, and the supernatural motives that should sustain us.
Second, Joan boldly stepped into a public role at God’s behest, but without losing her femininity. She did not wage war with the soldiers, but simply led them in formation. She would not, in principle, kill or wound anyone. There is not the remotest chance that she would ever condone women fighting in the military and being trained to kill — the absurdity of actual or potential nurturers of life taking it voluntarily. In this, she is an example of true Christian womanhood: strong and courageous, willing to stick her neck out, willing to lead (as she herself was willing to be led by her Master), but not stupidly trying to be a man. She did not think equality with maleness as something to be grasped, but emptied herself and became a servant. In this way she provided an example of being true to her identity and vocation that is resoundingly necessary for both women and men to heed in a world that has become confused about how many sexes there are and who belongs to which “division” of the human race. (And it is indeed a division — but it need not be an opposition or antagonism, in the way that both male chauvinism and feminism imagine it to be, each feeding off the other. Real difference makes possible a deeper communion and cooperation than uniformity and replaceability, even as, in the Church, the priest’s role as mediator is seen to be essentially different from that of the laity, since he acts on their behalf in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ the Head of the Church. In a similar way, the husband in a family has the calling to imitate and represent the headship of Christ. As St. Paul explained so well, one cannot have a functional organic body if it’s made up only of arms or hands or eyes or, for that matter, heads. Real difference and distinction, when embraced in a spirit of servanthood, confer a mutual benefit that far exceeds what one could obtain independently. Hierarchy and unity are correlative, not opposed, as democracy falsely assumes.)
Third, Joan is a model of the virtues of chastity and purity. Feminists like to point out that she donned a man’s clothing at a time when this was considered immoral. Yet all historians are agreed that the reason Joan wore a man’s clothing during her public service, and later in prison, was to protect herself against the danger of rape from the soldiers and enemies among whom she had to dwell. The ordinary women’s clothing of the time offered no such defense, and she would not have had the leisure or the talent to create a new and better fashion de novo. She complained to the tribunal that an English lord had attempted to violate her in prison. Like St. Maria Goretti, St. Joan prized the gift of her virginity and defended it. She knew her worth and her dignity as a woman and a human being.
Fourth, Joan was condemned by an ecclesiastical kangaroo court presided over by a corrupt bishop, Pierre Cauchon, with the complicity of corrupt clergy. As everyone knows who has read Joan’s life, she was falsely charged with heresy and condemned to be burnt at the stake. The trial was later re-evaluated by the Church and found to be gravely defective and irregular on numerous counts — indeed, not to mince words, it was a wicked sham, an excuse for murdering an inconvenient and too popular figure who could not be readily controlled by those in power. We live today in a world in which most of episcopacy is corrupt on several levels — doctrinally, through failing to teach the Catholic Faith in its integrity, if not positively adhering to modernist views, or morally, due to practicing sexual abuse, or covering it up, or tolerating its existence, or liturgically, by refusing to model right worship or to correct impious deviations, or, indeed, all three at once. Joan sets us an example of a laywoman who refuses to be cowed by threats and intimidations from “authority,” even legitimate authority abusing its powers, and who would rather die for a right conscience than falsely admit to wrongdoing. She ought to be recognized as the patron saint of those who have been victimized by the Church’s hierarchy.