As we continue to study the lives of the saints in the Holy Catholic Church we are sure to encounter many, who even though they have been declared a saint in heaven, not much had been documented about their early lives. Saint Simon Stock is one such saint.
Although most agree that the name Stock came from the fact that as a young boy of twelve, he went off to the desert to live as a hermit, and found shelter in the hollowed trunk of a tree. The word ‘Stock’ is derived from the word for tree trunk. He spent most of his youth in solitude, praying, and mortifying his flesh with fasting and other severe measures. He drank only water, and ate only herbs, roots and wild apples…. but what he lacked in physical nourishment he made up for in spiritual banquets, with his continuous stream of prayers.
After twenty years in the desert, he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he met a group of hermits from Palestine, who were living on Mt. Carmel. They called themselves The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel. He had been previously told in an apparition of the Blessed Mother, that these men were her special servants, Saint Simon immediately joined. But due to the influx of Muslims in the Holy Land, Christians were forced to leave… among those were the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin. He traveled with the Order back to Europe. Once back in Europe, they realized that more could be accomplished living as friars among the people, with the help of St. Simon, the Carmelites changed from living as hermits to serving the community as friars…but it was not easy…
By 1251, the Carmelite Order was being oppressed…the weight of all their new concerns mixed with the lukewarmness of some of the Brothers was causing them great distress. In an attempt to aid his community, Saint Simon petitioned the Blessed Mother for Her help. On July 16th of 1251, She appeared to him in Cambridge, England. During Her visit, She appeared holding a brown, woolen cloth draped over Her hand, which She gave to Saint Simon Stock. She said to him:
“Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”
Saint Simon lived to see the Carmelites flourish; not only in his native land, but throughout all of Europe as well. He died on May 16, 1265 at the Monastery of Bordeaux at the age of 100, fourteen years after receiving the Brown Scapular from Our Lady.
The scapular (from the Latin, scapula, meaning “shoulder blade”) consists of two pieces of cloth, one worn on the chest, and the other on the back, which were connected by straps or strings passing over the shoulders.
The first miracle associated with the brown scapular occurred the same day that Simon was given the scapular from the Blessed Mother. I found the story to be so remarkable, so much like the story of my own father’s deathbed conversion....that I have added a link right here.
The devotion to the brown scapular grew, and soon smaller versions were being made and distributed to the lay people who wanted to be associated with the Carmelite Order, and those who wished to honor the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
There are some who did not believe that the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon with the scapular, and as if to remove any doubt from our hearts, when the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, Her final visit was on July 16th, and then again in 1917 during Her final visit to the children of Fatima…the visit in which the sun spun in circles above the heads of over 70,000 people…She first appeared to the crowd as Our Lady of Mount Carmel…holding the baby Jesus in one hand and the Brown Scapular in the other….it seems that the Blessed Mother, does not approve of disbelieving children….
Prayer to St. Simon Stock
O holy Saint Simon, thou were blessed with the apparition of Our Lady and received the Scapular as a special sign of her favor. Following thy example, I pledge to wear the Scapular faithfully and devoutly so that I may always have Our Lady’s wonderful protection in life and her special help at the hour of death. Amen.