In a protective coat | Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh


I have a vivid memory of my mother wrapping me in a woolen blanket and taking me to the doctor when I was about three years old. I had come down with a cold that lingered and turned into pneumonia. It was a freezing, snowy December, two weeks before Christmas, and I had a very high fever and was too weak to walk. Mom trudged through the snow to get me to the doctor as soon as possible. Nothing was going to stop him from bringing me to his healing aid. I was wrapped not only in a woolen blanket but also in my mother’s love.

From the moment of my First Communion, my Heavenly Mother has enveloped me in her cloak of love and carried me through the trials and tribulations of life to her Son, the Divine Physician, so that I may receive his help and mercy. This mantle is his brown scapular which we remember in a special way each July 16, feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I have worn his Scapular since the day of my First Communion.

Tradition tells us that the Mother of God appeared to Saint Simon Stock, Master General of the Carmelite Order, on July 16, 1251, assuring him: “It will be a privilege for you and for all Carmelites, that he who will die in this (scapular) will not undergo eternal fire. This story describes how the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, is always ready to wrap us in the garment of maternal love. The Carmelites of the time of Saint-Simon Stock were strongly attacked by those who did not understand their new way of religious life. There was serious doubt about their survival. Step into their Heavenly Mother with the Scapular, her protective garment, and they not only survived but also thrived.

Pope Saint John Paul II, whose love and devotion to Our Lady ran so deep, wore the Brown Scapular all his life. When he was rushed to Gemelli Hospital after the May 13, 1981 assassination attempt that nearly cost him his life, he was taken to the operating room wearing the scapular. He told the doctors, “Don’t take the scapular off. They left it on and, thank God, it survived.

In the message of Saint John Paul II to the Carmelites in 2001 on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the granting of the scapular by Our Lady to Saint Simon Stock, he gave them a beautiful message.

Two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on the path of life, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other hand, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and homage in her honor on certain occasions, but must become a “habit”, that is to say a permanent orientation of her conduct Christian, woven of prayer and interior life, through the frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of spiritual and bodily works of mercy. In this way, the Scapular becomes a sign of the “covenant” and of the reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: in fact, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the cross to John, and to through him, to all of us, and the trust of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who has become our spiritual Mother. (Message of John Paul II to the Carmelite Family, March 25, 2001)

The woolen blanket my mother carried me in to the doctor’s office so many years ago was a sign of her love for me. Likewise, the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is truly for me a sign of the love of my Heavenly Mother who always leads me to the healing love and mercy of her Divine Son. In the sorrows and joys of life, my Mother is with me, protecting and guiding me. As a dear Carmelite friend said: “Live under the cloak and everything will be fine!

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us and protect us!

Bishop William J. Waltersheid

Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh

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