SAINT SIMON STOCK (1165-1265), priest – Patron saint of the British Province of Discalced Carmelites
Today, the Church honors Saint Simon Stock, a 12th and 13th century Carmelite monk whose vision of the Virgin Mary is the source of the Brown Scapular devotion.
Simon was born in the year 1165 in the English county of Kent. He is said to have been strongly devoted to God from his youth, to the point that he left home at the age of twelve to live in the forest as a hermit. Following the customs of the earliest monks, he lived on fruit and water and spent his time in prayer and meditation.
After two decades of solitary life in the wilderness, he returned to society to acquire an education in theology and become a priest. Afterwards, he returned to his hermitage until the year 1212, when it is believed that Father Simon received a Divine revelation to embrace the rule of Carmelite monks who were coming from the Holy Land to England.
The Carmelites’ ascetic, contemplative lifestyle was combined with an ardent devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Impressed by the Carmelites’ rigorous monasticism, Simon joined the Order and was sent to complete a course of studies at Oxford. Not long after his return to the Order, he was appointed its vicar general in 1215. He defended the Carmelites in a dispute over their legitimacy, later resolved by the Popes.
In 1237, Simon took part in a meeting of the Carmelite Order in the Holy Land. Facing persecution from Muslims, a majority of the monks there decided to make their home in Europe – including Simon’s native England, where the Order would go on to prosper for several centuries.
After becoming the General Superior of the Carmelites in 1247, Simon worked to establish the Order in many of Europe’s centers of learning, including Cambridge, Oxford, and Paris.
Late in his life, Friar Simon’s lasting fame came from an apparition he had in Cambridge, England, on July 16, 1251, at a time when the Carmelite Order was being oppressed. It is said that the Virgin Mary appeared to him holding the brown scapular in one hand. Her words were:
“Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of your Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for you and for your 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.”
On May 16, 1265, 100 years after his birth, Friar Simon Stock completed his earthly journey and was called to his eternal home. His remains were interred in the cathedral of Bordeaux, France, and became honored among the saints soon after his death.
We commemorate his feastday on May 16.
(From catholicnewsagency.com, ewtn.com/library, catholic.org/saints and newadvent.org)
(The following prayer is from the British Province of Discalced Carmelites)
“Heavenly Father, you called Saint Simon Stock to serve You in the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Through his prayers, help us, like him, to live in Your Presence, and to work for the salvation of the human family.
“Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”