Fr. Scott A. Haynes
In the Old Testament God appeared to Moses on Mt. Horeb in the burning bush, the plant that is on fire but is not consumed by the flames. There the Lord spoke to Moses about his desire to set the Israelites free from slavery in Egypt. Did you know that the fathers of the church always refer to the burning bush as an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary?
This is because of their many similarities. Just as the Lord came down to the burning bush to tell Moses about how He wants to end His people’s slavery, so did He come upon Mary’s womb to save us all from our slavery to sin. Also, consider the burning bush: just as the burning bush was not destroyed or damaged by the awesome presence of God so the pure and inviolate womb of the Blessed Lady was not destroyed by the fire of the Holy Spirit when Our Lord became incarnate in her womb at the moment of the Incarnation. Eastern Catholics even have given Mary the title of Our Lady of the Burning Bush.
Mt. Carmel, like Mt. Horeb, is a blessed mountain because it was where the prophet Elijah fasted for forty days and forty nights. This was also where God spoke to him and where he defended God against the 500 priests of Baal. Because of this, many Christian hermits resided in this mountain to meet up with God through prayer and meditation just like what the prophet Elijah did.
These hermits chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be their patroness because she is the "burning bush." Thus, the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Carmel is not as simple as wearing the brown scapular, as many people think. Wearing the brown scapular of the Virgin of Carmel says something about what we want from the Mother of God. That is, anyone who wears the scapular of the Virgin of Carmel is like saying,
"Mother Mary, we wish to learn from you the secrets of the spiritual life. We wish to learn from you the secrets of prayer."
That’s it! Ask the hermits of old and they’ll say that they cling to the Virgin as little children so that she might teach them the secrets of prayer and contemplation. It is like saying,
"We wish to learn the secret of encountering God Himself."
And so, if you notice, the devotion to the scapular has three conditions:
(1) The one who has a scapular promises to be faithful to his baptismal vows.
(2) The one who has the scapular promises to live a chaste life according to his own state of life; and
(3) The one who has the scapular promises to pray the rosary everyday.
The Blessed Virgin appeared to Pope John XXII and, speaking of those who wear the Brown Scapular, said:
"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."
This is why, Our Lady of Mount Carmel is called the Patroness of the Souls in Purgatory. In fact, in his book Glories of Mary, St. Alfonsus Liguori said,
"If we do a little more than Our Lady asked, can we not hope that we would go to purgatory at all?"