Today, in the Carmelite Order, we celebrate the feast of St Simon Stock, renowned in Catholic spirituality as the one who is believed to have received the Scapular vision. Now you have heard me whine on before about the antics of some in the Church during the Sixties and Seventies who tried to convince us he never existed, so I will not rant on about it on his feast day: suffice to say that Simon did indeed exist. As for the Scapular vision, well, they are still fighting that one out. In reality the Scapular vision is as controversial as Medjugorje, though in reverse, ironically: many traditionalists believe it happened, many moderates and liberals do not and say that the Church has not formally approved the vision (non constant de supernaturalitate????). Personally I believe.
Anyway, St Simon was a remarkable man. He was an Englishman who was elected superior of the Order at a most difficult and challenging time. Having been forced to leave Mount Carmel as Muslims conquered the Holy Land, he had the task of helping a community of hermits not only readjust, but to find their place in the Church and the world. He and others steered the Order in the right direction and today we have two religious Orders (Discalced and Ancient Observance) in the Carmelite family. He is said to have written the Flos Carmeli, the Carmelite antiphon to Our Lady, and despite his great age when he was elected (he was in his eighties, according to tradition), he travelled a great deal and founded new communities in the great university cities of Europe. He died in 1265 at the age of a hundred.
St Simon is most often associated with Aylesford in Kent in England, the site of one of the first Carmelite communities outside the Holy Land and today his skull rests in a shrine there. Regardless of what we may think about the Scapular vision, St Simon remains a fine example of holiness and devotion to Our Lady, whom he served with all his heart. Even as an old man, the youth of the Holy Virgin kept him strong, and he was able to fulfil the duties of his office with great energy and dedication.
The Skull of St Simon Stock in Aylesford, England.