Feast Day : May 16
Simon Stock’s was born in Aylesford, Kent, England. According to legend, the name Stock, meaning “tree trunk,” derives from the fact that, beginning at age 12, he lived as a hermit in the hollow trunk of an oak tree until he became an itinerant preacher. However, Stock probably was added postmortem to his first name because of his tree-living. Legend has it that while he lived in the tree, Simon was visited daily by a small dog who brought him crusts of bread. He was especially devoted to Mary, and composed poems in her honor and carved her names on trees. He had many visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who foretold that holy hermits would come from Mt. Carmel, and he would join them. As a young man, Simon reputedly went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he joined up with a group of Carmelites and later returned to Europe with them. He was one of the first Englishmen to enter the Carmelite order. In 1245 he was elected sixth mastergeneral and became well-known. He founded many Carmelite communities, especially in university towns such as Cambridge, Oxford, Paris and Bologna. He received papal approval for changing the Carmelites from a hermit order to one of mendicant friars, a move that enabled them to spread rapidly throughout Europe. In 1254 he was elected superior-general of his Order at London. Simon is best-known for a vision of Mary he had in Cambridge, England, on July 16, 1251, during a time of oppression of the Carmelites. Simon, in despair over the trouble in the order, had withdrawn to his cell to pray. He recited one of his youthful poems to Mary. Suddenly his cell filled with radiant light, and he saw Mary holding the infant Jesus, surrounded by angels. Mary held a brown scapular in one hand and presented it to him, saying, “Hoc erit tibi et cuntis Carmelitis privilegium, in hoc habitu moriens salvabitur.” (“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.”) The following January, Pope Innocent IV (r. 1243–54) and the king of England issued an order of protection for the Carmelites. Simon died on May 16, 1265, in Bordeaux, France. His relics are enshrined in Aylesford. He is said to be the composer of the Ave Stella Matutina and Flos Carmeli. He was never formally canonized, but is venerated as a saint by the Carmelites and is recognized in some dioceses. Mary’s scapular became adopted as the regular habit of the White Friars, and the scapular devotion spread through Europe. The Carmelites established Scapular Confraternities, which gave small woolen scapulars to lay members. In 1276, Pope Gregory X (r. 1271–76) died and was buried in a such a scapular, which was found incorrupt in his tomb when it was opened in 1830. Mary’s brown scapular has become a popular Catholic devotion.