May 16, 2008

Saint Simon Stock

Optional Memorial - May 16

Not very much is known about the early life of St. Simon Stock, although there are stories, which may or may not be true. One story is that he got his surname, Stock, from the fact that as a young man he used to sleep in a hollowed out log. It is believed that from an early age, St. Simon led a very holy life.

He was born in Aylesford, Kent, England. The year of his birth is thought to be 1165, although that would have made him 82 when he was elected Superior General, and 100 the year of his death. He led the life of a hermit and went on many pilgrimages. It was during one of these pilgrimages to Jerusalem that he joined the Carmelites. He returned to Kent when Sir Richard de Grey brought the Carmelites to England. St. Simon was elected Superior General in 1247. He established new many foundations including in England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, and France. St. Simon also revised the rule of Carmel, approved by Pope Innocent IV. Despite the wonderful leadership from St. Simon, the Carmelites began to suffer from persecution from without by the English as well as other religious orders. The Order was almost wiped out by the plague, was not getting enough vocations, and was in danger of dying out. In desperation, St. Simon pleaded with Our Lady to save the Carmelites, HER ORDER, and to show them a sign of her favor. Simon's beautiful prayer to Mary, which he composed as a hymn, is known as the Flos Carmeli, and is to this day sung by the Carmelites throughout the world.

The Blessed Virgin listened to St. Simon's prayer. On July 16, 1251 the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the scapular as her special protection. Her promise to St. Simon and to the world was: "Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

St. Simon Stock died at Bordeaux on May 16, 1265. The Vatican approved that the Carmelites may celebrate his feast day on May 16.

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