The scapular was received by Carmelite Superior General Simon Stock in 1251. The Virgin Mary appeared to him and assured the eternal salvation of all those who wear the scapular with devotion.
The Holy Father sent a letter to the generals of the two Carmelite branches: Father Joseph Chalmers, of the old, or "shod," branch, and Father Camilo Maccise, of the discalced branch (reformed by St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross). The Pope reminded the Carmelites that in his apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," he entrusted the third millennium to Mary.
John Paul II wrote, "I have learned that the Carmelite order, in its two branches, the old and the reformed, wishes to express its own filial love to its Patroness, dedicating the year 2001 to her, invoked as the Flower of Carmel, Mother and Guide in the Path to Holiness."
This Marian devotion, expressed "in the humble sign of the scapular, consists in the consecration to her Immaculate Heart," he stressed.
Popular scapulars consist of two small squares of woolen cloth joined by strings and worn around the neck. The original, large scapulars worn by some religious orders came to symbolize the cross and yoke of Christ.
In his letter, the Holy Father made a personal revelation: "I, too, have carried the Carmel scapular over my heart for a long time!"
When he was a university student in Krakow, Poland, before entering the seminary, Karol Wojtyla considered entering the Carmelite order, after reading St. John of the Cross´ works. The latter´s mystical writings so fascinated Wojtyla, that he based his doctoral thesis on them.