On one side of the mountaintop, the priests of Baal stood next to the stone altar dedicated to their false god. They had been praying aloud all day, but no god had answered them. On the other side, the prophet Elijah stood alone next to a stone altar dedicated to the Lord God, Yahweh. That day Yahweh sent fire from heaven onto the altar, proving that he, Yahweh, was the one true God. The Old Testament records this showdown on Mount Carmel in northern Palestine (1 Kings 18:16–39).
During the many centuries between that event and the year 1156, people who wanted a quiet place to pray and to live close to God began to come together on Mount Carmel. A large monastery was built there to honor the Mother of God. The members of the monastery were called Carmelites.
In 1251, according to the tradition of the Carmelites, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Simon Stock, the sixth general, or person in charge of the Carmelite Order, and gave him a scapular. The scapular was a long piece of cloth worn over the shoulders and hanging, in front and in back, down to the ankles. After that, all the members of that Carmelite community wore scapulars. Today some religious men and women still wear the full scapular. Some people wear a small scapular made of two small pieces of cloth connected by narrow cord or braid. It, too, is worn over the shoulders. Wearing a scapular medal or the shortened scapular is a way of honoring the Blessed Mother. July 16 is a major feast for all Carmelite priests and sisters.