Aylesford Priory, England: Retreat Center and Shrine of Saint Simon Stock
About Saint Simon Stock:
Before talking about the Shrine here, we need to talk about Saint Simon Stock. We do not have much information about Simon Stock’s early life. Tradition tells us that, as a young man, he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he joined a group of Carmelites at Mount Carmel, and he returned to Europe with a group of priests from there. He supposedly lived in a hollowed-out tree for some time, hence the name “stock”.
Simon Stock founded many Carmelite Communities. He also facilitated the change from a hermit order to mendicants, serving the poor and relying chiefly on alms from the general public. In 1254 he was elected Superior-General of his Order.
The Feast Day of Saint Simon Stock is May 16.
Saint Simon Stock is honored here at the Shrine, which is visited by over 200,000 pilgrims each year.
The Priory is open daily year round.
About the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown Scapular:
The life of Simon Stock took on an additional dimension when, on July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to Saint Simon Stock as Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She handed him the brown woolen scapular as a sign of protection for all her children, stating that whoever wore it devoutly would be assured of eternal salvation.
Her words were: “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. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”
The Feast Day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated on July 16.
About the Priory at Aylesford:
The Priory here dates from the 13th Century when a Crusader returning from the Holy Land gave land to a group of Carmelite Friars. The Friars themselves came from Mount Carmel in the Holy Land and encountered many obstacles upon arriving at their new home.
The suppression of the Catholic Faith in the 15th & 16th Centuries, after the reign of King Henry VIII, drove the Friars from the Priory for several centuries, but they returned in 1948, and the old buildings have been restored and a new roadside chapel has been built.
The priory is perhaps the best preserved in all of England.
The Friary is now a main center for pilgrimages and retreats. The Priory has 80 bedrooms available in their guest house set within the grounds. All guests are welcome to join the Carmelite Community at any of the daily services.
Traveling to Aylesford Priory:
Address: Aylesford, Kent ME20 7BX, United Kingdom
GPS coordinates: 51° 18′ 10.1016” N, 0° 28′ 15.5964” E
Tel: +44 1622 717272
Click here for the official website of Aylesford Priory (Great photos and lots of information)
A few other shrines to Our Lady of Mount Carmel at: