I am sorry it has been a long time since a blog post. Beginning again on our Blessed Mother’s Feast day seems very appropriate. Associated with this feast day is the devotional of the Carmelite Scapular, often simply referred to as the Brown Scapular. First what Pope Saint John Paul II said about this devotion and then some explanation of the scapular worn by so many:
The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother’s loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a “habit”. Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church (cf. “Formula of Enrolment in the Scapular”, in the Rite of Blessing of and Enrolment in the Scapular, approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 5 January 1996). Those who wear the Scapular are thus brought into the land of Carmel, so that they may “eat its fruits and its good things” (cf. Jer 2: 7), and experience the loving and motherly presence of Mary in their daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest him in their life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity (cf. “Formula of Enrolment in the Scapular”, cit.).
Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life’s journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a “habit”, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the “covenant” and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother.
A splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which inwardly moulds individuals and conforms them to Christ, the firstborn of many brethren, is the witness to holiness and wisdom given by so many Carmelite saints, all of whom grew up in the shadow and under the protection of their Mother.
I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time! Out of my love for our common heavenly Mother, whose protection I constantly experience, I hope that this Marian year will help all the men and women religious of Carmel and the devout faithful who venerate her with filial affection to grow in her love and to radiate to the world the presence of this Woman of silence and prayer, invoked as Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope and Grace.
What is a sacramental?
“Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. ‘For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.’”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church 1670. See Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1667-1679 for more information.
History of the Brown Scapular
The history of the brown scapular dates back to July 16, 1251 when the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Simon Stock., the Prior General of the Carmelite Order. This scapular she gave him with the words: Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire …. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.
“A scapular is a garment worn by religious over the shoulders (scapula), and hanging down in front and back, usually to about the bottom of the habit. It developed as a practical garment, protecting the habit during work, and was in time invested with spiritual significance, consecration or dedication to God.
By analogy to the scapulars of religious, there are small scapulars that are derived from them which represent a particular devotion or spirituality, usually associated with a particular community. Such a scapular is two pieces of cloth (generally about an inch square), connected by cords and worn over the head.
The best known and most highly esteemed scapular, and the one most favored by the Church, and by the Blessed Virgin in many of her apparitions, is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. It is adapted from the scapular of the Carmelite Order and represents a special Consecration to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Those who wear it practice it a special devotion to Mary. In the past this was the Little Office of Our Lady, but today this can be commuted by any priest to the rosary. In addition, the person has a special entrustment of themselves to Mary for their salvation. This, in fact, has been promised to those who faithfully wear the scapular: ‘Those who die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.’ This must not be understood superstitiously or magically, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in faith, hope and love are required for salvation. The scapular is a powerful reminder of this Christian obligation and of Mary’s promise to help those consecrated to her obtain the grace of final perseverance.
Conferral with the scapular indicates a special devotion and consecration to Mary. No one should undertake it who is not spiritually prepared to live in accordance with it. The short form of investing or conferral consists of a priest or deacon taking a blessed scapular and while placing it over their head reciting with the person any Marian prayer (e.g. Hail Mary, Memorare, Salve Regina). The person is now invested. They don’t have any lists to join, though they are henceforth members of the Scapular Confraternity and share in its spiritual benefits (the prayers of the members). Someone consecrated to Mary, of which the scapular is THE sign, should live chastity according to one’s state in life and recite the rosary daily.
For some years the Carmelite Order had permission from Rome to grant laity the Indult to enroll people. This permission is no longer given, but those who received the Indult in the past still have it. So, while laity may not bless a scapular, there are some lay people who can invest others, with a scapular previously blessed by a priest or deacon. One final note, investing MUST be done with the cloth scapular. Those who wish to wear the medal can do so after investment. The scapular blessing attaches to each subsequent scapular. A new blessing is NOT required. This is not true of the medal, each of which must be blessed by a priest or deacon.”
Why wear the scapular?
“All those who out of true veneration and love for the Blessed Virgin constantly wear the scapular in a spirit of fidelity and confiding faith, after they have been placed by the Church itself with this habit or badge under the special protection of the Mother of God, shall enjoy this special protection in the matter and crisis which most concerns them for time and eternity. Whoever, therefore, even though he be now a sinner, wears the badge of the Mother of God throughout life as her faithful servant, not presumptuously relying on the scapular as on a miraculous amulet, but trustfully confiding in the power and goodness of Mary, may securely hope that Mary will through her powerful and motherly intercession procure for him all the necessary graces for true conversion and for perseverance in good.”
Where may I obtain a scapular?
Most Catholic religious goods stores will sell them for a nominal fee. Also, Carmelite Monasteries also have them for a very small fee (this fee covers the cost of the materials). Sometimes scapulars will be covered in plastic–try to find one that is not covered in plastic. A simple search for brown scapular will bring up many options.
I want to know more…
Then click here for an even better explanation of the Brown Scapular!