The Brown Scapular

What is the Brown Scapular?

 

The Brown Scapular is a sacramental, one of the many items set apart or blessed by the Church to inspire devotion and increase holiness.

The Carmelite Order, to which the Scapular belongs, originated on Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land and the Scapular is itself a reflection in miniature of the habit which the friars wear as a sign of their vocation and devotion.

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The Scapular consists of two small pieces of brown wool connected by two strings and worn over the shoulders. The Scapular must be brown, rectangular in shape and made of 100 percent wool (ideally it is lamb’s wool, symbolic of Jesus, the Lamb of God). The strings connecting the pieces of wool may be of any color or material and pictures on the scapulars are optional. The Scapular must, however, be worn over the shoulders — one woolen part in front and one in back. One connecting string is worn over the right shoulder, the other over the left shoulder.

The Scapular devotion was promoted directly by Our Lady on July 16, 1251, when Our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon Stock, general of the Carmelite Order, in response to his heartfelt prayers for assistance. Holding the Scapular before him, Our Lady spoke, saying:

“Take this Scapular. Whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and a pledge of peace.”

What an amazing promise! Our Lady is telling us that we will not go to hell if we die wearing Her Brown Scapular.

Such is the extraordinary promise Our Lady makes to those who wear Her Brown Scapular. And this wonderful promise makes the Scapular the most powerful sacramental Heaven’s mercy has given us.

Who could doubt Our Lady’s promise, or be so foolish as not to wear, with profoundest gratitude and reverence, this abbreviated form of the Carmelite Mantle?

This garment of grace — two simple pieces of brown wool worn over the shoulders — is a tangible sign of the Blessed Mother’s love and protection for Her devotees. We should kiss the Scapular devoutly when rising in the morning, and every time we put on a new Scapular to replace one that is worn or damaged. For this gesture of reverence, we receive an indulgence of 500 days, and we are also reminded to ask Our Lady: “Preserve me this day from sin and the occasions of sin.”

Wearing Mary´s Scapular is a way to consecrate ourselves to Her service. Consecration sets apart a person or thing for a sacred purpose. Every Catholic should be consecrated to Mary. Our Lady of Fatima, on October 13th, 1917, held the Brown Scapular in Her hand, making the three child seers — Lucy, Jacinta and Francisco — understand that She wants all of us to wear the Scapular.

Of course, this does not mean that the Brown Scapular should be worn as some sort of good luck charm. The two pieces of cloth of themselves have no power to protect us. The Scapular’s power is due to the fact that Our Lady promises to protect those who wear this sign of belonging to Our Lady’s Confraternity.

Our Lady gave us this Brown Scapular because She loves us and wants to save us for this little (but important) act of devotion towards Her. The miracles and conversions due to this Scapular show in a tangible way Our Lady’s power and protection for those who wear the Scapular. But there is one error about the Scapular we must avoid. And it is this:

We must wear the Brown Scapular with confidence but not with presumption. We must recall the Curé of Ars’ warning to a person who wore the Scapular and continued to sin mortally without even trying to amend his life. St. John Vianney said:

“The Blessed Virgin Mary did not give you that Scapular so that you could continue to crucify Her Son Jesus over and over again.”

Unfortunately, some souls have not heeded such warnings. There are documented cases of people who took their Brown Scapular off just before they died because it felt like it was burning them. Others have taken it off at the beach and died by drowning. Wear it always with confidence in Our Lady, but not presumption.

Pope Pius XI reminds us to strive to always be more worthy of Our Lady’s love and protection. He said, “those who wish to have the Blessed Mother as a helper at the hour of death, must in life merit such a signal favor by abstaining from sin and laboring in Her honor.”

This great promise of protection from eternal damnation was further magnified some eighty years later when the Queen of Heaven appeared to Jean Drèze (later Pope John XXII) and told him that under certain conditions “those who have been invested with this Holy Habit will be delivered from Purgatory the first Saturday after their deaths.”

This great second promise attached to the Scapular is called the Sabbatine (Saturday) Privilege and is based on a decree issued by John XXII in 1322 (and re-confirmed 400 years later by Pope Paul V). In our own times, Pope Benedict XV, as a sign of his approval, granted a 500-day indulgence each time the Scapular is kissed.

So what does it take to gain this magnificent promise of the Sabbatine Privilege of the Brown Scapular? There are three conditions:

  1.   You must be enrolled once in the Scapular Confraternity and wear the Scapular at all times.
  2.   You must be pure, observing the 6th and 9th Commandments according to your state in life.
  3.   You must pray each day the Little Office in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary (an authorized priest may change that to five decades of the Rosary daily).

At its essence, the Scapular is a prayer in which Our Lady draws us nearer to the Sacred Heart of Her Divine Son. For over seven hundred years, the promise of the Scapular has been proven theologically sound and confirmed by miracles. Saint Claude de la Colombiere said, “No devotion has been confirmed by more numerous authentic miracles than the Brown Scapular.”


For Further Reading:

The Brown Scapular: A Sign of Salvation and Protection

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Enrollment in the Brown Scapular

 

To obtain the fullest possible benefits from the Brown Scapular devotion, one must be validly invested (sometimes called “enrolled”) in the Brown Scapular by a priest who possesses the faculties (usually a Carmelite, Dominican or Franciscan; but today, any Catholic priest in good standing has these faculties), using a scapular blessed by the same or any other priest.

Read more: Enrollment in the Brown Scapular

Miracles of the Brown Scapular

 

Miracle of Grace: A priest relates how one day in a town near Chicago he was called to the bedside of a man who had been away from the Sacraments for many years. “The man did not want to see me: he would not talk. Then I asked him to look at the little Scapular I was holding. ‘Will you wear this if I put it on you? I ask nothing more.’ He agreed to wear it, and within the hour he wanted to go to Confession and make his peace with God. This did not surprise me, because for over 700 years Our Lady has been working in this way through Her Scapular.”

Read more: Miracles of the Brown Scapular