A few months back, I was getting a haircut and the individual cutting my hair noticed that I was wearing some sort of cloth “necklace”, but I told this person; it’s not a necklace, it’s the Brown Scapular. Having no idea what I meant by that word, I said, it’s like Catholic Dog Tags. As soldiers wear dog tags to identify them, the Brown Scapular should identify Catholics who wear them.
Today we celebrate the dual feasts of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the “Scapular of Mount Carmel.” The first feast commemorates the place of honor, Mount Carmel, where tradition tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary assumed into heaven. It’s also the primary feast day for the Carmelites who take their name from the same site. The second feast commemorates the event that happened on this day in 1251. Tradition says that the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Simon Stock (1165-1265), Prior General of the Carmelites in England, and showed him the scapular.
As taught by the Carmelites,
“The Blessed Virgin appeared to him with a multitude of angels, holding in her blessed hands the Scapular of the Order. She said: “This will be for you and for all Carmelites the privilege, that he who dies in this will not suffer eternal fire” that is, he who dies in this will be saved.”
The Brown Scapular (scapula – Latin for shoulder) is composed of two small pieces of cloth united by strings that is worn over the shoulders as a sign of protection and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s brown because it’s connected to the Carmelite order who wear brown habits. The scapular provides the “scapular promise” – which states that anyone who wears it faithfully will be saved from eternal damnation from Hell and will attain graces for final perseverance into Heaven.
On March 25, 2001, during the 750th Anniversary of the Bestowal of the Scapular, Blessed John Paul II said in regards to his own devotion to the scapular, “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…” Since the year 1280 A.D., every Pope has worn the Brown Scapular.
We must be careful not to enter into formalism when it comes to the Scapular. Formalism is “an exterior act that is not accompanied by the necessary and corresponding interior disposition of the will” (Introduction to Mary, page 173). When one wears the scapular externally it should be mirroring the person’s internal thoughts of mind and heart to serve the Almighty God, to love the Blessed Virgin Mary, and be obedient and truthful to the teachings of the Church.
The Scapular assists one to live in the station of life that they currently abide and to follow in service to Christ and his Blessed Mother. Wearing the Scapular does not substitute living a Christian life and will not keep you from sin, but can provide the necessary motivation to live a life according to Jesus Christ.
Through Our Lady’s motherly Queenship and Advocacy, the Scapular has a strong spiritual ability since she intercedes for the graces when things seem dark and hopeless. There are countless souls throughout the history of the Church that have found themselves in darkness and despair. However, many of these people have found a conversion of heart simply because they were wearing the Scapular. The spiritual graces of the Scapular should never be underestimated.
Encompassed in the Scapular devotion is what is known as the “Sabbatine” privilege. Its origin begins with Pope John XXII who was inspired by the Blessed Mother to declare a papal bull. The magisterial document stated that the souls in Purgatory who wore the Scapular during their earthly life would have the intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They also were to be chaste, according to one’s state in life, and prayers were offered for this intention at the request of their confessor. Other Popes after John XXII have also mentioned this privilege that focuses its attention on First Saturdays (Introduction to Mary, pages 174-175).
The Brown Scapular which has a very heavy Marian focus, should be understood that she is not the end all for us as Christians, that is only reserved for Jesus Christ himself. However, she as our Heavenly Mother assists us and leads us closer to Jesus Christ. St. Louis DeMontfort states, “to do all our actions through Mary, with Mary, in Mary, and for Mary: so that we may do them all the more perfectly through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, and for Jesus.”
As one who has been wearing the Brown Scapular since the summer of 2009, I would encourage my Catholic brothers and sisters to purchase one immediately and follow the consecration enrollment.
As the persecutions begin for us as Christians today, we all need our Catholic Dog Tags as we put on the armor of God (Eph 6:11) and engage the spiritual and rhetorical battles that are before us. With the Brown Scapular upon our shoulders, we will have the grace of Jesus Christ through the intercessory prayer of the Blessed Virgin Mary to guide us in all things.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel…Pray for Us!