With Wednesday being the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I found it fitting today to write about the importance of the Brown Scapular or as I like to call it – Catholic Dog Tags (the title of my post from 2013 and a very popular post at that).
It was Our Lady at Carmel who gave St. Simon Stock the Brown Scapular and asked him to promote the devotion. Because of this the Brown Scapular has a true Marian spirituality synthesized to it. All that wear the Brown Scapular have a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and seek to assist her in leading others to Jesus Christ. If you don’t wear a Brown Scapular already, I would highly encourage you to enroll in the devotion. The sacramental has truly changed my relationship with Jesus, Mary, and the Church.
Young Karol Wojtyla (Pope St. John Paul II) wearing the brown scapular.
If my words are not enough for you, then let’s read what Pope St. John Paul II said about the Brown Scapular (something he himself wore for many years) to the Carmelites on the 750th Anniversary of the Bestowal of the Scapular on March 25, 2001. Although the letter is important, I have not quoted it in its entirety. Furthermore, the bolded words are mine since they stood out to me when I read it.
Pope St. John Paul II says…
“Therefore, Carmelites have chosen Mary as their Patroness and spiritual Mother and always keep before the eyes of their heart the Most Pure Virgin who guides everyone to the perfect knowledge and imitation of Christ.
Thus an intimacy of spiritual relations has blossomed, leading to an ever increasing communion with Christ and Mary. For the members of the Carmelite Family, Mary, the Virgin Mother of God and mankind, is not only a model to imitate but also the sweet presence of a Mother and Sister in whom to confide. St Teresa of Jesus rightly urged her sisters: “Imitate Our Lady and consider how great she must be and what a good thing it is that we have her for our Patroness” (Interior Castle, III, 1, 3).
This intense Marian life, which is expressed in trusting prayer, enthusiastic praise and diligent imitation, enables us to understand how the most genuine form of devotion to the Blessed Virgin, expressed by the humble sign of the Scapular, is consecration to her Immaculate Heart (cf. Pius XII, Letter Neminem profecto latet [11 February 1950: AAS 42, 1950, pp. 390-391]; Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, n. 67). In this way, the heart grows in communion and familiarity with the Blessed Virgin, “as a new way of living for God and of continuing here on earth the love of Jesus the Son for his Mother Mary” (cf. Angelus Address, in Insegnamenti XI/3, 1988, p. 173). Thus, as the blessed Carmelite martyr Titus Brandsma expressed it, we are put in profound harmony with Mary the Theotokos and become, like her, transmitters of divine life: “The Lord also sends his angel to us…we too must accept God in our hearts, carry him in our hearts, nourish him and make him grow in us so that he is born of us and lives with us as the God-with-us, Emmanuel” (From the report of Bl. Titus Brandsma to the Mariological Congress of Tongerloo, August 1936).
Over time this rich Marian heritage of Carmel has become, through the spread of the Holy Scapular devotion, a treasure for the whole Church. By its simplicity, its anthropological value and its relationship to Mary’s role in regard to the Church and humanity, this devotion was so deeply and widely accepted by the People of God that it came to be expressed in the memorial of 16 July on the liturgical calendar of the universal Church.
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.”
To enroll in the devotion of the sacramental, purchase a Brown Scapular, locate yourself a Catholic Priest (or Deacon), and have him bless the scapular and recite the formula with you.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Simon Stock…Pray for Us.