Pope St. John Paul II Rockin’ the Brown Scapular

JP2 and the Brown Scapular MemeSince today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I wanted to share one of my favorite photos of the young Karol Wojtyla, the future pope and now saint, Pope Saint John Paul II, wearing the Brown Scapular. 

To learn more about Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Brown Scapular, I recommend my three blog posts –

1. Catholic Dog Tags

2. “Mondays with Mary” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Our Lady of Mount Carmel 

3. “Mondays with Mary” – The Synthesis of Marian Spirituality in the Brown Scapular 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel…Pray for us. 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Synthesis of Marian Spirituality in the Brown Scapular

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.

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.



Catholic Dog Tags

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.”

Brown Scapular 1The 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 Young Karol Wojtya as a young factory workerJohn 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!

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Many people think that Pope St. John Paul II had the great devotions to the Blessed Mother, and yes that would be correct, however, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI also had great devotions to the Blessed Mother as well. He would often speak of her in his addresses and magisterial documents.

Being that tomorrow is the feast day for Our Lady of Mount Carmel, below is an excerpt from Benedict’s address on July 16, 2006 from Les Combes, Introd, in the Aosta Valley of the Italian Alps. In this excerpt you shall read his concern for the Middle East, his love for the Carmelites and religious life, and his overall devotion to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

“…By a happy coincidence, this Sunday is July 16, day in which the liturgy remembers the Most Holy Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Carmel, high promontory that rises on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, at the altitude of Galilee, has in its folds numerous natural grottoes, favorites of hermits.

The most famous of these men of God was the great prophet Elias, who in the 9th century before Christ, courageously defended the purity of the faith in the one true God from contamination by idolatrous cults. Inspired in the figure of Elias, the contemplative order of Carmelites arose, a religious family that counts among its members great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of the Child Jesus and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (in the world, Edith Stein).

The Carmelites have spread in the Christian people devotion to the Most Holy Virgin of Mount Carmel, pointing to her as a model of prayer, contemplation and dedication to God. Mary, in fact, before and in an unsurpassable way, believed and felt that Jesus, the incarnate Word, is the culmination, the summit of man’s encounter with God.

Fully accepting the Word, “she happily reached the holy mountain” (Prayer of the Collect of the Memorial), and lives forever, in soul and body, with the Lord. To the Queen of Mount Carmel I wish to commend today all the communities of contemplative life spread throughout the world, especially those of the Carmelite Order, among which I remember the convent of Quart, not far from here. May Mary help every Christian to meet God in the silence of prayer…

…In recent days the news from the Holy Land is a reason for new and grave concern for all, in particular because of the spread of warlike actions also in Lebanon, and because of the numerous victims among the civilian population. At the origin of these cruel oppositions there are, sadly, objective situations of violation of law and justice. But neither terrorist acts nor reprisals, especially when they entail tragic consequences for the civilian population, can be justified. By such paths, as bitter experiences shows, positive results are not achieved.

This day is dedicated to the Virgin of Carmel, Mount of the Holy Land that, a few kilometers from Lebanon, dominates the Israeli city of Haifa, the latter also recently hit. Let us pray to Mary, Queen of Peace, to implore from God the fundamental gift of concord, bringing political leaders back to the path of reason, and opening new possibilities of dialogue and agreement. In this perspective I invite the local Churches to raise special prayers for peace in the Holy Land and in the whole of the Middle East.”