Everyone has their own story from 9/11/2001. When my husband called me on the phone from work, I turned on the television and watched the events of the day in disbelief. Then all of a sudden, I ran up to my bedroom and put on my Brown Scapular; it has been on ever since. I finally chose to accept my Mother’s help.
Up to that day I had been toiling with the idea of wearing the Scapular. I would have it on my bed stand at night and keep it in my pocket during the day. But wearing it under my garments made me feel strange. I was a convert, and still had preconceived notions about Mary that were not accurate. The tug-o-war in my thoughts and heart would not settle and decide. But the morning of 9/11 convinced me that I needed Our Mother and it was time to move forward. Sadly, it took seeing the 9/11 atrocities for me to realize life is too short to be undecided on life.
Now in 2017 we find the Church celebrating the 100th anniversary of the visits of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children. There are many reminders of her messages and this year’s indulgences, but a dear friend pointed out that none of the lists she has read mentioned the Scapular as part of her message to the children and to us. We discussed and researched why this may be. It seems from my findings that the Scapular is disregarded by many Catholics. Some say it is not historically accurate; others believe it to be superstition. Yet there are valid traditions and promises that have continued to be taught by the Popes that go back to the Middle Ages. Additionally, misuse of this sacramental comes from lack of education, not superstition. Being that we are women, many of us mothers, seeking to follow Our Lady’s example, there is much to be gained from accepting the gift of the Brown Scapular for ourselves and for our children.
The scapular is a rectangular garment with a hole in the middle for the person’s head to fit through so that the remainder hangs over the shoulders before and behind the person’s body. This apron-like garment has been part of the monks’ habit as a sign of their willingness to serve and work since the time of St. Benedict. The monks wear it on the outside, but lay people wear a smaller version under their garments. The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel has been a sign since the 1300s that the wearer has given his life to Mary in a very special way, called consecration. Our Lady, surrounded by angels, appeared to St. Simon Stock in 1251 to give him a scapular for the Carmelite order to wear. He had been pleading for help for his failing order, and this apparition was an answer to his prayer. It has been held credible that her words, known as the Scapular Promise, were spoken to him and that her protection extends to all, even lay Catholics, who wear the Brown Scapular. Her words were, “Receive, my beloved son, this habit of thy order. Whoever dies invested with this Scapular shall be preserved from eternal flames. It is a sign of salvation, a sure safeguard in danger, a pledge of peace and of my special protection until the end of ages.” This means “those who wear the Scapular devoutly will either persevere in the state of sanctifying grace, or they will be granted the grace of perfect contrition at the hour of death.”
At Fatima in 1917 the Scapular was presented in a silent vision conveying to the shepherd children its importance: on October 13th in the third vision in the sky Mary appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding out the Brown Scapular. Some think that since Mary said nothing, then the Brown scapular is not necessary. But Lucia, the one shepherd child whom God kept on earth until recent years, has shed light on this issue. When asked why Our Lady appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the last vision, she answered, “Because Our Lady wants all to wear the Scapular…The reason for this is that the Scapular is our sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” Then she said, “The Scapular and Rosary are inseparable.” (Mary in Her Scapular Promise, James Mathias Haffert, AMI Press 1954). So, if we pray the Rosary, desire peace, conversion and holiness, the natural next step is to give ourselves and our children entirely to Jesus through Mary. We can do so wearing the Brown Scapular.
The Scapular certainly is a garment made by Our Blessed Mother for her children; it parallels Christ’s seamless garment that was made by his Mother and for which lots were cast at his crucifixion. It was one woven piece with an opening for his head. So, too, is the Scapular; when wearing it, we are wearing her carefully designed “garment of grace.” Hence, the Scapular is a sacramental help, meaning it can provide us with grace according to our disposition and openness. It serves as a reminder to follow the call to holiness not as orphans, but as loved children. After 16 years of wearing mine, I cannot imagine not having it on; it has reminded me to keep reaching for God in the darkest of times.
Related topics worth researching are Marian Consecration, Home Enthronement to the Two Hearts, and First Saturday devotion. If you have never heard of consecration to Jesus through Mary, I suggest you research St. Louis de Montfort and read Morning Glory by Father Gaitley. This book is beautiful for adults and teens. Home Enthronements are beautiful, and once it is done, things change for the better in the home. It it a way for your family to invite Jesus and Mary into your home. First Saturdays are a lovely devotion to make reparation for those who do not love Our Blessed Mother.
I will end with a family story: Our family decided to Enthrone our home and our whole family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary years ago. My youngest was about 3 or 4. Enthronements includes a short ceremony, which is long to a 4 year old, then enrollment into the Brown Scapular Confraternity for anyone not yet enrolled. I was having my two youngest enrolled that day, but not with their acceptance. During the prayer ceremony when my youngest kept running in circles in and out of the living room, I was not expecting her to get enrolled. Father came to the point to enroll the girls and all of a sudden my youngest came to a braking halt right in front of him. He proceeded with the enrollment blessing while she stood so still, so sweet; we were all in smiles. Then when Father was done, she went immediately back to running in circles! It was funny, but a clear witness that the souls of children desire Our Lady’s help and they love her. We adults make faith and devotion so complicated. But before Mary we can learn to be children again. By the way, my daughters have not taken the Scapulars off since that day, and they are 14 and 16 now!
I invite you to explore these devotions and make them a part of your lives and your families’ lives. May we all be blessed! Amen.
When you research the Brown Scapular you will find it must be made of woven brown (or black) wool, with or without pictures of Our Lady on it, and attached by any type of cord to lay over the shoulders so the wool squares hang in front and behind the heart. The Church asks a few things from those who wear the Scapular in order that they may receive the Promises of Our Lady; wearing the Scapular is not simply a free ticket to heaven.
From a vision to Pope John XXII and his communication to the Church in a papal bull in 1322, and through subsequent Popes over the centuries, the following is expected for the wearer of the Scapular:
- One is to be lawfully enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity which is for life (easy to do with the help of a priest. See below);
- One must observe chastity according to one’s state in life;
- and one of the following: Pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin daily, or
Observe the required fasts of the Church as well as fasting from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or
Pray the Rosary (5 decades) daily, or
With permission, substitute another good work
You will need Brown Scapulars and holy water on that day. You can find them on Etsy and Ebay. Also, The Catholic Company sells ones with long cords which are comfortable to adults and women who want to tuck the cords under their undergarments. But look around for fair prices. BTW, my mother-in-law uses a small piece of velcro to secure her Scapular under her undergarment straps. I do not, but if the straps show, I figure I am not dressed modestly enough.
Scapular Investiture Ceremony
Priest – Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.
Respondent – And grant us Thy salvation.
P – Lord, hear my prayer.
R – And let my cry come unto Thee.
P – The Lord be with you.
R – And with your Spirit.
P – Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, sanctify + by Thy power these scapulars, which for love of Thee and for love of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Thy servants will wear devoutly, so that through the intercession of the same Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and protected against the evil spirit, they persevere until death in Thy grace. Thou who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.
THE PRIEST SPRINKLES WITH HOLY WATER THE SCAPULAR AND THE PERSON(S) BEING ENROLLED. HE THEN INVESTS HIM (THEM), SAYING:
P – Receive this blessed scapular and beseech the Blessed Virgin that through Her merits, you may wear it without stain. May it defend you against all adversity and accompany you to eternal life. Amen.
AFTER INVESTITURE THE PRIEST CONTINUES WITH THE PRAYERS:
P – I, by the power vested in me, admit you to participate in all the spiritual benefits obtained through the mercy of Jesus Christ by the Religious Order of Mount Carmel. In the name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost. + Amen.
May God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and earth, bless + you, He who has deigned to join you to the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel; we beseech Her to crush the head of the ancient serpent so that you may enter into possession of your eternal heritage through Christ our Lord.
R – Amen.
THE PRIEST THEN SPRINKLES AGAIN WITH HOLY WATER THE PERSON(S) ENROLLED.