Why Wear the Brown Scapular?

  • Posted September 23, 2018

What is the Brown Scapular?

Why Should We Wear the Brown Scapular?

To Wear the Brown Scapular, and obtain its special protection, one must be enrolled into the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Enrollment means that one receives a blessed scapular to wear, and is made a member of the confraternity. The confraternity is for lay people to share in the prayers and good works of the Carmelite religious order. They also obtain the special protection of our Blessed Mother by wearing the scapular as a sign of consecration to her.

Ordinarily, enrollment is done when a child receives First Communion, and if not done then, it is done anytime after. As it stands, many people are discovering the invalidity of the Second Vatican Council, and coming back to the Catholic Church, so they are getting reacquainted with Catholic prayers, customs, and teachings. So many of these Catholic norms have been discarded or ignored within the Novus Ordo Church. To Wear the Brown Scapular is one of these Catholic customs. Also, since the Novus Ordo priests were ordained with the invalid rite of ordination after 1968, they are not valid priests, and one would need to receive a proper enrollment from a valid priest.

In hopes of facilitating the reintroduction of this special Catholic protection, here is some information on the subject, and why we should Wear the Brown Scapular.

The MIQCenter has scapulars if you need to order. Here is a sturdy one they have available…

Why Wear the Brown Scapular?

by Fr. Gabriel Lavery, CMRI  (appearing in The Reign of Mary publication)

On July 16, 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, the General of the Carmelite Order. Surrounded by angels, and holding the scapular of the Order she made the following promise: “This shall be a sign to you and to all Carmelites: whosever dies wearing this shall not suffer eternal fire.” Do we understand what the scapular means and why we wear it?

When we were enrolled in the scapular, the priest said:

O Lord Jesus Christ…sanctify this scapular which Thy servant will devotedly wear for the love of Thee and of Thy Mother…so that by her intercession, he may be protected from the wickedness of the enemy and persevere in Thy grace until death…” “Receive this blessed scapular and ask the most holy Virgin that, by her merits, it may be worn with no stain of sin and may protect you from all harm and bring you into everlasting life.” “I admit you to a share in all the spiritual works performed, with the merciful help of Jesus Christ, by the Religious of Mount Carmel…” “…[God] has been pleased to receive [you] into the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel.” “We beg her [Mary] to crush the head of the ancient serpent in the hour of your death, and, in the end, to obtain for you the palm and the crown of your everlasting inheritance. Through Christ our Lord.”

Thus by being enrolled in the scapular and wearing it constantly we become members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and sharers in all the prayers, sacrifices and good works of all the other members! It is a visible pledge of our devotion to Mary and of her protection. Bl. Colombière says: “They tell me, those great saints, that I have nothing to fear if Mary interests herself in my behalf, but this is not enough to relieve my anxiety. I wish to know if she will indeed interest herself in me. She has given me a tangible sign thereof. I have but to glance at my scapular and recall the promise, “He who dies wearing this shall not suffer eternal fire” (Sermon, p. 19)

Again, Bl. Colombière says: “I do not hesitate to declare that nothing is a more certain pledge of salvation than a faithful wearing of the little brown badge. There is none therefore to which we should attach ourselves with more zeal and constancy than this. Divine Mother! What countless miracles you have caused to be wrought to confirm this blessed belief! Then, Christians! To engage this incomparable Mother to watch and guard you, and to interest herself in defending you, array yourself in the garment she holds forth for your acceptance. Wear the scapular; wear it until the hour of your death.

Ven. Francis Yepès, the brother of St. John of the Cross, was so zealous in promoting the brown scapular that he provoked the fury of the devils. One night while he was praying for the conversion of sinners, devils came to assail him saying: “What have we done to you that you torment us so cruelly? Why do you persuade so many persons to wear and to venerate the scapular of Carmel? Wait until you fall into our power! You shall pay dearly for it!” Again they shouted in a fury: “Take it off! Take off that Habit which snatches so many souls from us! All those clothed in it die piously and escape us!” Three things, they said, especially torment them: the name of Jesus, the name of Mary, and the scapular of Carmel.

The learned theologian, Billuart, tells us that the scapular is a contract between us and Our Lady. We pledge to serve her; she promises to help us. He also compares it to a sacrament: “The scapular is a sign, a mark of the special love of Mary, much like the sacraments are infallible signs of grace…the Virgin Mary has applied to the scapular the fervent prayers, the high contemplations, the tears, the sweat, the blood—in a word, all the merits of the illustrious Order of Carmelites. She has determined, at the sight of the scapular, to share her mother’s love and special protection with those who are clothed in it….As long as you place no obstacle, Mary will assist you in all the circumstances of your life by obtaining for you in abundance the graces necessary to save your soul, by vivid lights, strong inspirations and powerful impulses. Above all, she will take special care to arrange the last moment of your life to make you die in the state of grace. In this way, the scapular, which you have worn during life as a precious ornament making you agreeable to God and as a shield to repulse the blows of the enemies of your salvation, shall be, at the hour of death, a victorious banner which will drive away the demons and call to your aid the angels and saints, Mary and Jesus, who will put you absolutely and without delay in the possession of glory, or, if you have yet some debts to pay to the divine justice, will give you refreshment against the ardor of the flames of purgatory” (Billuart, pp. 104-106).

Mary fulfills her promise in various ways. Sometimes she obtains the grace of dying young for one who would fall into sin if he lived longer. A young man in a boarding school had given his scapular to one of the brothers to mend. Bedtime came, but his scapular had not come back. He could not sleep without it. At last the superior brought it to him and he went to sleep saying the names of Jesus and Mary. The next morning he was found in his bed; he had died during the night wearing his scapular. Our Lady preserved this innocent young soul from future dangers in return for his devotion shown in wearing her scapular.

On the other hand, sometimes Mary fulfills her promise by obtaining for sinners more time to repent. Other times she obtains for us powerful graces to fight temptation and protect us from moral harm. Once a young lady came to St. John Vianney to make a general confession before entering the convent. As she was kneeling before him, he surprised her by asking:

“You remember, my child, a certain ball which you attended a short time ago?”

“Yes, Father.”

You met a young man there, a stranger, elegant in appearance and of distinguished bearing, who at once became the life of the party? And you wished he would invite you to dance? You were vexed and jealous when he preferred others to you?”

“You are certainly right, Father.”

“Do you recollect that when he left the assembly you thought you saw, as he walked, two small bluish flames beneath his feet, but you persuaded yourself that it was an optical illusion?”

“I remember it perfectly.”

“Well, my child, that youth was a devil. Those with whom he danced were in a state of serious sin! And do you know why he failed to ask you?

“It was owing to the scapular which you did well not to lay aside and which your devotion to Mary impelled you to wear as your safeguard.” (Annales du Carmel, 1881, pg. 199. Haffert, p. 126)

Some may say: “I understand that Our Lady has a great power of intercession; I know she will keep her promise, but why is it attached to the wearing of a little piece of cloth?” The answer is simple. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we see how God uses simple things as symbols of great mysteries. The devil used a created thing, a simple fruit, to tempt Eve and bring about our fall; God uses simple things to bring us back to life. The simple pouring of water and saying a few words in Baptism washes away sin and confers sanctifying grace. Naaman, a Syrian General mentioned in the Old Testament, was a noble and proud man. When he became afflicted with leprosy, he went to the prophet Eliseus to be cured. The prophet told him to wash seven times in the Jordan. Naaman thought this was a ridiculous idea. He wanted something spectacular, and besides, he argued, there were better rivers elsewhere. His servants pointed out to him that if Eliseus had asked him to do something very difficult, he would have done so, so why not do something so simple? He changed his mind, washed in the Jordan seven times and was cured. Another example is the blood of the lamb spread on the doorposts by the Israelites in Egypt. The angel of death spared only those who used this simple sign which was a reminder of the Blood of Christ by which we are spared from eternal death.

Why the cloth? In the Old and New Testament, the garment has always been a symbol of love and protection. God made garments for Adam and Eve. Jacob made a coat of many colors for his favored son, Joseph. Jonathan took his own coat and gave it to David as a sign of their special friendship. Rahab and her family were spared death because of a purple cord hung from a window as a sign. Eliseus used the mantle of Elias to part the waters of the river Jordan. When the prodigal son returned, his father ordered his servants to “bring the first robe and put it on him.” A woman sought to be cured if she could only touch the hem of Our Lord’s garment. The handkerchief of St. Paul was used to cure the sick. Our Lady wrapped the infant Jesus in swaddling cloths, and made for Him the seamless garment which He wore to Calvary. Likewise, the scapular is a garment which our heavenly Mother has given us as a pledge of protection in body and soul. When in danger or temptation it reminds us: I am not alone in this battle; Mary is protecting me now!

The scapular must be made of simple woven wool. Pius XII said: “May they all see in this keepsake of the Virgin herself a mirror of humility and purity; may they read in the very simplicity of the garment a concise lesson in modesty and simplicity” (Lynch, p. viii). How many souls, tempted to vanity or immodesty in dress, would blush if they remembered the contrast with their brown scapular!

There are those who take the scapular off, either out of vanity or convenience. Others keep it in their pocket or by the bedside. These do not obtain the special protection Mary has promised nor the indulgences for wearing the scapular. The Prior General of the Carmelite order said in 1640: “They ought to continue day and night to wear the scapular” not in a pouch, in a pocket, or on the waist, but “hanging over the neck, for a scapular, by its nature, demands that it be worn over the neck just as a hat must be worn on the head and cannot be worn on any other part of the body” (Stratius, p. 97). We have an inspiring example in a courageous soul in the missions in Tonkin in 1892. Michel Don, a new convert to the faith, was arrested and brought before the Mandarin:

“What is that cloth which you wear over your chest?” demanded the Mandarin.

“It is my scapular.”

“Throw it away and I will immediately give you your freedom.”

“You can cut off my head, but I will always press this scapular to my heart!”

During all this time, Don was stretched on the ground with his hands and feet tied tightly to two poles. The Mandarin, angered at this reply, turned to a soldier and shouted: “This man is insolent. Go! Strike him!”

The soldier took up a rod and began with all his strength to strike the faithful servant of Mary who would not renounce Jesus Christ by taking off his scapular. At first, Don writhed in pain, twisting and turning as the soldier beat him with no mercy. Suddenly, strengthened by grace, the Christian made the resolve to receive the blows without the least movement; the soldier continued to strike, but Don remained motionless. His blood flowed, his flesh was torn. Finally, he appeared to have no sign of life.

“Stop!” the Mandarin called out, “Is he already dead?” The soldier bent down to look, but Don raised his head and said: “I am yet living; you may continue.”

The soldier picked up the rod and continued his cruel work. Pieces of bloody flesh began to fly under the force of the blows. A soldier, half out of anger, half out of pity, urged him to give in, but the valiant confessor replied: “To fall from the heights of heaven in order to continue to live on earth? Never!”

The torture continued. After he had suffered one hundred thirty blows, he was left to suffer in prison for a month. (Les Promesses, pp. 28-30)

Let us wear our scapular always, even at the cost of some inconvenience. What a consolation to those who do so. What a comfort to parents whose children do so. May we appreciate its meaning and wear it faithfully until death.

Bibliography

Beringer, Franz, S.J., Consulteur de la S. Congr. des Indulg. Les Indulgences leur Nature et leur Usage. Tome II. Trad. par Mazoyer. 3e édition. Approuvée par la S. Cong. des Indulg. Paris: Lethielleux. 1903.

Billuart, Charles R., O.P. Sermons du R.P. C.-R. Billuart, Tome II, p. 99. Bruxelles: Vanderborght. 1846.

Colombière, Bl. Claude de la. Le Saint Scapulaire de Notre-Dame du Mont-Carmel: Sermon. Paris. 1853.

Haffert, John Mathias. Mary in Her Scapular Promise. 2nd ed. 1941. Reprint: Refuge of Sinners Publishing, Pekin, IN. 2010.

Lynch, Most Rev. E. K., O. Carm. Your Brown Scapular. Westminster: Newman Press. 1950.

Magennis, P.E., O. Carm. The Scapular Devotion. Dublin: Gill & Son. 1923.

Promesses de la Très Sainte Vierge à Saint Simon Stock et au Pape Jean XXII, Les. Paris: Vic et Amat. 1899.

Stratius, Theodorus, Prior Generalis O. Carm. Instructio pro Fratribus Carmelitis. Romae: Manelphii. 1640.

 

 

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For more information, here a couple more articles:

The Wonders of the Brown Scapular – by Fr. James McGilloway, CMRI

The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel – by Sr. Mary Agatha, CMRI

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