Catholic Teaching

Mary's Sacrament, the Brown Scapular

      When Our Lady appeared to Simon Stock she told him her devotees were coming from Palestine and instructed him to join their Carmelite society. Stock dutifully obeyed and became a member of the Carmelite family. On July 16, 1251, surrounded by a multitude of angels and holding the Brown Scapular, Mary, Queen of Heaven, descended toward Saint Simon Stock, stating: "Receive my beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege; that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire." Because of this apparition, the Scapular devotion spread magnificently throughout the universal Catholic Church.

      On October 13, 1917, in the final apparition at Fatima, Mary appeared in the sky clasping in her hands the Brown Scapular, signifying its great value to her. On August 15, 1950, one of the Fatima shepherd children, Sister Lucia dos Santos, explained that "Mary held the Scapular in her hands because she wants us all to wear it as a sign of Consecration to her Immaculate Heart."

      One must not forget that the honorable Catherine Emmerick also witnessed the Scapular vision. Catherine described Our Lady giving Saint Simon Stock "…an article of dress in which there was a square opening for the head to pass through." Because of these visions and numerous other documents as proof, the Catholic Church has honored this devotion for over seven centuries. Today this devotion is enthusiastically practiced by millions of the faithful.

      Unlike the sacraments given to us by Christ, the Brown Scapular was bequeathed to us by Mary, the Mediatrix. Thus, we can now understand why the Scapular is recognized as Mary's sacrament. No other sacramental offers us protection in the present, at death and after death. The Scapular truly is the greatest act of charity from Our Lady.

      When one dons the Scapular and becomes enrolled, that person is at once a member of the Scapular Confraternity. This Confraternity is the first ever created in the Church. The member is not only united with Mary, but all others who are united to her as well. What a harmonious linkage between Mary and the many souls who are devoted to her garment of grace. The case can reasonably be made that no other devotion can match the Scapular in its pious assurance of salvation and unity.

      The assurance of salvation through the Brown Scapular is bestowed on us through one of the many indulgences attached to this sacramental. An indulgence is the remission of temporal punishment for sins otherwise suffered painfully in purgatory. The primary and most promising indulgence is the Sabbatine Privilege. This promise was issued in a bull of Pope John XXII. The Blessed Virgin appeared to him and said of those who wear the Scapular: "I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of everlasting life."

      Our Lady of Mount Carmel does not request a list of conditions. Her requirements are few, but eternally rewarding:
1. Wear the Brown Scapular continuously.
2. Observe chastity according to one's state in life.
3. Recite daily the "Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
4. Or, to observe the fasts of the Church together with abstaining from meat on Wednesday and Saturday.

      Father Lamy (1853-1931) explained in his writings, "The Blessed Virgin hates Purgatory." On one occasion Mary told him, "Purgatory is painful and the souls suffer deeply." It was Saint Augustine who stated, "The torments of purgatory surpass all that a man can suffer on Earth." These stark truths should aid us all in comprehending the significance of the Scapular and the Sabbatine Privilege.

      The Scapular has more confirmed miracles than any other devotional. One of the numerous miracles not routinely discussed involves the revered Saint Alphonous Ligouri. When his body was exhumed in response to a call for his canonization, the remains and the clothing were decomposed, however, the Scapular was discovered incorrupt. Other Saints with Scapulars found intact and preserved after their burial include Saint Pius X and Saint John Bosco).

      In 1910, Pope Pius X officially decreed that one could substitute the Scapular medal for the cloth. Yet there have never been any authentic miracles attached to the Scapular medal, and it was only meant to be used in problematic cases. One should note that many miracles involving non-Catholics who wear the Scapular have been documented as well.

      The Scapular is indeed the epitome of love from the Queen of Carmel. Pope Pius IX said, "This most extraordinary gift of the Scapular -- from the Mother of God to Saint Simon Stock -- brings its great usefulness not only to the Carmelite family of Mary but also to all the rest of the faithful who wish, affiliated to that Family, to follow Mary with a special devotion."

      Oh Clement, Oh Loving, Oh Sweet Virgin Mary, Ora Pro Nobis.
Catherine Marie Rhodes

1) Sign of Her Heart, John M. Haffert, 1940
2) The Shepherds of Fatima, Father John De Marchi. 1952

Electronic Sources:
1) Pledge of Life eternal,
2) World Apostolate of Fatima,

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