Catholic Devotions: The Brown Scapular

Catholic Devotions: The Brown Scapular

“Whosoever dies clothed in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.”

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to St. Simon Stock, 1251
A SCAPULAR is a sign of commitment to the contemplative life. [Originally] a large overgarment that protected the monk’s tunic while he was working, the word scapular comes from the Latin word for shoulder, scapula.

Scapulars are cloth items usually worn over the shoulders; and, like medals, they come in many varieties. [But the best known is] the brown scapular. [When “invested” with it] using prayers approved for that purpose, [one] is enrolled in the Carmelite order [which] traces its origins back to the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha.

The Carmelite order has always cultivated a particular and intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and it is her image that usually appears on the brown scapular. It’s said that, in the thirteenth century, she appeared to a Carmelite named St. Simon Stock…, and she told him that those who died “clothed in this habit will never suffer eternal fire.”

Pope John Paul II said that the scapular is powerful precisely because it is a “habit” in every sense of the word, both a uniform and a pattern of good belief and good behavior. Catholics [are] permitted to wear a scapular medal in place of a cloth scapular, and many people do. The scapular medal bears the image of Jesus’ Sacred Heart on one side, and the image of Mary on the other.

Scott Hahn, Signs of Life (New York: Doubleday, 2009)
Pages 233, 234, 235. 236. Used with permission.

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