The Brown Scapular of Mount Carmel
The Brown Scapular is a sacramental, one of the many items set apart or blessed by the Church to inspire devotion and increase holiness. The Carmelite Order, to which the Scapular belongs, originated on Mt. Carmel in the Holy Land and the Scapular is itself a reflection in miniature of the habit which the monks wear as a sign of their vocation and devotion. The Scapular consists of two small pieces of brown wool connected by string. The Scapular must be brown and rectangular in shape, and made of 100 percent wool. The strings connecting the pieces of wool may be of any color or material and pictures on the Scapulars are optional. The Scapular must, however, be worn over the shoulders, one part in front and one in back. The Scapular devotion was born on July 16, 1251, when Our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon Stock, prior general of the Carmelite Order, in response to his heartfelt prayers for assistance. Holding the Scapular before him, Our Lady spoke, saying:
“Take this Scapular. Whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and pledge of peace.”
This great promise was further magnified some eighty years later when the Queen of Heaven appeared to Jean Drèze (later Pope John XXII) and told him that “those who have been invested with this Holy Habit will be delivered from Purgatory the first Saturday after their death.” This great secondary promise attached to the Scapular is called the Sabbatine (Saturday) Privilege and is based on a decree issued by Pope John XXII in 1322 (and re-confirmed 400 years later by Pope Paul V). Pope Benedict XV, as a sign of his approval, granted a 500 day indulgence each time the Scapular is kissed.
At its essence, the Scapular is a prayer in which Our Lady draws us nearer to the Sacred Heart of Her Divine Son. For over seven hundred years, the promise of the Scapular has been proven theologically sound and confirmed by miracles which the Blessed Claude de la Colombiere has called “more numerous and authentic” than any other sacramental devotion.
By the Grace of Almighty God and the intercession of Our Blessed Lady and the Saints, man has been given powerful weapons with which to achieve salvation and protect himself against the “snares and wickedness of the devil.” Among these, pride of place must, of course, be given to the Seven Sacraments, instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ and administered by His Holy Catholic Church. In addition and complementary to the Sacraments, Heaven has also provided mankind with many salutary prayers, practices and sacramentals by which virtue may be augmented and dangers to faith and morals averted. At Fatima, the Mother of God emphasized the vital importance of the daily recitation of the Rosary and signaled Her desire that all Catholics wear the Brown Scapular as a visible sign of their devotion. These two great Fatima devotions are joined indissolubly with those of the Five First Saturdays (which Our Lady instituted at Pontevedra, Spain, in 1925) and the Seven Fatima Prayers that are traditionally associated with Her appearances.