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 signalled 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.
The Most Holy Rosary
The Rosary has been treasured in the Church for many centuries. In a profound sense, it is a summary of the Christian Faith in language and prayers inspired by the Bible. Pope Pius X wrote that "among all the devotions approved by the Church, none has been favored by so many miracles as the devotion to the Most Holy Rosary."
The Rosary traditionally is said to have originated with St. Dominic, a Spanish monk of the 13 Century who was the founder of the Order of Preachers (more commonly known as the Dominicans) and a mighty missionary against heresy. One night, as he was deep in prayer, Our Lady appeared to him, holding the Rosary in Her hand and said: "Be of good cheer, Dominic, the remedy for the evils which you lament will be meditation on the life, death and glory of My Son, uniting all with the recitation of the angelic salutation (Hail Mary) by which the mystery of redemption was announced to the world. This devotion, which you are to inculcate by your preaching, is a practice most dear to My Son and Me. The faithful will obtain by it innumerable advantages and shall always find Me ready to aid them in their wants. This is the precious gift which I leave to you and to your spiritual children."
Over the centuries, inspired by the teachings of St. Dominic and his followers, especially the Blessed Alain de la Roche and St. Louis de Montfort, the Holy Rosary has become the most beloved and popular of all Catholic devotions. It has long been associated with innumerable miracles of faith and healing.
Speaking of Our Lady's appearances at Fatima (where She identified Herself as "the Lady of the Rosary"), Frère Michel de la Sainte Trinité has written that "if She willed to appear at the Cova da Iria holding (the Rosary) in Her hand ... it was to show us that it is the surest means, because it is the easiest and the humblest, of winning Her Heart and obtaining Her graces."
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 and worn over the shoulders. The Scapular must be brown, rectangular in shape and made of 100 percent lamb's wool (symbolic of Jesus, the Lamb of God). The strings connecting the pieces of wool may 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, 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 deaths." This great secondary promise attached to the Scapular is called the Sabbatine (Saturday) Privilege and is based on a decree issued by John XXII in 1322 (and re-confirmed 400 years later by Pope Paul V). In our own century, 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.