The brown scapular is a sacramental sign of special devotion to Our Lady. Do you wear a scapular? Should you? Read more below!
The History of the Brown Scapular
The scapular originated hundreds of years ago as two large pieces of cloth, attached at the shoulders with narrow strips, that covered the front and back of a monk’s habit. The word ‘scapular’ is derived from the Latin word ‘scapula’, or shoulder blade. It was originally worn for the practical purpose of preserving the habit from dirt and wear, but over the centuries became associated with specific devotions, and is now worn in smaller form as a sacramental of the Church.
There are more than a dozen types of scapulars approved by the Church: white scapulars, green scapulars and many others, each associated with a different devotion to Our Lady, Our Lord, a saint, a Religious Order, etc., and worn as a sign of special consecration to that devotion.
The first, and still the most popular scapular, is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
According to tradition, in the year 1251 a Carmelite superior general by the name of St. Simon Stock lived in Cambridge, England. St. Simon was praying during this time for heavenly intercession for his Order, as the Carmelites were facing trials and oppression.
On July 16th, 1251, he received an apparition from Our Lady. She handed him a Brown Scapular, saying,
“Receive, my beloved son, this Scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”
Since then, the Brown Scapular has been recognized as a source of great graces for those who, living holy lives, wear the Scapular with devotion during life and at the time of death. The Brown Scapular is now generally made of two small pieces of brown wool connected by cords.
Wearing the Brown Scapular
Do you want the Virgin Mary to be your guide and protectress, especially at the hour of your death? Then wearing a brown scapular is the right thing for you. Many saints have promoted and faithfully worn the scapular of Our Lady.
Because the scapular is a sign of faith and devotion, it should be accompanied by the effort to live a life of faith and devotion, in cooperation with the grace of God.
Be sure to have yourself properly invested in the brown scapular. To receive the benefits of the Scapular, the wearer should be enrolled in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular. Many scapulars also come with the printed ceremony for enrollment; if not, the prayer formula is listed below.
Once you are invested, you may later replace the scapular if the fabric wears out without having to be re-invested. You would only need to have your new scapular blessed like any other sacramental.
Members of the Confraternity should devoutly wear the Scapular as a visible sign of devotion to Our Lady, with a commitment to regular prayer, frequent reception of Holy Communion, and daily recitation of one of the Hours of the Divine Office, or the Psalms, or the rosary, or other equivalent prayers. For more information, read A Catechesis on the Brown Scapular prepared by the Carmelites in celebration of the 750th anniversary of the Brown Scapular.
Fun Fact: It is believed that St. Simon was dubbed ‘Simon Stock’ because he lived as a hermit in a hollow tree trunk (in Old English, a ‘stock’) before joining the Carmelites.
A Prayer of Consecration to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel
O Mary, Queen and Mother of Carmel, I come today to consecrate myself to you, for my whole life is but a small return for the many graces and blessings that have come from God to me through your hands.
Since you look with special kindness on those who wear your Scapular, I implore you to strengthen my weakness with your power, to enlighten the darkness of my mind with your wisdom, and to increase in me faith, hope and charity that I may repay each day my debt of humble homage to you.
May your Scapular bring me your special protection in my daily struggle to be faithful to your divine son and to you. May it separate me from all that is sinful in life and remind me constantly of my duty to imitate your virtues. From now on, I shall strive to live in God’s presence, and offer all to Jesus through you.
Dearest Mother, support me by your never-failing love and lead me to paradise through the merits of Christ and your own intercession.
Join the devotion!
Any priest may bless your Scapular and enroll you in the Brown Scapular Confraternity with the following words:
Priest: Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.
Respondent: And grant us Thy salvation.
P: Lord, hear my prayer.
R: And let my cry come unto Thee.
P: The Lord be with you.
R: And also with you.
P: Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, sanctify by Thy power these Scapulars,
which for love of Thee and for love of Our lady of Mount Carmel, Thy servants will wear devoutly, so that through the intercession of the same Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and protected against the evil spirit, they persevere until death in Thy grace. Thou who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.
(Sprinkling Holy Water) Receive this blessed Scapular and beseech the Blessed Virgin that through her merits, you may wear it without stain. May it defend you against all adversity and accompany you to eternal life. Amen.
I, by the power vested in me, admit you to participate in all the spiritual benefits obtained through the mercy of Jesus Christ by the Religious Order of Mount Carmel.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
May God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and earth, bless you, He who has deigned to join you to the confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Of Mount Carmel; we beseech Her to crush the head of the ancient serpent so that you my enter into possession of your eternal heritage, through Christ our Lord.
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