The importance of the Brown Scapular

On 16 July 1251, Our Lady of Mount Carmel appeared to the prior general of the Carmelite Order, Saint Simon Stock (c.1165–1265), who had asked the Blessed Virgin to give the Carmelites a specific privilege.

Our Lady granted that honour by giving him a Scapular (also known as a “little habit”) with these words: 

“Receive, my beloved son, this Scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favour, 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.”

Then she disappeared, leaving the Scapular and the pledge of her great promise with the saint. In time, the Church extended this magnificent privilege to all laity who are willing to be invested with the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and to wear it perpetually.

By wearing the Scapular at all times, we make silent petition for the Blessed Mother’s continual assistance. However, one of the greatest mysteries of our time is that the majority of Catholics either ignore or have entirely forgotten this heavenly promise of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On the 700th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady to St Simon Stock, Pope Pius XII referred to the Scapular as the sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Scapular also represents the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ, which Mary helps us to bear. And finally, the pope explained, the Scapular marks us as one of Mary’s chosen children and becomes for us a “garment of grace”.

St Claude de Colombiere, the renowned Jesuit and spiritual director of St Margaret Mary, affirmed:

“Of all the pious practices which have inspired the faithful to honour the Mother of God, there is none so sure as that of the Brown Scapular. No other devotion has been confirmed by so many and such extraordinary miracles.”

The Scapular is a habit — Our Lady’s habit. The Scapular must be worn over the shoulders in such a manner that one part hangs in front and the other at the back. Worn in any other way, it carries no indulgence or promise. 

The following short summary of the conditions and promises attached to the Brown Scapular could help to rekindle and spread the devotion of this wonderful means to safely reach our heavenly home.

What is the Scapular?

The Scapular is a small replica of a religious habit, consisting of two pieces of wool connected by ribbons and worn under one’s clothes so that one piece hangs in front and the other at the back. Along with the Rosary and the Miraculous Medal, the Scapular is one of the chief Marian sacramentals.

Why do we call it a Scapular?

The word “scapular” comes from the Latin word scapulae, meaning “shoulders”. The Scapular is actually a miniature form of a monk’s habit by the same name, which is a sleeveless outer garment falling from the shoulders to the feet.

Why do we wear the Scapular?

We wear the Scapular to indicate that we place ourselves under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin. We can tell to what army or nation a soldier belongs by the uniform he wears; so we can consider the Scapular as the particular uniform of those who desire to serve the Blessed Virgin in some special manner. 

May a non-Catholic wear the Scapular?

By all means, non-Catholics may wear the Brown Scapular, and by so doing, they will draw upon their souls much actual grace from Heaven. Our Lady, as a good Mother, will bring conversions to those who honour her by wearing her Scapular. 

Must the Scapular be blessed before wearing it?

The first Scapular one receives must be blessed and imposed by a priest using the formula in the Roman ritual for the reception into the Confraternity of the Scapular.

What are the words used by the priest when investing a person with the Brown Scapular?

The words used by the priest when enrolling a person in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular are as follows:

“Receive this blessed habit; praying the most holy Virgin that by Her merits, thou mayest wear it without stain; and that she may guard thee from all evil and bring thee to eternal life. R. Amen.

“By the power granted to me, I admit thee to the participation to all the spiritual good works, which through the gracious help of Jesus Christ are performed by the religious of Mount Carmel. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. R. Amen.

“May the Creator of Heaven and earth, Almighty God, bless thee; Who hath deigned to unite thee to the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. We beseech her in the hour of thy death, to crush the head of the old serpent; so that thou mayest in the end win the everlasting palm and crown of the heavenly inheritance. Through Christ Our Lord. R. Amen.”

Would it be a sin to stop wearing the Scapular after one has received it?

No, it would not be a sin, but by so doing, one would lose all the benefits promised. If, having ceased to wear the Scapular, even for several years, one should decide to wear it once again, no new ceremony of imposition is necessary. 

What should be done with the Scapular if it is worn out?

The Scapular being a sacred object, when it becomes worn out must be either buried or burned. It should not be disposed of with regular garbage. 

Do the subsequent Scapulars need to be blessed?

No, subsequent Scapulars need not be blessed as the blessing and the imposition are attached to the wearer for life. 

What is the Sabbatine Privilege?

The Sabbatine Privilege consists essentially in the early liberation from Purgatory through the special intercession of Mary, which she graciously exercises in favour of her devoted servants on Saturday, the day consecrated to her. 

What are the conditions to be eligible for the Sabbatine Privilege?

There are three conditions for the gaining of the Sabbatine Privilege. They are:

  1. Wear the Scapular.
  2. Observe chastity according to your state of life. 
  3. Recite the Little Office of Our Blessed Mother.

The Office of Our Lady can be substituted with the Rosary, fasting on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or some other pious work. The faculty to sanction this change was granted to all confessors by Pope Leo XIII in the Congregation of Indulgences in June 1901.

Our Lady Herself has said, “Take this Scapular. Whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.”

The Holy Virgin of Mount Carmel, pray for us!