Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel! I thought it would be fitting to run a post on why I decided (somewhat recently in my life) to begin wearing the Brown Scapular of Carmel.
“Take this Scapular, it shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and a pledge of peace. Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”
This is the famous promise about the Brown Scapular of Carmel made by the Blessed Mother when she appeared to Saint Simon Stock (a member of the Carmelite Order) on July 16th, 1251. To this day, many people wear the Brown Scapular because of this promise.
As for me, I never completely “got” the big deal about the devotion to the Brown Scapular. This promise is often repeated, but usually (and for good reason) followed by some sort of statement like, “But of course it’s not magic or superstitious. Wearing something around your neck—no matter if it’s blessed or otherwise ‘holy’— is not going to get you into Heaven. You still need to be living a life devoted to Jesus.”
Ok, I thought. So then why not just live the life you’re supposed to live and forget about wearing the Scapular?
It wasn’t until I heard a certain homily on the Brown Scapular that I was really convinced to be enrolled in this devotion. The major point the priest gets at in the homily is that God won’t let Mary be made a fool of. We can trust that her promise—without any extra clauses or amendments— is true.
With that, the priest had plenty of stories illustrating his point. One story was told about a young woman who had a devotion to the Scapular, but eventually fell away from the devotion though still wearing the Scapular around her neck. Her sins led her to fall into despair and she resolved to drown herself. A fisherman saw her and offered her help. She refused the help, and the fisherman tells of her tearing off her scapular and ending up drowning. Another story was told about a German soldier who was shot in the head, but was granted to live for a very long time after (longer than anyone with his head wound should have lived), until a priest could come and hear his confession.
The point of stories like this are to show that Mary’s promise can be trusted—even though the Scapular is not magic. The wearer still has to want to be saved, but Mary won’t fail those who wear the scapular. If you are wearing the scapular at the hour of death and are not in the state of grace, Mary will arrange either for a priest to visit you so that you can repent, or for you to be moved to a state of perfect contrition and love for Christ. If the wearer refuses these graces offered, Mary will find a way for the scapular to be removed before the time of death.
But Mary’s promise of salvation to those wearing the scapular at the hour of death is only part of the promise. She also promises protection from danger to those wearing the scapular. There are a lot of stories about that, too. One story tells of a man who nailed a scapular to the front door of his family’s home during a fire that swept through a neighborhood in Germany in the 1950s. 22 homes were burned to the ground, but the flames miraculously went around the house with the scapular nailed to the door. Another story tells of a priest saying mass when a madman came into the Church firing bullets. Everyone assumed the bullets had simply missed the priest, but when he took off his vestments after mass, the bullet was found lodged in the cloth of the Brown Scapular that he was wearing around his neck.
If you’re interested in learning more about this devotion, I highly recommend listening to the homily that I referenced earlier in this post. Also check out this link.
One temptation is to become superstitious with devotions like the Scapular. However another temptation I believe is to discredit them completely out of fear of becoming superstitious. The Brown Scapular of Carmel is an approved devotion of the Church, given to us by the Blessed Mother herself. Above all, whether there’s a Scapular around your neck or not, live a life devoted to the Blessed Mother, and she will lead you into eternity with her Son.