“The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother’s loving presence in their lives.” —Pope Saint John Paul II
As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16, we invite you to grow in your devotion to Our Lady through the tradition of the scapular.
Where the scapular originated: Carmelite tradition holds that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251, and gave him a scapular in answer to his prayer for the Carmelite order, which was suffering trials and oppression at the time. Mary assured him that those who wear the scapular would receive special protection and grace to help attain eternal life. To this day, the scapular remains a powerful sign of Mary’s intercession for those who entrust themselves to her through this devotion.
What the Carmelite scapular looks like: The scapular worn by most laity is made of two small pieces of brown cloth connected by two thin cords. Many of them include pictures of Our Lady giving the scapular to St. Simon Stock and/or the words of the original promise Our Lady made to him. The scapular is typically worn under your clothing with one cloth piece on your chest and the other on your back, with the two connecting cords resting on the shoulders (hence the name “scapular,” which comes from the Latin word scapulae, which means “shoulders”).
Why wear the scapular: Just as Our Lady promised special graces to St. Simon Stock and his order, she makes the same promises to those who practice the devotion of the scapular today. Like other sacramentals, the scapular itself does not provide us with these graces; rather, it serves to help us to receive grace more readily. The prayers and practices associated with the scapular are meant to help us grow in devotion to the Blessed Mother and, by extension, her Son. Participating in this devotion is one way to unite yourself more fully to the prayers of the Church and grow in the spirituality of the Carmelite order, in the case of the Brown Scapular.
Wearing the scapular is an exterior sign of our devotion and reverence for our Catholic faith and is a designed to help us live lives of prayer and virtue, ultimately helping us to reach Heaven.
How to live out the scapular devotion: To begin practicing this devotion, we encourage you to first obtain a scapular and have it blessed by a priest. You can then begin to wear the scapular daily; you are also encouraged to pray the scapular prayer each day as you put it on. In addition, it is important that those who wear the scapular regularly participate in the sacramental life of the Church and strive to imitate Mary’s virtues, particularly the virtue of chastity according to one’s vocation. Depending on the type of scapular you choose to wear, there are often other prayers, such as a daily rosary, that you are encouraged to pray.
The scapular is a beautiful devotion offered to us by the Church as a way to entrust ourselves to the Blessed Mother’s intercession and allow her to lead us closer to Jesus. We invite you to wear a scapular daily as a way to clothe yourself with Mary’s protection and open your heart more fully to God’s grace.
Most Holy Mary, Our Mother, in your great love for us you gave us the Holy Scapular of Mount Carmel, having heard the prayers of your chosen son, St. Simon Stock. Help us now to wear it faithfully and with devotion. May it be a sign to us of our desire to grow in holiness.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us!