Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What is a Scapular?

Origins the Scapular

The scapular, the two small pieces of wool most people think of when they hear the word, is a sacramental based on an important piece of the monastic habit. A true scapular, in the original use of the word, is a piece of cloth, about shoulder width, that is worn over the shoulders and falls not quite to the wearer’s feet. It is the most important garment for those in monastic orders and has also been adopted by non-monastic religious orders for both male and female. In the past the scapular also had bands on the arm, connecting the front and back panel of fabric and thus forming a cross on the body of the wearer; this style of scapular is sometimes still used today. For this reason, the scapular was also simply called a crux, meaning ‘cross.’

Scapular belonging to St. Alphonsus LiguoriThe scapular is meant to be symbolic of an apron, indicating the wearer’s readiness and willingness to serve. That the scapular is a symbolic and not merely a practical apron is based on the point in the St. Benedict’s Rule, where he says that it is to be worn “for work.” Benedict uses a non-specific word for work here, not the word for manual work or labor, which he uses elsewhere in the Rule, and not the words specific to ‘God’s work,’ which he used elsewhere to include prayer. So it is believed that "scapulare propter opera" ("scapular for work") means a scapular to be worn always, whether while at prayer or while doing manual labor.



In the middle ages, it was common for the lay faithful to join religious orders in an affiliate sense, as a tertiary. Since some did not take full vows, they would not wear the full habit. Some others who took private vows would wear almost the full habit. The non-monastic, one not taking full vows, would be granted a “reduced scapular” to wear. This was two pieces of wool, about 2 inches by 3 inches each, held together by a band or cord and worn over the shoulder with one rectangle in front and one in back. Still larger than the devotional scapular worn by many Catholics, the shape and small size of this scapular is closest in appearance to what many lay Catholics wear. They are still often worn by tertiary members of the +Franciscan, +Carmelite, and +Dominican orders.

Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Brown Scapular Also called simply the Brown Scapular, this small scapular is the most well known and likely the earliest form of the devotional scapular. It may even be referred to merely as “the scapular,” where all other scapulae are referred to in the full name or by some distinguishing characteristic. Along the same line, the phrase “The Feast of the Scapular” refers to the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Pious tradition holds that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251 in England, with a scapular in her hand and said to him, "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant." According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, these precise words of Our Lady only appeared in written form in 1642, in a document that said these words had been dictated by Simon to his secretary and confessor. Historical documents cannot support the exact details or words, but the content is held to be reliable. That is to say, it is credible that Our Lady assured St. Simon Stock in a supernatural manner of her special protection over his whole order and all who would wear the Carmelite habit, indirectly extending to all Christian faithful who should wear the scapular as a badge of devotion, even if we cannot place the exact words.

Conditions for Receiving the Graces of the Scapular

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@Pope John XXII The promise and the following conditions are typically associated with a vision and Bull of Pope John XXII. The Bull that has been handed down since the 1400's was never mentioned for over 100 years after its supposed promulgation in 1322 and no record of such a document exists in the writings of Pope John XXII. It has been generally assumed that the extant text of the Bull is not an authentic document but the promises and conditions are valid and several popes have given the Carmelites permission to preach them.

Here are the conditions:

1) Wear the Brown Scapular continuously - this involves being enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity.
2) Observe chastity according to one's state in life.
3) Recite daily the "Little Office of the Blessed Virgin."
or:
3a) Observe the required fast of the Church as well as abstaining for meat on Wednesday and Saturday
or:
3b) Recite the Rosary daily
or:
3c) With permission, substitute some other good work.