History of the Scapular
Most often when we hear the word scapular, we think of a scapular in its most recognizable form, a small necklace of sorts constructed from two wool patches of cloth. Scapulars, however, originated from the habit of monastic orders and started off as a work apron. From this “apron” developed a special monastic garment to be worn by specific religious orders. The scapular, in its original form, was often referred to as jugum Christi, or the yoke of Christ, and was even worn at bedtime. A scapular worn in this way is a large piece of cloth that covers the individual from shoulder to shoulder and hangs down as far as the ankles, with an opening in the center for the head.
During the early Middle Ages, the laity began to associate themselves with various monastic orders and formed Confraternities, secular oblates that would receive the scapular to wear upon death, as a sign of great honor. Eventually, this tradition transformed into the small sacramental scapulars of today that are worn daily under or over regular clothing as an open sign of devotion. The four oldest scapulars originated from four confraternities, the Carmelites, Servites, Trinitarians, and the Mercederians. Today there are many more kinds of scapulars, and not all of them associated with a particular confraternity.
The original and most common scapular is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Given by Our Lady herself to the Carmelite friar, St. Simon Stock, with special promises to its wearers, the brown scapular is a sign of devotion and personal consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary, placing oneself under her mantle of protection.
Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Brown Scapular)
The brown scapular is most likely the oldest of all the scapulars and has served as a model for all others. It was on July 15, 1251 that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock in Cambridge, England, in response to his prayers for his oppressed order, the Carmelites. The Blessed Mother appeared to him with a scapular in her hand and said, “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.” Mary also promised to grant special aid, especially at the hour of death, to all those who wore the scapular with fidelity and honor throughout life. Also associated with the brown scapular is the Sabbatine privilege. This states that Mary will intercede and pray for those in Purgatory who in earthly life wear the brown scapular in good faith, are chaste according to their position in life, depart earthly life in charity and daily recite the Divine Office or the Little Office (with permission of your confessor, as it is a shorter version of the Divine Office) or pray the rosary. The general appearance of the scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel consists of two brown pieces of wool, black is also acceptable, along with the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Those who wish to become invested in the Confraternity of Mount Carmel need only have their scapular blessed by a priest.
Scapular of Conversion (Green Scapular)
The green scapular, or the scapular of Conversion, was created in 1840 when Mary appeared to Sister Justine Bisqueyburu of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. The green scapular has become known as the scapular of conversion and carries promises of strengthening faith, protection against Satan, a happy death for Catholics and especially for the conversion of those outside of the church. The green scapular can be worn or carried by the faithful or given to an unbeliever in hopes of their conversion. Those who wear the scapular of Conversion are to say the following prayer daily, “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.” If you decide to give the green scapular to an unbeliever you may pray the prayer on their behalf and hide the scapular somewhere near them if they do not wish to accept it. There is no need to enroll in any confraternity to wear the green scapular, however it should be blessed by a priest.
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