brown scapular

Question from Helena on 9/30/2007:

What is the signifigance of the Brown Scapular? Some scapulars have the St. Benedict Jubilee medal attached to it, is there a particular blessing that a priest must say to bless it? Thank you for your time.

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 10/7/2007:

The origins of the scapular are generally credited to the Benedictine monks who devised a garment worn (as the Latin name implies) over the shoulder. It was originally a full-length garment that served to protect a monk’s habit and to keep it clean while working in the fields. The scapular was subsequently slightly altered and stylized, becoming one of the key elements in the habits of the religious orders. When the third orders came into being in he 13th century, the scapular was modified further to permit the tertiaries to wear the scapular under their clothing. The modified scapular thus took the shape of two small double squares of cloth – usually the same cloth of the habit of the order. The Scapular is thus understood in two ways. In one sense it is part of the habit of some religious orders, such as the Benedictines and Dominicans; a nearly shoulder wide strip of cloth worn over the tunic and reaching almost to the feet in front and behind. Originally a kind of apron, it came to symbolize the cross and yoke of Christ. The scapulars is also worn by lay persons as a sign of association with religious orders and for devotional purposes are an adaptation of monastic scapulars. Approved by the Church as sacramentals, they consist of two small squares of woolen cloth joined by strings and are worn about the neck. They are given for wearing in a ceremony of investiture or enrollment. There are nearly 20 scapulars for devotional use: the five principal ones are generally understood to include those of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (the brown Carmelite Scapular), the Holy Trinity, Our Lady of the Seven Dolors, the Passion, the Immaculate Conception.

The Brown Scapular is perhaps the most famous of all the scapulars and is worn by the members of the confraternity of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. It is the most popular of the eighteen scapulars for several possible reasons. First, it is a reflection of the longstanding popularity of the Third Order of Carmelites; second, it is a scapular that traces its origins to the gift of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock; and third, it is associated with the Sabbatine (or Saturday) Privilege, the promise that any qualified wearer of the scapular will be delivered from purgatory on the Saturday after their death. The privilege originated in a supposed vision of Pope John XXII in 1322. As I understand it, according to Sister Lucia, the Blessed Mother was holding the scapular in her hand on the day of the last apparition at Fatima.

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