Different Kinds of ScapularsFR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS
Recently a friend gave me a scapular. Could you please tell me where the scapular came from? Are there different kinds of scapulars?
Over time, pious lay people who worked closely with the monastic communities adopted a smaller version of the scapular. This smaller scapular consisted of two small pieces of cloth joined by two strings, and was worn around the neck and underneath a person's clothing. Eventually these smaller scapulars were marks of membership in confraternities, groups of laity who joined together, attaching themselves to the apostolate of a religious community and accepting certain rules and regulations.
Eventually, these smaller versions of the scapular became even more popular
among the laity. To date, the Church has approved 18 different scapulars,
distinguished by color, symbolism and devotion. Most scapulars still signify
a person's affiliation with a particular confraternity, at least loosely.
The following is a brief description of the six most popular ones:
This scapular is the best known and most popular of the different scapulars.
According to tradition, our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon Stock
at Cambridge, England on Sunday, July 16, 1251. (In our liturgical year,
July 16th is the feast day for Our Lady of Mount Carmel.) She presented
him with the scapular 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." In this apparition and gift, our Blessed
Mother promised a special protection for all members of the Carmelite
Order, and a special grace at the hour of death to all who wear the scapular
so that they would not perish in Hell but would be taken up to Heaven
by her on the first Saturday after their death. (Note that the Church
does not teach that wearing a scapular is some sure ticket to Heaven;
rather, we must strive to be in a state of grace, implore our Lord's forgiveness
and trust in the maternal aid of our Blessed Mother — all positive acts
of a person who wears a scapular sincerely.)
In 1846, Christ appeared to a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul
and presented a red scapular: One side depicts our crucified Lord with
the implements of the passion at the foot of the cross; around the image
is the inscription, "Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, save
us." On the other side, the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are depicted,
with the surrounding inscription, "Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
protect us." Christ promised that all who wear this scapular on every
Friday would have a great increase of faith, hope and charity. This apparition
was repeated several times, and on June 25, 1847, Pope Pius IX formally
approved the scapular and granted permission for its blessing and investiture.
After Pope Alexander IV's formal establishment of the Servite Order in
1255, lay men and women formed a confraternity in honor of the seven sorrows
of Mary. As a sign of membership, they wore a black scapular, usually
with an image of our Mother of Sorrows on the front.
In 1581, Venerable Ursula Benicasa, foundress of the Order of Theatine
Nuns, had a vision of our Lord who revealed to her the habit and scapular
her community was to wear in honor of the Immaculate Conception. Venerable
Ursula implored our Lord to grant the same graces to the faithful who
would wear a small, light blue scapular, bearing on one side the image
of the Immaculate Conception and on the other the name "Mary."
In 1671, Pope Clement X granted permission to bless and invest people
with this scapular. Later in 1894, a Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin and Mother of God, Mary was established for all
who wear this scapular.
When Pope Innocent III approved of the order of the Trinitarians on Jan.
28, 1198, an angel appeared to him, wearing a white garment on which was
a cross formed of a blue horizontal bar and a red vertical bar. This garment
became the habit of the Trinitarians, and eventually was the model for
the scapular worn by the lay people who became members of the Confraternity
of the Most Blessed Trinity.
In 1840, our Blessed Mother gave the green scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to Sister Justine Bisqueyburu, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. She belonged to the same community as St. Catherine Laboure, to whom our Blessed Mother had manifested the Miraculous Medal ten years earlier. This green scapular has the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on one side, and the image of the Immaculate Heart itself, pierced by a sword, surrounded by the inscription, "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." This scapular can simply be blessed by a priest, and then worn, or placed in one's clothing, on the bed or in the room. Pope Pius IX approved the green scapular in 1863 and again in 1870.
Perhaps the best way to appreciate the wearing of a scapular is to reflect on the Prayer of Blessing offered in the The Roman Ritual: "O God, the author and perfecter of all holiness, you call all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity. Look with kindness on those who devoutly receive this scapular (in praise of the Holy Trinity or in honor of Christ's passion or in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary). As long as they live, let them become sharers in the image of Christ your Son and, after they have fulfilled their mission on earth with the help of Mary, the Virgin Mother, receive them into the joy of your heavenly home." The key to this devotion is not simply the wearing of a piece of cloth, but the spiritual conversion it signifies.
Saunders, Rev. William. "Different Kinds of Scapulars." Arlington Catholic Herald.
This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.
Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.
Copyright © 2003 Arlington Catholic Herald
Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.