The brown scapular: what it is, how to wear it, and how I’m very bad at devotions. This post contains amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through the links, I make a small percentage at no extra cost to you.
The Brown Scapular is a devotion that was given to St. Simon Stock by Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in private revelation. It’s a lovely sacramental and devotion in the Catholic Church. But, as with all matters of private revelation, it’s not something that you’re required to believe in.
I thought I’d write up a quick post to share some information about the scapular!
Recently, I posted a picture on Instagram, of a new scapular that I bought…
The post sparked a lot of conversation about what the scapular is, how it’s proper to wear it, and where to get one of those metal ones (like I’m wearing).
There are a lot of regulations and a couple amazing promises to go along with them that were given to St. Simon Stock from Mary. You can read them all here.
Note that there are two different promises involved with the scapular. The first is related simply to wearing it. According to the Carmelite Sisters, the wearer must:
- observe exactly what has been prescribed regarding material, color, and shape of the Scapular.
- be enrolled in the Scapular by a priest.
- wear it continually.
If you adhere to the devotion in the way described by Our Lady, she’s made this lovely promise:
Whoever dies invested with this Scapular shall be preserved from the eternal flames. It is a sign of salvation, a sure safeguard in danger, a pledge of peace and of my special protection until the end of the ages.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect.
I love this devotion, and I was enrolled by a priest, but have never ever adhered perfectly to all the rules of wearing it.
First of all, the wool or cloth scapulars give me a rash. Up until I found this metal one, I’ve worn a plastic one…. and even that has been difficult for me. It’s taken a lot of dedication to get to the point where I can wear it around my neck on a daily basis. Still, sometimes, wearing anything around my neck irritates my skin (terrible eczema) so I move my scapular to my wrist. Honestly, I’ve prioritized wearing my scapular over wearing my wedding rings (skin issues again).
If my scapular is way too long, I loop it around my neck so it’s not constantly slipping out of my shirt into the food I’m cooking, or getting caught on my children’s arms. I also take it off when I’m sleeping… so I can actually sleep.
I must admit that officially, I “[run] the risk of not receiving the benefit of the Scapular promise” (see the article above). And that I’m not trying to promote doing devotions wrong.
Someday, I’d like to do better.
I’d also like to have a stronger devotion to Our Lady in general.
And to the Rosary.
And to learning about the Saints and asking for their intercession.
But for now, I’m imperfect. And I try to balance my desire to participate in the devotion of wearing the scapular, with the knowledge that I just can’t do it 100%. For now.
But I’m not going to be discouraged. I’m not going to put aside my scapular. Instead, I’m going to participate as fully as I can, and leave the rest up to God. Because I love what the scapular stands for:
The Scapular is a silent prayer that shows one’s complete consecration and dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
When I put the scapular on every morning, I’m aware that I’m clothing myself in Our Lady’s garment. It’s a symbol that I love her and honor her (though not as much as I should). It’s a witness that I think is especially important, because so many reject the significance of Our Lady in God’s plan of Salvation.
So, whether or not I’ll reap the full benefits of the promises, I choose to continue to wear the scapular as a visible sign of my Catholicism – most especially my love for Our Lady, and my desire to love her more.
I can’t count how many times somebody has mentioned to me that they love my “necklace.” It’s such an amazing opportunity to be a witness. To open up a conversation about how it’s a symbol of my love for Mother Mary. About how I ask for her protection in times of temptation just by wearing the Scapular.
I often walk away from these strangers and never see them again. But I hope that this sacramental, even though imperfectly worn by me, will be an instrument of grace in their lives as it has been in mine.
The Scapular is a devotion whereby we venerate Her, love Her, and trust in Her protection, and we tell Her these things every moment of the day by simply wearing the Brown Scapular.
I realize that the scapular isn’t necessary for my salvation. All that’s necessary is the Redemption of my sins, which Jesus won for me on the Cross.
The scapular is a bonus devotion.
I realize that I might not get the full benefit of all the indulgences and promises that are attached to the scapular. I know that, in all areas of my spiritual life, I have a long long way to go. I have a lot of growing to do. I’m not going to stress about perfecting my scapular wearing, when my practice of virtue in my vocation is in need of my constant attention.
But, I do my best to “venerate Her, love Her, and trust in Her protection,” by wearing this reminder of her presence in my life as faithfully as I can.
If you can adhere to all the regulations – I truly admire you! I love to see the brown wool “tag” sticking out of the back of Catholics’ shirts. I love when I see unsuspecting strangers tuck the “tag” back in, and the inevitable conversation of just what that “tag” is. (Yay, evangelization!)
If you want to do the brown scapular right, I encourage you to carefully read the full official article from the Carmelite Sisters, with all the official proscriptions.
Purchase a traditional scapular, in the right shape, material, and color (a brown rectangle of wool.
Ask your parish priest to enroll you.
Wear the scapular constantly (and correctly), even while you’re sleeping!
If, by reading this post, you’re inspired to do better than me at practicing this devotion, I praise God! If, by seeing my imperfect example, you’re led to a deeper devotion to the Scapular than I am, I praise Him even more loudly! And, I’ll admit, you’re an inspiration to me and I might even be a bit jealous.
If you’ve been wanting and desiring to wear the scapular, but for whatever reason, you’re not able to adhere to all the rules perfectly, who am I to discourage you?
Maybe it’s okay to take one step at a time. It’s okay to be really bad at doing the “extras.” It’s okay to have room to grow. Maybe it’s okay to love a devotion, and participate as fully as we can. To wear the scapular as “a silent prayer” and a “sign of our devotion” even if we can’t fully reap the benefits of the promises.
I encourage you, in the devotion of the Scapular, or the Rosary, or Novenas, or whatever it is you feel drawn and called to. In any of these beautiful “extras” of our Catholic faith, to do your best to practice them in the way you feel called to. And to not feel guilty if you’re not perfect (because that’s not, in fact, sinful). And to always strive to do better. And to always seek devotion in your heart.
And, when it comes to the necessities – following the commandments, following the laws and rules of the Church, attending Mass on Sunday and Holy Days, practicing virtue, avoiding sin. Prioritize these things. Put them first, and don’t swerve from them. And if you do, seek confession (because to falter in these things would, in fact, be sinful).
And, I ask you to pray for me.
Pray for me to do better. To grow in my faith. To love our Lord and our Lady more every day. To be faithful to my vocation as a wife and mom.
Pray for my ministry. That my blog will always lead you and all my readers closer to God and the path of holiness, and never further away. That even my imperfections may inspire you to be a more virtuous and holy person.
Please know that I’m praying for you.
That together, we can lift each other up. We can grow in holiness. We can pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus through the beautiful faith we share.
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