April 1, 2010
History of the Scapular
Throughout time, prayer and Carmel have been synonymous and the Carmelites have contributed greatly to the spiritual life and holiness of the Church.
Perhaps one of our most significant contributions has been devotion to Mary, Mother of God, particularly under her title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Tradition tells us that in 1251, Our Lady appeared to the Prior General of the Carmelite Order, St. Simon Stock at Aylesford, England. In this apparition, Our Lady gave him what we call the brown Scapular... a garment that has become the symbol of the bond between Our Lady and the Order of Carmel. The Carmelites have always been her devoted servants.
But Our Lady did not give the Scapular just to the Carmelites. She gave it to the whole world so that all her sons and daughters could wear an outward sign of her love for them. As a "cloak" of grace and love, the Scapular represents the protection and security we find in our heavenly mother's love.
Our Lady has given us her Scapular to wear; a garment of special concern a sign of belonging. Her Scapular is a mantle of grace and love.
Mary expressed her total openness to the will of God when she said, "Be it done to me according to your word." The message of the Scapular is to always follow Christ in faith, hope and charity. Christ is the source of all truth and holiness, and the graces we receive through Mary's intercession come from Him, to lead us to Him.
The Scapular is a constant reminder of Mary's presence in our lives. Through the symbol of the Scapular we strive to live and die as friends of God. This is the substance of the Scapular Promise.
When we are baptized, we "clothe ourselves in Christ," and our new dignity is symbolized by our white christening gown, a garment we are urged to bring unstained to the judgment seat of God. At our First Communion, we usually add a new "cloak," that of Our Lady's Brown Scapular. The beautiful custom of enrolling children in the Scapular puts them, in their innocence, under the tender care of their heavenly mother.
The Scapular, a monastic apron, is still part of the Carmelite habit. The smaller form, most familiar to Catholics, consists of two panels of cloth joined by string and worn over the shoulders. The Church considers the Scapular a miniature religious habit and, as such, is a highly indulgenced sacramental.
Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, is very devoted to Our Lady and has a special place in his heart for the Scapular: "Through the Scapular, those devoted to Our Lady of Mount Carmel express their desire to mold their existence on the example of our Mother, Patroness, Sister, Most Pure Virgin, to accept God's word with a purified heart and devote themselves to the zealous service of others."