A scapular is a
sacramental that looks like two small pieces of wool cloth connected by
string that is worn over the neck, either under or over one's clothing
(typically under the clothing), such that one piece of cloth hangs over the
chest, and the second piece of cloth hangs over the back. They derive from
the scapulars which make up part of monastics' religious habits -- that
ankle-length (front and back), shoulder-wide, apron-like part of the habit
that basically consists of a long rectangular piece of material with a hole
for the head (some of them have hoods and some had ties under the arms).
Monastic scapulars came, over time, to be called jugum Christi (the
yoke of Christ), and receiving the scapular (becoming "invested") took on
solemn meaning. Abbreviated forms of the full monastic scapulars were to be
worn even at night.
In addition to
regular monastics of the First Order (i.e., friars) and Second Order
(cloistered nuns), laity attached themselves to various religious orders,
too, in what are called "Third Orders." Some lay
members of Third orders -- "tertiaries" -- are "Third Order Religious" who
live in a monastic community and generally take vows; most others are "Third
Order Secular" who live in the world and generally make solemn promises. In
the beginning, many of these lay people were invested with the full habit;
later, they came to wear only the very small scapulars, as seen at left,
under their clothing.
In addition to these Third Orders, Confraternities of lay-people (married or
single -- just "regular Catholics") developed whose members were invested
with Scapulars of Religious Orders to which they were attached. It is these
scapulars for lay people belonging to a Confraternity or a Third Order that
one generally thinks of when one hears the word "scapular."
Some scapulars have privileges and indulgences attached to wearing them, but
like any sacramental (holy water, blessed candles, etc.), scapulars are not
magic; their efficacy depends on the proper intentions and faith of the
wearer. Only by following through on the promises one makes when becoming
invested can the benefits associated with them be had. They are best thought
of as signs of a commitment to do certain things and of one's being a part
of a religious community. They act as reminders, too, of these things they
signify and of the Saints who are parts of the religious community in
question. They are reminders to behave with holiness.
How it Works and Where to get them
thing you need to do is to find out if enrollment in a particular
Confraternity is necessary before wearing one with the rightful expectation
of spiritual benefit. This varies with the type of scapular, but most
scapulars do not require any sort of enrollment that your parish priest
can't handle for you.
You can buy scapulars from Catholic Gift Shops, Catholic mail order
catalogues, etc. They're very inexpensive, and you can also often find free
ones from various places, such as the religious Order with which the desired
scapular is associated or from charitable organizations and souls who make
them available. Just do a Search for "Free Scapulars." Know, though, that
free scapulars are often poorly made, are not made of wool, and are not of
traditional design. It is best if you can find a traditional source for your
scapulars, especially the Brown Scapular.
After you get your scapular, you must have it blessed by a priest. After
it's been blessed, you then become "invested" when the priest recites
certain prayers (different scapulars have different prayers for investement).
Many scapulars do not require investment at all, but simply need to be
blessed -- as do all scapulars -- and then used properly per the directions
You only need to
have your first scapular blessed; it it wears out and you need to replace
it, the blessing "transfers" to replacements. (The proper way to get rid of
worn out scapulars -- or any sacramental -- is to either burn it or
also later be replaced by a religious medal called the "Scapular Medal" (see
picture at right), but if this is done, the new medal must be blessed. This
medal must "show the image of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Jesus Christ, showing
His Sacred Heart, and the obverse that of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,"
according to a decree of Pope St. Pius X (see picture at right).
Below are some of the different types of scapulars. The religious Orders
they are associated with and the date of the scapular's origin appear in
italics under the Scapular's popular name.
Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Carmelites)
Brown Scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel," associated with the
Carmelite Order, is the most well-known. In A.D. 16 July 1251, Our Lady
appeared to St. Simon Stock in Cambridge, England after he prayed for
help for his Order. She appeared to 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
Whether this happened exactly in this way or not (St. Simon's
original descriptions of the vision are not extant and the wording may
not be exact), the Scapular was given to St. Simon Stock, and the
devotion spread and was well-known by the 16th c. What can be safely
believed because of papal decree is the promise known as the "Sabbatine
Privilege." The Sabbatine Privilege is the promise that Our Lady will
intercede and pray for those in Purgatory who, in earthly life:
the Scapular in good faith; |
chaste according to their state in life; |
recited the Divine Office or, with the permission of one's Confessor,
the Little Office of Our Lady [a shorter form of the Divine Office in
honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, used by certain religious orders and
laity. It is similar to the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the
Roman Breviary] or the Rosary; and |
departed earthly life in charity. |
be enrolled in the Confraternity of our Lady of Mount Carmel by any
valid priest. Just obtain a scapular, take it to him to have it blessed, and
express your desire for enrollment.
Warning: Some falsely believe that wearing the Brown Scapular
offers some sort of guarantee of salvation because of the legendary
words attributed to Our Lady. This is against Church teaching, is
superstitious and a grave error. Sacramentals are not magical ways
to manipulate God; they are Church-instituted rituals/objects that
remind us of what we are supposed to be doing/thinking of, that depend
on the faith, hope and love of the user, and which help prepare us to
receive God's saving grace.
For more information on the Brown Scapular...Click
Clerics Regular (Theatines)
Scapular of the Immaculate Conception" originated with the foundress of
the Theatine Order of nuns, Venerable Ursula Benicasa. To her, Christ
promised favor to that Order and she asked Him to extend those promises
to those who associated themselves with the Order through the faithful
wearing of the Scapular. The Blue Scapular is worn for the conversion of
Enrollment in the Theatine Confraternity is necessary for investment
with this scapular.
Priests of the Mission (Lazarists)
Scapular of the Passion" came about when a Sister of Charity of St.
Vincent de Paul had a vision of Christ in 1846 in which He promised an
increase in the theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity) of those
who wore the scapular faithfully and contemplated His Passion. One side
of the scapular shows Christ on the Cross, with the words, ""Holy
Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Save us"; the other side shows the
Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of His mother with the
words, "Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, protect us."
Pope Pius IX granted the Priests of the Mission ("Lazarists") the
faculty of investing the faithful with this scapular, and the Superior
General of the Lazarists may allow other priests this faculty.
Order of Friar Servants of Mary (Servites)
Black Scapular of the Seven Dolors of Mary," or "The Our Lady of Sorrows
Scapular," has on its front a depiction of Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady
appeared to seven rich and prominent citizens of Florence who decided to
give up their worldly possessions and follow Christ, promising to honor
His Mother in her sorrows. Thus began the Servite Order. Mary gave them
the Servite habit and said that "these garments shall be to you a
perpetual memory of the sufferings of my heart." This is the more common
The General of the Servite Order may grant the faculty of investment
with this scapular to other priests.
Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord Jesus
ca. A.D. 1720
of the Cross, before founding the Congregation of the Passionists,
received in apparitions the black habit of the order with the badge on
the breast. Later, after the foundation of the congregation, the
Passionist Fathers gave the faithful who wished to associate themselves
more closely with their order a black scapular in honour of the Passion
of Christ. "The Black Scapular of the Passion" has a replica of the
emblem worn on the habits of the Passionists. It includes the words "Jesu
XPI Passio" and below "sit semper in cordibus nostris."
The Superior General of the Passionists may grant to other priests the
faculty to bless and invest someone with this scapular.
Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians)
Scapular of the Most Blessed Trinity" is the badge of the members of the
Confraternity of The Most Blessed Trinity. Its front depicts a red and
blue Cross, and it first came about in 1198 when a Spanish priest, John
of Matha, had a vision of an angel wearing a white robe adorned with a
Cross whose vertical line was red and whose cross-beam was blue (this
Cross design came to be on the habit of the Trinitarian Order). This
Scapular was first used for the purposes of of increasing action to
"ransom the captives" -- the Christians taken prisoner by Muslims.
The General of the Trinitarians may grant the faculty of investment with
this scapular to other priests.
Green Scapular or Scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (Paulists)
Mary appeared to Sister Justine Bisqueyburu (a Seminary Sister of the
Daughters of Charity) in Paris, France and commended the Green Scapular
to her. It's known as "the Scapular of Conversion," and its promises are
the strengthening of faith, protection against Satan, a happy death for
Catholics, and, most of all, for conversion for those outside the
Church. It's to be worn or carried by the faithful, or given to an
unbeliever for their conversion. The following prayer is to be said
daily by the wearer:
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death
scapular is given to an unbeliever for their conversion, the person
giving the scapular prays the prayer for them if the unbeliever does not
want to pray the prayer himself. If the unbeliever does not want the
scapular, it may be hidden in their vicinity and the prayers said for
him. Enrollment in a Confraternity is not necessary for this scapular,
but the scapular should be blessed by a priest before use.
The Green Scapular
By Robert A. Macdonald,
C.Ss.R., written 1948
It is my conviction, that despite all the wars, the threats and the
horror of Communism, we are living in the happiest of centuries. Never
since the days that she taught the Infant Jesus to pray has the Mother
of God been closer to the earth. We are living in the Age of Mary.
Countless signs show us that she has come down from the Galilean hills
of heaven to give us a new Bethlehem, a reborn Christ in the hearts of
men. Germany, Italy, Portugal and France have been singularly blessed by
her gentle presence. From all sides witnesses spring up to attest with
wondrous proofs, her presence among us. She is walking on the earth!
However, there is a dark side to the picture today, the darkness of the
beast. He prowls to trample and destroy. Never has he been so apparent.
His time is growing short. No one knows better than he. He has never
forgotten the prophecy in the garden: "I will put enmities between thee
and the woman... she shall crush thy head" (Gen. 3:15).
He realizes well what the coming of Mary means to him and his empire.
God alone knows the furious activity of hell, the rage with which it
strives to make this world a madhouse of hate. How he must hate the
tender Virgin as she journeys from country to country. His power has
been so great that he thought God had abandoned the world because of its
unbelief. He was hopeful of finally conquering the world, of snatching
souls from the nail-scarred Hands of Christ. Then came Lourdes, then
Fatima and, today, the Mother of God sitting at the bedside of a sick
For years he has succeeded in hiding the beautiful devotion of her
Immaculate Heart in the Green Scapular. I am sure that most of you have
heard of this matchless devotion only lately. Yet the good Sister to
whom it was revealed died over forty years ago. This is not surprising.
See how well the evil spirit hid the marvels of Fatima although Our
Lady's power flamed in the heavens before fifty thousand men and women.
Let me tell you the story of how I discovered the Green Scapular. This
is my only way of trying to spread a true and tender love to her
Immaculate Heart and of paying my debt to her. Seven years ago, before
penicillin was in use, I was lying in a hospital very ill with
pneumonia. I began to hemorrhage and the doctors decided to operate as a
last resource. Then a little nun came into my room.
"Father, have you great faith in the Mother of God, especially in her
Immaculate Heart? If so, you can be cured."
"Through the Green Scapular."
"What is that?"
"Four years ago, Father, I was operated on for cancer. I was so filled
with it, that they just closed me up and sent me away to die. Then I
prayed to Our Lady of the Green Scapular; grew tired of waiting to die
and came back to work. I am cured, Father. Do you want me to give you a
With that she put one over my head. A feeling of tremendous confidence
poured into me and the bleeding stopped. Two days later, in the X-ray
room, they asked me when the hemorrhage had ceased. When I replied that
it was a matter of a couple of days, they expressed great surprise.
"Your have a wound that is six months healed and there is no other
mark." Today even the scars are gone. No wonder I speak of an un-payable
debt to her Immaculate Heart. Since then I have done everything possible
to foster this devotion. To my great joy and amazement, those to whom I
have spoken of the Green Scapular have become more zealous than I. Never
have I seen the equal of the faith and confidence of these new apostles
of Mary. The tremendous fervor of the crusades must have been like it.
During May I asked the rector of St. Patrick's, Toronto, for permission
to speak of it at the Wednesday devotions. I had a thousand Green
Scapulars on hand, but no one thought that more than thirty would be
asked for. The thousand were gone the first morning. The room where we
distributed them was so jammed that I feared someone would be injured.
The rest of the day I was besieged on all sides for more. Foolishly, I
showed the one I had for myself and it was quickly snatched from my
The spirit in Toronto today is beyond belief. Ten thousand more have
been too few. Over twenty-five priests have come to our monastery
begging for scapulars. I have been stopped on the streets and accosted
on trains by total strangers asking where these Scapulars could be
obtained. Montreal has since shown a like fervor.
I am stunned at the response. I have no explanation for it. Certainly it
was not due to the simple little sermon that I preached. I believe the
explanation of it was given by a priest with all the simplicity of the
priesthood: "She wants her heart loved."
Those who doubted in the beginning are today the most devoted to the
Green Scapular. It has become something priceless. They love to say the
beautiful prayer which we learned from Mary's lips: "Immaculate
Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death."
Toronto today is feeling the warmth of that heart. A man, who had
refused for years to see a priest, remained adamant on his deathbed. One
of the family brought the Scapular into his room, said the prayer twice
and, suddenly out of a clear sky, he begged for a priest.
I must insist that the peculiar power of this Scapular is that of
conversion. To bring her Son into the hearts of men. To give Him a new
birth there. Although there are many cures like my own, I repeat, her
greatest desire is to give her Son birth in the cradle of your soul.
The Green Scapular is the story of Sister Justine Bisqueyburu.
An orphan in early life, she was adopted by a wealthy relative who left
her his fortune. Her greatest day of joy was November 27, 1839, when she
entered the novitiate of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent of Paul
in Paris. Her Sisters in religion are stationed in Maryland. Address:
Sisters of Charity, Central House, Emmitsburg, Maryland.
They can tell you much better than I the story of a Sister who inspired
love and emulation in everyone who met her. One who was a confidante of
Pope Pius IX in the dark days preceding his imprisonment in the Vatican;
one who was the admiration of the Mohammedans of North Africa; the
recipient of the flattering imitation of the famous Florence Nightingale
on the battlefields of the Crimea. They can tell you the great efforts
she made to keep her identity unknown; how her secret was revealed. How
the Green Scapular found its way to the desk of Pope Pius XI. They will
repeat the description of the Mother of God, standing in all her beauty
before the young novice, and returning again and again until the
Scapular was made and distributed. Telling the young Sister that the
Scapular could be blessed by any priest, carried or worn on the person,
even left in one's room, the only obligation being to say, once a day
(and this can be said in favor of another): "Immaculate Heart of
Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death."
(The above article was published in the Madonna Magazine, August 1948,
and was copied with permission by the Quarterly Bulletin of the
Archconfraternity of the Holy Agony. March, 1949. It also appeared in
Fatima Findings, September, 1949, published by the Reparation Society of
the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Baltimore, Maryland.)
The Green Scapular or Scapular of the
Immaculate Heart of Mary is, like the Miraculous Medal, a gift of our
Blessed Mother to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
On November 27, 1839, Justine Bisqueyburu, destined by Providence to
make known this devotion, enters the Seminary, or Novitiate of the
Daughters of Charity, 140 rue du Bac, Paris. On January 28, 1840, during
her first retreat, the young Sister was favored with a celestial vision.
Our Lady appeared to her clothed in a long white robe over which hung a
bright blue mantle. Her hair, which fell loosely over her shoulders, was
not covered with a veil, and in her hands she held her Heart, from the
top of which issued brilliant rays. To the dignity of her bearing was
joined the dazzling brightness of celestial beauty. The young Sister,
seized with admiration and fear, could scarcely repress an explanation.
The same apparition was repeated four or five times during her Seminary
on the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin. This favor seemed to have
no other end than to increase in the Sister herself tender devotion to
Mary Immaculate. Clothed with the habit, Sister Bisqueyburu was sent to
Blangy and shortly after her arrival, September 8, 1840, feast of the
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, she was favored during prayer with an
apparition of the Mother of God, who held in her right hand her heart
surrounded by flames, and in her left a sort of scapular, consisting of
a single piece of green cloth suspended from a cord of the same color.
On one side was a picture of the Blessed Virgin as she had shown herself
in the apparitions; on the other, a Heart all inflamed with rays more
brilliant than the sun, and clearer than crystal.
This Heart pierced with a sword was surrounded by an oval inscription,
surmounted by a cross. The inscription read: "Immaculate Heart
of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." At the
same time an interior voice revealed to the Sister the meaning of this
vision. She understood that this new Scapular, through the medium of the
Sisters of Charity, would contribute to the conversion of those
who have no faith, and above all, procure for them a happy
death, and that it should be distributed immediately with confidence.
For various reasons the execution was long delayed, in consequence of
which the Blessed Virgin in several apparitions between 1840 and 1846
complained to the Sister. As obstacles were removed, the Scapular was
distributed, producing wonderful conversions and some bodily cures.
Among favors obtained are the following: A sick man, a declared enemy of
all religion, was thrown into frenzy by the mere sight of a priest. He
accepted a Green Scapular on September 19, 1842. Eleven days later,
arising from dinner, he withdrew into an adjoining room, fell on his
knees and took out his Scapular which he called an intermediary agent.
Kissing it and bathing it with tears, he promised Our Lady to go to
Confession within a week. That delay seemed too long, for the next day
he received the Sacraments.
In 1844, a child of fourteen with depraved morals received the Scapular
and in a few days his conversion was affected.
At Constantinople a Greek schismatic was converted by the Scapular and
also cured of a hideous leprosy. Many similar examples might be cited.
The manner of using the Scapular was indicated by the Blessed Virgin.
Since it is not the badge of a confraternity but simply a double image
attached to a single piece of cloth and suspended from a cord, the
formalities of a Scapular are not required for the Benediction and
Imposition. It suffices that it be blessed by a priest and worn by the
one for whom it is intended. It may be placed in the clothing, on the
bed, or simply in the room. The only prayer to be recited is the
inscription surrounding the Heart on the reverse of the Scapular: "Immaculate
Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death."
This should be repeated daily, if not by the one wearing it, by the one
giving it. The Scapular may be distributed everywhere. Although
wonderful graces are attached to it, they are proportionate to the
confidence with which it is given, as signified by the rays of different
lengths which in the last apparitions, issued from the hands of the
The Green Scapular was twice approved by Pope Pius IX, in 1863, and
again in 1870 when he said: "Write to these good Sisters that I
authorize them to make and distribute it."
An exact account of any conversion or cure which may be attributed to
the Green Scapular should be sent to Marian Center, Saint Joseph
Central House, Emmitsburg, Maryland, with all circumstances of
time, place and persons. Names should not be withheld under pretext of
humility, for there is question of the glory of God and of His Holy
Nihil Obstat: E. A. Cerny, S.S., S.T.D., Censor
Imprimator: Francis P. Keough, D.D., Archbishop of Baltimore
Feast: Immaculate Heart of Mary, August 22, 1950
Scapular of St. Joseph
and violet-colored scapular with a white cord, the front shows St.
Joseph holding the child Jesus in one arm and a staff of lillies on the
other. Underneath are the words, "St. Joseph, patron of the Church, pray
for us." On the back of the scapular are the papal crown under a dove as
the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Underneath those are the Cross, the keys
of Peter, and the inscription: "Spiritus Domini ductor eius" (The Spirit
of the Lord is his Guide).
The scapular is to remind us of St. Joseph's virtues (humility, modesty,
purity); to remind us to pray to St. Joseph, asking him to pray for the
Church; and to assist the dying since St. Joseph is the patron of a
In addition to the above benefits, there is a plenary indulgence for
those who confess, receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of
the Holy Father on the following feast days: 25 December the day of
investment of the scapular), 1 January, 6 January, 2 February, 19 March,
25 March, Easter, Feast of the Ascension, 15 August, 8 September, 8
December, 3rd Sunday after Easter and at the time of death. It is
recommended also to say 5 Our Fathers, 5 Hail Marys and 5 Glorias before
the Blessed Sacrament at these times.
Five-Fold Scapular is made of 5 of the following Scapulars above: first,
the "The Red Scapular of the Passion," then the "The Scapular of the
Most Blessed Trinity," the "The Brown Scapular of our Lady of Mount
Carmel," the "The Black Scapular of the Seven Dolors of Mary," and the
The Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception." Any priest can invest
you with this scapular.
NOTE: Text and
Imagery is courtesy of FISHEATERS.COM