|Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery in Haifa, Israel|
|Interior of Stella Maris Monastery|
The word scapular comes from the Latin "scapulae" that means “shoulders”. Originally it was a piece of clothing like an apron that would fall at the shoulders and the monks would wear during their work. With time, it was given the significance of the daily cross that as disciples of Christ we carry on our shoulders. Particularly for the Carmelites, it came to express their special dedication to the Blessed Virgin and their desire to imitate her life of complete dedication to Christ and others.
The Blessed Virgin Mary gives the scapular on July 16, 1251
In the year 1246 St. Simon Stock was named general of the Carmelite order. He understood that without intervention from the Virgin, the order had little time remaining. Simon recurred to Mary, placing the order under her care, since they all belonged to her. In his prayer he called her “Flower of Carmel” and “Star of the Sea” and he begged her protection for the whole community. In response to this fervent prayer, on July 16, 1251 the Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the scapular for the order with this promise:
"This must be a sign and privilege for you and for all Carmelites: whoever dies wearing the scapular will not suffer eternal fire.”
Although the scapular was given to the Carmelites, with time many lay people began to feel called to live a life more committed with the Carmelite Spirituality and that is how the association of the scapular began, and many laity were added through their devotion to the Virgin and the use of the scapular. The church has extended the privilege of the scapular to all laity.
The blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Pope John XXII in the XIV century and promised that those who would comply with the requirements to this devotion “as Mother of Mercy with my pleadings, prayers, merits, and special protection, I will aid, so that free as soon as possible from their sufferings in purgatory, (…) those souls will be taken to heaven.”
Explanation of the promise:
Many Popes, saints, and catholic theologians have explained that according to this promise, whoever has the devotion to the scapular and wears it, will receive from the Blessed Virgin Mary at the hour of their death, the grace of persevering in the state of grace (without mortal sin) or the grace of contrition (repentance). For the one who has this devotion the scapular is a symbol of their compromise to live a Christian life following the example of the Blessed Virgin.
The Scapular has 3 meanings:
1) The love and maternal protection of Mary: The symbol is a small piece of cloth or cloak. We see how Mary when Jesus is born wraps Him up in a cloak. A Mother always tries to shelter her children. To wrap us up in her mantle is a very maternal sign of protection and care. A sign the she wraps us up in her maternal love. She makes us hers. She covers us from the disgrace of our spiritual nakedness.
We see in the Bible:
-God clothes Adam and Eve after they have sinned. (Cloak-sign of forgiveness)
-Jonathan gives his cloak to David: sign of friendship
- Elijah and gave his cloak to Elisha and gave him his spirit at his departure.
-Saint Paul: “For all of you, who were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3: 27) - to clothe ourselves with the cloak of His virtues.
2) Belonging to Mary: We take with us a sign that distinguishes us as her chosen children. The scapular becomes a symbol of our consecration to Mary.
Consecration: “to belong to Mary” is to recognize her maternal mission over us and to allow ourselves to be guided, taught, and molded, by her and in her heart. This way we can be used by her for the growth of the kingdom of her Son.
-In 1950 Pope Pius XII wrote about the scapular: “that it may be your symbol of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which we particularly need in these dangerous times.”
In the words of the Pope we see that devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel is devotion to the Immaculate.
Whoever wears a scapular must be conscientious of their consecration to God and to the Virgin and be coherent in their thoughts, words, and deeds.
3) The gentle yoke of Christ: " Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves.” (Mt 11:29-30).
-the scapular symbolizes the yoke that Jesus invites us to carry but Mary helps us to take.
Whoever wears the scapular must identify themselves as Catholic without fear of the rejections and difficulties this might bring them.
You must live the meaning
The scapular is a symbol of our identity as Catholics, bound intimately to Mary with the purpose of fully living our baptism. It represents our decision to follow Jesus through Mary in the spirit of a religious but adapted properly to our vocation. This requires that we must be poor (a simple lifestyle without material attachments), chaste, and obedient for love of God.
In wearing the scapular we are constantly making a silent petition of continual assistance from our Blessed Mother. The Virgin teaches and intercedes so that we can receive the grace to live as her, with open hearts to our Lord, listening to His word, praying, discovering God in our daily lives and in the necessities of our brothers. The scapular is also a reminder that our goal is heaven and that all in this world is passing.
In moments of temptation, we take the scapular in our hands and invoke the help of our Mother, determined to be faithful to the Lord. She guides us to the Sacred Heart of her Divine Son and the devil is forced to back away, defeated.