The Brown Scapular: A Carmelite Tradition

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When I consecrated myself to Mary earlier this year, I received a brown scapular that had been blessed by a priest. I’d seen scapulars before and heard of the brown one in particular but didn’t really know what it meant to wear one until my consecration. Now, I wear it every day.

(And on a side note: Women’s clothes are not made for people who wear scapulars. Every day, I’m finding tops or dresses I can’t wear anymore because the cut makes the scapular look like bra straps, which isn’t exactly the modest look I want to have. Any fashion designers out there want to start a line just for women who wear scapulars?)

Anyway.

What Is the Brown Scapular?

The brown scapular is a devotion worn under clothing as a way of telling Mary, “I am yours.” According to the Sisters of Carmel, it was given to Carmelite St. Simon Stock by Our Lady of Mount Carmel in 1251 in Aylesford, England. She told him, “This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire,” and the Church has since declared that lay Catholics can also wear the scapular.

The blessings given to people wearing the scapular have three conditions, because the scapular isn’t some magical talisman but a sign of real devotion: first, that they always wear it; second, that they are chaste (according to the Church’s definition of chastity based on whether they are single or married); and third, that they recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary everyday, observe the fasts of the Church and abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or (with the permission of a priest) say five decades of the rosary each day or substitute another good work.

Who Is Our Lady of Mount Carmel?

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is one of Mary’s many titles. Mount Carmel is a mountain range in Israel where Elijah, according to the Catholic News Agency, “successfully challenged the priests of Baal and won the people to the true God.” The Carmelite Order, which has always had a special devotion to Mary, was founded there in the 1200s.

Wearing the scapular is making a promise to Our Lady of Mount Carmel to imitate her humility, chastity, and devotion to Jesus.

What Is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

The Little Office consists of morning and evening prayers made up of psalms, hymns, and scripture and other readings. I use the Laudate app to say it every day. It helps to guide my prayer, particularly my devotion to Mary, and to understand her role in the Church and in our salvation. Also, especially since I gave up Facebook scrolling for Lent, it’s a much better way to spend the first and last moments of my day than using social media.

Do you wear the brown scapular? How has it helped shape your relationship with God?

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