Note: In the 1990s, Fr. Ed, who is a Secular Discalced Carmelite, wrote a series of bulletin articles on “The Carmelite Charism.” This is a reprint of one of those articles.
The Brown Scapular is a Roman Catholic devotion to Mary under her title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is worn as a sign of love and devotion for the Mother of God. The Scapular was presented by Our Lady to St. Simon Stock, the Father General of the Carmelite Order, on July 16, 1251. Mary’s stated the following promise to him concerning the Scapular: “Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire…it shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.”
Another important aspect of wearing the Scapular is the Sabbatine Privilege. This concerns a promise made by Our Lady to Pope John XXII. In a papal letter he issued, he recounted a vision that he had had. He stated that the Blessed Virgin had said to him in this vision, concerning those who wear the Brown Scapular: “I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting.” According to Church tradition, there are three conditions necessary to participate in this Privilege and share in the other spiritual benefits of the Scapular: wear the Brown Scapular, observe chastity according to your state in life, and pray the Rosary.
In addition to the Sabbatine Privilege, enrollment in the Brown Scapular also makes a person part of the Carmelite family throughout the world. They therefore share in all of the prayers and good works of the Carmelite Orders. Participation in the Carmelite family also, of course, places you in a special relationship with the Carmelite saints, especially St. Elijah, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, and, most importantly, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Many popes and saints have strongly recommended wearing the Brown Scapular to the Catholic Faithful, including St. Robert Bellarmine, Pope John XXII, Pope Pius XI, and Pope Benedict XV. For example, St. Alphonsus said, “Just as men take pride in having others wear their livery, so the Most Holy Mary is pleased when Her servants wear Her Scapular as a mark that they have dedicated themselves to Her service, and are members of the Family of the Mother of God.” Pope Pius XII went so far as to say, “The Scapular is a practice of piety which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone, and has spread widely among the faithful of Christ to their spiritual profit.” In our own times, Pope [St.] Paul VI said, “Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin…the Rosary and the Scapular of Carmel.” In another place he referred to the Scapular as “so highly recommended by Our illustrious predecessors.”
In order to receive the spiritual blessings associated with the Scapular, it is necessary to be formally enrolled in the Brown Scapular by either a priest or a lay person who has been given this faculty. Once enrolled, the enrollment is for life and need not be repeated. Anyone, adult or infant, who has not previously been enrolled may be enrolled in the Brown Scapular. Participation in this devotion is open to non‑Catholics as well.
If you are interested in being enrolled in the Brown Scapular, please contact Fr. Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.