This post is for my friend in Christ Sarah who lives at an undisclosed location in Australia. Sarah asked, "...Are the promises Fr. mentioned that accompany faithful and sincere wearing of the scapular true?"... Here is my answer...
"...Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire..."-words of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Simon Stock
As the middle of the thirteenth century approached, the Carmelite Order found itself at a critical moment of its history. The Turks had re-invaded the Holy Land, making it necessary for the monks on Mt. Carmel to spread westward into Europe. However, difficulty in adapting to European living, disagreement within the Order, and the plague greatly diminished their numbers and demoralized the remaining members. In the midst of these circumstances, the General Chapter of 1247 elected Simon Stock Father General of the Carmelite Order. Realizing the dire state of his community, he had recourse to Mary. “Flower of Carmel, Blossoming Vine, Splendor of Heaven, Mother Divine, none like unto Thee, Mother of our King. To Your children of Carmel favors grant ever, Star of the Sea,” he prayed.
On July 16, 1251, Mary appeared to him surrounded by angels and holding in her hands the brown scapular of the Carmelite habit. “This shall be a privilege for you and for all Carmelites: whoever dies clothed in this shall not suffer eternal fire, rather, he shall be saved,” she promised.
With the help of Our Lady and under the leadership of Simon Stock, the Carmelite Order began to flourish. Mary would not abandon her sons and brothers. For the Carmelite Order, this was the confirmation of the special relationship it had had with Mary since its beginning.
Since the first monks ascended Mount Carmel during the time of the Crusades, Carmelite devotion to Mary has been marked by love, imitation, and dependence. As followers of Christ, the Carmelites knew that they were called to love and honor Mary in the same way that Jesus had during His life on earth. At the same time, their life of chastity, poverty, obedience, silence, and prayer was an almost perfect imitation of the life of Mary. In their imitation of her, Mary became for these monks the Queen and Flower of Carmel. Represented by twelve stars at the top of the Carmelite Coat of Arms, the virtues and love of God of the Immaculata were the Order’s sole treasure. Depending not on himself, but on the love and mercy of His Queen, the Carmelite received through the hands of Mary the grace and strength necessary to practice the virtues and accomplish the works that brought her honor.
Soon, others heard of the wonderful promise of Our Lady and wanted a share in these graces as well. The Church thus extended the promise to anyone who would wear the brown scapular. The scapular, a narrow, apron-like piece of cloth, that hung over the shoulders so as to fall evenly in the front and back, was already part of the Carmelite habit. For the purpose of wider devotion, small scapulars developed which today consist of two pieces of brown cloth joined together by string, cloth, or cord and are worn over the shoulders.
To wear the Scapular is to enter with all Carmelites into a special relationship with Our Lady. Arnold Bostius, a 15th century Carmelite, summed up the Scapular devotion with these words:
All Carmelites, encouraged by the dignity of the honor and the graces of Mary, rejoice to wear this gift of Our Lady night and day as an impenetrable shield. It reminds them that they always consider the holy life of Mary as their model, that they must engrave her image, along with her Son’s, on the shield of their faith, and that they must place all their trust in the all-powerful protection of this sovereign queen who is always ready to come to their aid. Happy are they who affectionately receive the gifts of Mary in the embrace of reciprocal spiritual love. They can look at this habit and joyfully remember the special love their most loving benefactor bestows on them, and thus know that they have been selected by her for so great an inheritance. (Patronatu, 1479).
The Scapular is a Sacramental
The Brown Scapular is a sacramental of the Catholic Church. A sacramental is, by definition, “a sacred sign which bears resemblance to the sacraments, and by means of which spiritual effects are signified and obtained through the prayers of the Church.” (CCC 1667). In the case of the scapular, the sacred sign is the scapular itself and the spiritual effect is the protection of one’s souls through the prayers of Mary, as she promised in the vision to St. Simon Stock.
Blessed Claude De La Colombiere said, “I wanted to know if Mary really and truly interested herself in me. And in the scapular she has given me the most tangible assurance; I have only to open my eyes. She has attached her protection to this Scapular: ‘whoever dies clothed in this shall not suffer eternal fire?’” (Sermon Pour Les Fete du Scapuliare: Oevers. Lyon, 1701)
R.P. Laselve, O.F.M also stated, “In the same way that Jesus wished that something visible would reveal in the Sacraments the invisible effects of His grace, so also has Mary wished that the more particular protection which she accords to all those who serve Her with fidelity would be marked by an exterior sign, the Scapular.” (Haeffert, John Mathias. Mary in her Scapular Promise. Sea Isle City, N.J. 1942).
The Sabbatine Privilege
The Sabbatine Privilege is a special promise extended to all who wear the scapular and are enrolled in the scapular. The privilege was approved by Pope John XXII, and was later confirmed by Pope Gregory XIII, Pope Clement VII, and Pope St. Pius V. The privilege states that those souls who keep the necessary requirements of the privilege will be released from purgatory by Our Lady the Saturday after they die. The requirements are: 1.The scapular must be worn and the wearer must be enrolled in the scapular. 2. Chastity to one's state in life must be observed. 3. One must fast from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays. 4. You must recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin or the rosary everyday.
Miracles associated with the scapular
In May 1957, in Westenboden, Germany, an entire row of houses had caught fire. The inhabitants of one of the houses fixed a scapular to the front door of their home. Five hours later, 22 homes on the block had burnt to the ground. Yet amidst the destruction, the home with the scapular attached to it stood unharmed. This miracle was witnessed by hundreds of people.
Three holy men devoted to the scapular, Pope Bl. Gregory X, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. John Bosco, all died wearing the scapular. When their graves were opened years later, the bodies and vestments had decayed but their scapulars remained perfectly intact.
In November of 1955, a plane carrying 27 passengers crashed in Guatemala. All the passengers died except for one young girl. She related that when the plane was going down, she clutched her scapular and cried out to Our Lady for help. She was burnt and her clothes were tattered and burnt as well, but the girl was overall unharmed and her scapular free from any burns. (stories were taken from Garment of Grace by the Slaves of the Immaculata. Vienna , OH; 1991)
Our Blessed Lady keeps Her Promise
A priest relates how one day in a town near Chicago he was called to the bedside of a man who had been away form the Sacrament for many years. “The man did not want to see me: he would not talk. Then I asked him to look at the little Scapular I was holding. ‘Will you wear this if I put this on you?’ I ask nothing more. He agreed to wear it and within the hour he wanted to go to confession and make his peace with God. This did not surprise me, because for 700 years Our Lady has been working in this way through Her Scapular.”
On the very day Our Lady gave the Scapular to St. Simon, he was hurriedly called by Lord Peter of Linton: “Come quickly, Father, my brother is dying in despair!” St. Simon left at once for the bedside of the dying man. Upon arrival he placed his large Scapular over the dying man, asking Our Blessed Mother to keep Her promise. Immediately the man repented, and died in the grace and friendship of God. That night the dead man appeared to his brother and said, “I have been saved through the most powerful Queen and the Habit of that man as a shield.”
St. Alphonsus tell us: “Modern heretics make a mockery of wearing the Scapular, they decry it as so much trifling nonsense.” Yet many of the popes have approved and recommended it. It is remarkable that only 25 years after the Scapular vision, Blessed Pope Gregory X was buried wearing the Scapular, when his tomb was opened 600 years after his death, his Scapular was found intact. It can be seen, perfectly preserved in the Arezzo museum, in Italy.
Protection against the Devil.
You will understand why the Devil works against those who promote the Scapular when you hear the story of Ven. Francis Ypes. One day his Scapular fell off. As he replaced it, the devil howled, “Take off the habit which snatches so many souls from us!” Then and there Francis made the devil admit that there are three things which the demons are most afraid of: the Holy Name of Jesus, the Holy Name of Mary, and the Holy Scapular of Carmel. To that list we could add the Holy Rosary.
The great St.Peter Claver was another of God’s heroes who used the Scapular to good advantage. Every month a shipment of 1000 slaves would arrive at Cartegena, Colombia, South America. St. Peter used to insure the salvation of his converts. First, he organized catechists to give them instructions. Then, he saw to it that they were baptized and clothed with the Scapular. Some ecclesiastics’ accused the Saint of indiscreet zeal, but St. Peter was confident that Mary would watch over each of his more than 300,000 converts!
Our Lady Protects a Missionary.
One day in 1944, a Carmelite missionary in the Holy Land was called to an internment camp in order to give the Last Rites. The Arab driver made the priest get off the bus four miles from the camp because the road was dangerously muddy. After two miles, the missionary found his feet sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. Trying to get solid footing he slipped into a muddy pool. Sinking to his death in this desolate place, he thought of Our Lady and Her Scapular. He kissed his great Scapular -- for he was wearing the full habit -- and looked toward the holy mountain of Carmel, the birthplace of devotion to God’s Mother. He cried out, “Holy Mother of Carmel! Help me! Save me!” A moment later, he found himself on solid ground. Later he said, “I know I was saved by the Blessed Virgin through Her Brown Scapular. My shoes were lost in the mud, and I was covered with it, but I walked the remaining two miles praising Mary.”
Saved from the Sea.
Another Scapular story that bears repeating took place in 1845. In the late summer of that year, the English ship, “King of the Ocean” found itself in the middle of a wild hurricane. As wind and sea mercilessly lashed the ship, a Protestant minister, together with his wife and children and other passengers, struggled to the deck to pray for forgiveness and mercy, as the end seemed at hand. Among the crew was a young Irishman, John McAuliffe. On seeing the urgency of the situation, the youth opened his shirt took off his Scapular, and, making the sign of the Cross with it over the raging waves tossed it into the ocean. At that very moment, the wind calmed. Only one more wave washed the deck, bringing with it the Scapular, which came to rest at the boy’s feet. All the while the minister, Mr. Fisher, had been carefully observing McAuliffe’s actions and the miraculous effect of those actions. Upon questioning the young man, they were told about the Holy Virgin and Her Scapular. Mr. Fisher and his family were so impressed that they were determined to enter the Catholic Church as soon as possible, and thereby enjoy the same protection of Our Lady’s Scapular.
A Home Saved from Fire
In May of 1957, a Carmelite priest in Germany published the unusual story of how the Scapular saved a home from fire. An entire row of homes had caught fire in Westboden, Germany. The pious inhabitants of a 2-family home, seeing the fire, immediately fastened a Scapular to the main door of the house. Sparks flew over it and around it, but the house remained unharmed. Within 5 hours, 22 homes had been reduced to ashes. The one structure, which stood undamaged amidst the destruction, was that which had the Scapular attached to its door. The hundreds of people who came to see the place Our lady had saved are eye-witnesses to the power of the Scapular and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
A Train Accident.
One of the most extraordinary of all Scapular incidents took place right here in the United States. It happened around the turn of the century in the town of Ashtabula, Ohio, that a man was cut in two but a train; he was wearing the Scapular. Instead of dying instantly, as would be expected he remained alive and conscious for 45 minutes -- just enough time until a priest could arrive to administer the Last Sacraments. These, and other such incidents, tell us that Our Blessed Mother will take personal care of us in the hour of our death. So great and powerful a Mother is Mary that She will never fail to keep the Scapular contract, i.e. to see that we die in God’s grace.
A Priest’s Life is Saved.
Still another Scapular miracle concerns a French priest who had gone on pilgrimage. On the way to say Mass, he remembered that he had forgotten his Scapular. He knew he would be late if he went back to retrieve it, but he could not envision offering Mass at Our Lady’s altar without Her Scapular. Later, as he was offering the Holy Sacrifice, a young man approached the altar, pulled out a gun, and shot the priest in the back. To the amazement of all, the priest continued to say the prayers of the Mass as though nothing had occurred. It was at first presumed that the bullet had miraculously missed its target. However, upon examination, the bullet was found ADHERING TO THE LITTLE BROWN SCAPULAR, which the priest had so obstinately refused to be without.
We should even give the Scapular to non-Catholics for Our Lady will bring conversions to those who will wear it and say one Hail Mary each day, as the following true story will show. An old man was rushed to the St. Simon Stock Hospital in New York City, unconscious and dying. The nurse, seeing the Brown Scapular on the patient, called a priest. As the prayers were being said for the dying man, he became conscious and spoke up: “Father, I am not a Catholic.” Then why are you wearing the Brown Scapular?” asked the priest. “I promised my friends to wear it,” the patient explained, ” and also to say one Hail Mary a day.” “You are dying” the priest told him. “Do you want to become a Catholic?” “All my life I wanted to be one.” the dying man replied. He was baptized, received the Last Rites, and died in peace. Our Lady took another soul under Her mantle through the Scapular!
A Call to Fervor.
In October of 1952, an Air Force officer in Texas wrote the following: “Six months ago, shortly after I started wearing the Scapular, I experienced a remarkable change in my life. Almost at once, I started going to mass every day. After a short time, I started receiving Holy Communion daily. I kept lent with a fervor that I had never experience before. I was introduced to the practice of meditation, and found myself making feeble attempts on the way to perfection. I have been trying to live with God. I credit Mary’s Scapular.”
Necessity of Wearing the Scapular.
During the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, seven Communists were sentenced to death because of their crimes. A Carmelite priest tries to prepare the men for death; they refused. As a last resort, he brought the men cigarettes food and wine, assuring them that he would not talk religion, in a short while they were all friendly, so he asked them for one small favor: “Will you permit me to place a Scapular on each of you?” six agreed, one refused. Soon all Scapular wearers went to confession. The seventh continues to refuse. Only to please them he put on the Scapular, he would do nothing more. Morning came, and as the time of the execution came near, the seventh man made it clear that he was not going to ask for a priest. Although wearing the Scapular he was determined to go to his death an enemy of God. Finally, the command was given, the firing squad did its deadly work, and seven lifeless bodies lay sprawled in the dust. Mysteriously a Scapular was found approximately 50 paces from the bodies. Six men died WITH Mary’s Scapular; the seventh died Without the Scapular.
St. Claude gives us the solution to the mystery of the missing Scapular: “You ask; what if I desire to die in my sins?” I answer, “Then you will die in your sins but YOU WILL NOT DIE IN YOUR SCAPULAR.” St. Claude tells the story of a man who tried to drown himself three times. He was rescued against his will. At last he realized that he was wearing his Scapular. Determined to take his life, he tore the Scapular from his neck and leaped into the water. Without Mary’s protective garment he ccomplished his wish and died in his sins.
A Jesuit missionary in Guatemala tells an incident of Our Lady’s Scapular protection. In November of 1955 a plane carrying 27 passengers crashed. All died except one young lady. When this girl saw that the plane was going down, she took hold of her Scapular, and called on Mary for help. She suffered burns, her clothing was reduced to ashes, but the flames did not touch her Scapular.
In the same year of 1955, a similar miracle occurred in the Midwest. A 3rd-grader stopped in a gasoline station to put air in his bicycle tires, and at that very moment an explosion occurred. The boy’s clothing was burned off, but his Brown Scapular remained unaffected: a symbol of Mary’s protection. Today, although he still bears a few scars from the explosion, this young man has special reason to remember the Blessed Mother’s protection in time of danger.
The Scapular that Saved Two Lives.
My battalion was a member of the Irene Brigade. We were just about to advance. After we passed Eindhofen, our trucks and tanks went through Uden. In the evening we encamped on an old farm near Nijmegen. Behind the house there was an old wooden pump surrounded by bricks, to wash away the sweat and dust of hours of fighting. You can well imagine that we made good use of this opportunity. I was one in the group and so I tossed my jacket on the ground and hung my Scapular on the pump while I washed.
An hour later we received orders to proceed about a mile and a half further and to occupy a trench there. We were looking forward to being able to get a peaceful night’s sleep in that trench. I was about to lie down and was unbuttoning my collar when to my horror I realized that I no longer had my Scapular. It had been a gift from my mother. I had it with me all during the war and now that we were approaching the lion’s den was I to be deprived of it? To go fetch it was unthinkable, so I tried not to think about it any more and to go to sleep. I pitched and tossed from side to side, but I couldn’t get to sleep.
All round me, my buddies were sleeping like logs even though from time to time shells fell dangerously close. Finally I was overcome by the desire to get my Scapular back and I crept out among my sleeping companions. It wasn’t so easy to get past the sentry but I managed to do it and ran back the way we had come. It was pitch dark, but nevertheless I had good luck and in a short time I was back on the farm and at the pump. My hands glided searchingly all over the pump but the Scapular was gone. I was just about to strike a match when there was the sound of a dreadful explosion. What was I to do? Was that the sign of an enemy attack? As fast as I could I ran back to our trench. Maybe I could do something for my buddies there.
Near the trench I saw the engineers busily removing piles of dirt and barbed wire. At the very spot where my companions had been sleeping there yawned a gigantic shell-hole. Before the enemy had vacated this trench the enemy had placed a time bomb in it and it had exploded during my absence. Nobody survived the explosion. If I had not set out to fetch my Scapular, I would have been buried under that rubble too.
On the following morning I went to the field kitchen and met a buddy there. He looked at me with astonishment. “I thought you were in that trench!” “And I thought you were buried there!” My friend continued, “I was lying in the trench, but before I went to sleep I went looking for you. But I couldn’t find you. The corporal saw me hunting around and asked me what I wanted. When I told him what I was doing there he said, “Be sensible! Instead go to that inn nearby and get me a bottle of water.” And while I was on the errand the explosion occurred.
“Well, I escaped it by a hair’s breadth too, “I replied. “But why on earth were you looking for me so late at night?” “To give you this,“ he replied, and handed me my Scapular, which he had taken from the old pump.
A Shield in Time of Battle.
Mr. Sisto Mosco of North Providence, Rhode Island, is a veteran of World War II, who survived, unscathed, the invasion of Normandy, and later, the 7th fleet war with the Japanese fleet, the taking of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and other bloody battles in the South Pacific. Sisto affirms that his miraculous escape is another perfect example of the powerful protection of Our Blessed Mother of Mount Carmel, through Her Brown Scapular.
“I was on the battleship the U.S.S. Nevada as chaplain’s yeoman during WW II in the Pacific. (I always wore my Scapular because I was brought up close to the Church, and I kept it on me all through the war.) The ship was loaded with dynamite. A suicide plane hit the deck real close to where I was positioned. The blast blew open the bolted steel doors of the compartment. I alone was left uninjured after the explosion. The rest were all dead or seriously mangled. I was the only one untouched and I attribute it to the wearing of my Scapular.”
Mr. Mosco later received a commendation from the Admiral of the fleet for bravery, but in his heart he firmly believes that the credit goes to Our Lady, the Virgin most powerful, who works such wonders through Her Habit of Salvation.
In wearing the Scapular at all times we make silent petition for the Blessed Mother’s continual assistance. We share in all the prayers and good works of the Carmelite Scapular Confraternity throughout the world. Pope Pius XII often spoke of the Scapular. On the 700th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock, Pope Pius XII referred to the Scapular as “the sign of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. The Scapular also represents the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ, which Mary helps us to bear. And finally, the pope continued, the Scapular marks us as one of Mary’s chosen children, and becomes for us (as the Germans call it) a “Garment of Grace”. St. Claude tells us, “Of all the pious practices which have inspired the faithful to honor the Mother of God, there is none so sure as that of the Scapular. No other devotion has been confirmed by so many and such extraordinary miracles.”
As we mentioned above, during the Scapular Anniversary celebration in Rome in 1951, Pope Pius XII told a very large audience to wear the Brown Scapular as a sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our Lady asked for this consecration in the last apparition at Fatima, when She appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding the Brown Scapular out to the whole world. It was Her last moving appeal to souls to wear Her Scapular as a sign of consecration to Her Immaculate Heart.
My own story. I was enrolled in the Brown Scapular and given a 5 fold scapular in the 2nd Grade, by the Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur, at St. Alphonsis Catholic School in Chicago Illinois. I at 7 years old and I had no iodea what it was. Being a boy I didn't want to wear anything against my skin that was wool. It was scratchy...
I have come to appreciate that scapular since. I have carried this scapular with me all over the world. I have no doubt that She has protected me, from Cancer, aircraft mishaps, ship explosions, artillery bombardments, hurricane Fran and hurricane Floyd (these both came right through my neighborhood yet left my house unscathed). Tornados have lept (literally) over my house protecting my wife and family.
I have since bought a new one to preserve the one I got in 1962 so that I may be buried in it.
St. Alphonsus had a very special devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and while alive wore his brown scapular faithfully. Many years after his death his grave was opened; the body and priestly vestments in which he was buried had turned to dust! But his scapular was found PERFECTLY INTACT! St. Alphonsus Liguori's Brown Scapular is still miraculously intact and on exhibit in his Monastery in Rome.
Some day I will be able to thank face to face the sisters who taught me and served their time in purgatory watching me.
...And that Sarah is how I know the promises are true...