The Green Scapular and Its Favors
by REV. FATHER MARIE EDOUARD MOTT, C.M.
PART TWO: The Revelations of the Green Scapular
In part one, we sketched in rather rapid strokes the life of Sister Justine Bisqueyburu; a life full of merits and good works, a life which is a tribute to the great Saint Vincent de Paul, whose worthy Daughter she was. From her life we may glean many lessons of virtue, which are for us a powerful incentive in the pursuit of virtue, of generosity in the performance of duty, of self-forgetfulness in the practice of Divine charity.
But in the religious family of Saint Vincent such examples are so numerous, that it was not the mere purpose of relating them which induced us to publish these pages.
God, by raising up this chosen soul in His Church and lavishing choice graces upon her, did not merely intend her to work out her own salvation, but had also destined her for a special mission in which the salvation of a multitude of souls was involved.
Just as He had made use of a Daughter of Saint Francis de Sales, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, for the purpose of manifesting the Sacred Heart of His Divine Son to the world, He likewise willed to make use of a Daughter of Saint Vincent de Paul, Sister Bisqueyburu, in order to reveal the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to present it to the veneration of the faithful, and to make of its sacred representation an instrument for the salvation of infidels and poor sinners.
True, a first manifestation of this most pure Heart had already taken place in the Chapel of the Mother House of the Daughters of Charity, on November 27, 1830. On the reverse of the Miraculous Medal, revealed to Saint Catherine Laboure, and since then known as the Miraculous Medal, the Heart of Mary appeared, pierced with a sword, opposite to the Sacred Heart of Jesus crowned with thorns and surmounted by a cross. Likewise, later on, July 29, 1846, another Daughter of Charity, Sister Appoline Andriveau, was favored by an apparition of our Lord, Who revealed to her a new scapular of a red color, on which, next to His Heart, was also that of His Mother, and which for this reason received the name of Scapular of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
But in the apparition which Sister Bisqueyburu had, it is her Immaculate Heart alone which the Blessed Virgin wished to present to our veneration and our prayers, as we are about to see from the autograph notes of the seer, those of her Director, Father Aladel, and of her Directress, Sister Buchepot.
We have already seen that after the expiration of her postulatum at Pau, Justine Bisqueyburu undertook the journey to Paris, accompanied by Father Aladel, and that she entered the Seminary of the Daughters of Charity (140 rue de Bac), November 27, 1839. As she did not arrive there in time to take part in the great retreat which had closed just a few days previous she had to wait until the following January before being able to make her little entrance retreat.
In those days, the retreat exercises were held in a hall situated above the chapel, in which there was an altar bearing a statue of the Most Holy Virgin. This statue, reputed miraculous, is of very ancient origin.
Now, it was in this hall and before this statue that the new little Seminary Sister made her entrance retreat; and it was during that retreat that the Blessed Virgin appeared to her for the first time on January 28, 1840.
The Sister was at prayer when suddenly the Blessed Virgin made herself visible to her eyes. She was dressed in a long white gown which reached to her bare feet, over which was a mantle of very light blue, but she wore no veil. Her hair hung loose about her; in her hands she held her heart, from the top of which abundant flames gushed out. The majesty of her bearing was enhanced by a beauty all heavenly. At this sight, the young Sister, struck with admiration and awe, almost let a cry escape her lips.
[The image we are using is a poor substitute as we were unable to locate a replica of this apparition. We chose our banner image primarily for the outer robe and her hand over her heart, knowing the inner garment ought to be white and that Our Lady appeared without a veil. But because the shape of the figure so closely matches that of the one on the scapular we decided that you would understand. We are still searching and will not give up the quest, God willing.-------The Web Master]
Again at the close of the retreat she was favored with the same vision, and also four or five times in the course of her Seminary on the principal feasts of the Blessed Virgin.
Up to that time this favor seemed to have been quite personal and to have had no other purpose than to increase her tender devotion to Mary and her Immaculate Heart. But the course of events showed that God had other designs which were soon to be revealed.
After receiving the Holy Habit, Sister Bisqueyburu as already said, was sent to Blangy (Seine-Inférieure) to teach school. Shortly after her arrival, September 8, 1840, feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, she had another vision. The Mother of God appeared to her during meditation, holding in her right hand her heart surmounted by flames, and in the other hand a kind of scapular, or rather one-half of a scapular. It was a single piece of green goods, rectangular in shape and of middle size hanging by a string which was green also and closed as if destined to go around the neck. The whole thing looked more like a medallion of cloth, than a scapular properly so called. On one side was a picture of the Blessed Virgin such as she had shown herself in her preceding apparitions; and on the other side was a heart all ablaze with rays more dazzling than the sun, and as transparent as crystal. Those are the very expressions made use of by the Sister to describe the vision. That heart, pierced with a sword, was encircled by an inscription of oval shape surmounted by a gold cross, and thus worded: Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us, now and at the hour of our death. "At the same time an interior voice was heard by the Sister revealing to her the meaning of the vision. She understood that this holy picture was by the medium of the Daughters of Charity, to contribute to the conversion of souls, particularly infidels, and to procure for them a good death; that copies should be made as soon as possible and distributed with confidence.
Sister Buchepot was the only one, at first to whom Sister Bisqueyburu imparted this new favor, in a letter dated October 8, 1840; and this she did timidly and most secretly, "fearing lest all this be the effect of imagination, and requesting her to keep this communication secret." "However," she added, "if you believe it to be necessary for me to speak of it to Father Aladel, I shall do so."
The same apparition was again renewed August 15 and September 13, 1841, and Sister Buchepot informed Father Aladel of it by these few lines: "Sister Bisqueyburu again saw on the feast of the Assumption and this morning during thanksgiving, the Blessed Virgin and the scapular of which I already spoke to you. She feels strongly impelled to tell you so and this costs her so much that her anguish rouses my compassion. I promised her to write this little note to you, so that when on Thursday she will go to see you in the parlor, your charity might make it easy for her."
On Thursday following, September 16, Father Aladel received in fact this new communication. But whether he did not attach enough importance to it, whether prudence inspired him not to rush matters, in order to test whether these supernatural manifestations came from God, according to the Apostle (1 Joann., iv 1), he did not seem as yet to take active measures for the making and distribution of the scapular.
The Blessed Virgin complained of it to the Sister in a new vision which she was favored during the morning meditation of May 3, 1842, a Communion day. (Daily Communion had not then been established.)
This is how the Sister herself relates her vision to Sister Buchepot, in a letter dated from Versailles, May 20, 1842: "It seemed to me I heard a voice which told me that she was not pleased because they delayed so long in making the scapulars. She was so beautiful! . . . I promised her to make you acquainted with it, as well as Father Aladel, so that you might both examine whether it was indeed her holy will, at the same time begging you to attend to it as soon as possible. I hope to come to Paris in the near future; then I shall tell you all that I have seen and heard. A want of time prevents me from writing to Father Aladel; I shall try to. do so next week. Please pay him my respectful regards and ask him to pray for his humble daughter."
Two days later on May 22, Sister Buchepot sent this letter to Father Aladel, adding to it the following lines: "I am sending you a letter I received yesterday. You see we are being urged on . . . If you advise me, I shall write again to Mr. Letaille. I am surprised that he who is so devoted to the Blessed Virgin thus delays her affairs. After reading this letter will you kindly send it back to me, that I may answer it . . . I beg you also to add a yes or no, concerning Mr. Letaille."
We can see hereby that the wishes of the Blessed Virgin had received attention as far as the preliminary steps were concerned, since Mr. Letaille had been entrusted with the engraving of the plate destined to produce prints of the image of the scapular and that partly he was accountable for the delay.
This is what Father Aladel answered Sister Buchepot on the same day, May 22: "It would seem a good thing for you to write again (to Mr. Letaille). I suppose the good works he is called upon to do prevent him from rushing this affair. It may also be that his engraver does not hurry as much as he is expected to."
At last the scapular could be made, although only in small quantities, but it was not given with sufficient confidence and more by way of experiment. Hence, the results were not very satisfactory.
The Blessed Virgin repeatedly showed her displeasure in the course of the year 1846, to the Sister, who wrote on June 4, to her former Directress: "Above all, the affair must be hurried on; there is unfortunately much delaying . . ." There she excused herself for not going to Paris to see Father Aladel as she was kept at Versailles by a First Communion class. "But I may write," she added, "although it costs me. What must Fr. Aladel think of the little confidence I show him? I am going to correct myself and labor at becoming more simple."
And in another letter, bearing the date of the following month of the same year, 1846, and also addressed to Sister Buchepot, she told her: "For a long time I have had a desire to write to you; but I did not dare to do so, because I am always afraid to be in a state of illusion. Today I want to overcome this ill-founded fear, and wish to be toward you like a little child who speaks to her mother with complete openness of heart.
"I believe again to have seen, yes I saw, I am sure of it. It is absolutely necessary that Father Aladel attend to the scapular, that he should disseminate it and so with confidence. Heretofore, I am sure, he did not attach great importance to it. He was very wrong. True, I do not deserve to be believed, for I am only a poor girl in every respect. May I entreat him to do this, not for my sake, but I ask him in the name of Mary to do it for these poor souls who die without knowing the true religion; yes, if it be given with confidence, there will be a great number of conversions."
But, feeling that it was not very pleasant to transmit such a message, she wondered whether she should not give it herself. She therefore added: "Help me out, good Mother. Do you advise me to write to Father Aladel? I think it would be more proper if I should speak to him of it; what is your idea? It has been almost a year since I last mentioned the matter to him. I fear to see him, he still awes me very much. I cannot help it . . . "Answer me, I beg of you, as soon as possible; we cannot lose any time."
The apparitions of 1846 had this particularity, that the hands of the Blessed Virgin were filled with rays. This is what the Sister says of it in a letter to her former directress, dated Versailles, August 10, 1846:
"Has Father Aladel arrived? I forgot to tell you that he asked me whether the scapular (such as it had been made with the plates of Mr. Letaille) was really exact. I answered in the affirmative, that I did believe it was; but perhaps I answered too hastily, for now, as far as I can remember, it seems to me that it had no rays proceeding from the hands of the Blessed Virgin and reaching to the hem of her garment. And however, it seems to me that is the way she appeared the last time. It seems to me, understand well, for I am always tempted to consider all this an illusion of the devil, who perhaps makes use of this means for my destruction, making me believe things that are not.
"But I told you that I would say all; I want to keep my word. Do not speak of this to Father Aladel, I would rather tell him myself, because I fear he thinks I have not enough confidence in him, for which he has already reproached me."
And she asked that they should send her the picture of the scapular that she might add to it with lead pencil the rays as she saw them at the last apparition.
They did not believe it was necessary, however, to have the engraving made over, and it remained and still is without rays. It was thought that this omission of detail would not prevent the scapular from corresponding substantially to the desires of the Blessed Virgin.
They did better; they went more actively about the printing and making of the scapular, and distributed it with more confidence.
But one difficulty arose whose solution could not be found in the preceding revelations. What were the conditions required to render this scapular effective? Must it be submitted to a special blessing, be imposed with certain ceremonies, oblige those who wear it to certain prayers or practices, should it be used only in behalf of infidels and in foreign missions only?
To solve these diverse problems there was but one way, namely that the Sister would beg the Blessed Virgin to give the answer. But as she had a great repugnance to do so, her director had to oblige her to do it. "I am going to obey," she wrote to her former directress, "but it costs me; I hardly feel fit to ask for anything. I am in so wretched a state." She obeyed, although with repugnance, and on the eighth of September (1846), the Blessed Virgin, having again appeared to her, her hands filled with rays, the answer was in substance as follows:
That the scapular, not being like other scapulars, the habit of a confraternity, but i merely two holy pictures put on a single piece of goods and hanging by a string as would be a medal, no special formula is requisite to bless it and there can be no question of imposing it. It suffices that it be blessed by a priest and worn by the infidel or sinner whom we wish to benefit by its happy influence. It may even be slipped unknown to him in his clothes, or his bed or room. As to the prayers to be recited, there is but one that should be said every day, the one that forms the oval inscription with which the Holy Heart is surrounded on the Scapular. Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. If the person in whose behalf this scapular is applied should not say it, then the one who makes use of or gives the scapular must say it in her place. This scapular may be used in France, as well as in foreign lands. The greatest graces are attached to its use; but these graces are more or less great in proportion to the degree of confidence which accompanies it. This was the meaning of the different kinds of rays which fell from the hands of the Blessed Virgin at the last apparition. These indications were exactly complied with, and the scapular being applied under these conditions, produced henceforth, and is ever producing an incalculable number of marvelous conversions and sometimes cures. In the third part the relation of some of these marvels will appear.
Are not these wonders like an authentic proof of the supernatural origin of this devotion, and of the sanction which God Himself seems thus to give it?
But it may be wondered whether or not it has been submitted to the decision of the Church; whether it has some ecclesiastical approbation to recommend it.
In the first place, everything leads to presume, though we have no written token of it, that our Father Aladel, so wise, so prudent and so cautious, did not authorize the making and distributing of the Green Scapular without making sure, beforehand, of the approbation of the Archbishop of Paris, Msgr. Afire. Thus we saw him in 1832 humbly asking of the predecessor of Msgr. Affre, Msgr. de Quelan, the authorization for the striking of the Medal revealed in 1830, known since then under the name of Miraculous Medal. How can it be thought that for the Green Scapular, which is a kind of medallion of cloth, he should have believed himself dispensed from a similar measure? How can it be thought that Mr. Letaille, so Christian a publisher as he was, would have been willing to take a share in the diffusion of a devotion which would not have been sanctioned by the first pastor of the diocese?
However for this devotion, spreading little by little not only throughout France but even abroad, an approbation merely diocesan might have appeared insufficient to certain doubtful minds. Hence it was resolved to solicit from Pope Pius IX an ampler approbation which would silence any scruples.
This was done by Father Borgogno, Procurator General of the Congregation of the Mission at the Holy See, who achieved complete success. He gives the following statement of it in a letter dated April 3, 1870:
"Having spoken about the Green Scapular to the Holy Father, I related to him the details of its origin adding that particular graces of conversions among hardened sinners had been obtained by means of it. When asked me whether I had any with me, I answered in the affirmative and showed him one. The Holy Father took it, examined it attentively and said to me: 'This is a beautiful and pious picture.' Then he added, 'Well, what do you wish in this matter?' I answered, 'Nothing else than the permission for our Sisters (the Daughters of Charity) to make and distribute scapulars similar to this one, with the faculty of distributing them.' Then he said: 'I give full permission for that. Write to these good Sisters that I authorize them to make and distribute them. ' " Hence it is plain that it was with a full knowledge of the matter, after attentively considering this image, that the Pope, while praising its beauty and piety, gave his sanction thereto.
What more could be desired? In fact it is here a question of nothing but a pious image and not of the badge of a confraternity. And the new Canon Law (Can. 1385, 1,3:2) which forbids the printing of any pious picture without an ecclesiastical authorization, says that this authorization must be given by the Ordinary of the place inhabited by the author, or that where the picture is to be printed, adding that for religious a permission from a Major Superior is moreover required (ib., 3). Now, in 1911 there appeared at Lille a pamphlet of eight pages on the Green Scapular with a reproduction of its two pictures; and this pamphlet bore the approbation of Most Honored Father Fiat, Superior General of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity (July' 8, 1911), and also an authorization of Msgr. Delamaire, Coadjutor and soon afterwards Archbishop of Cambrai (July 13, 1911).
It may be remarked, by the way, that the Green Scapular was not a stranger to Our Holy Father Pope Pius XI, since it had a place on his working desk side by side with the Miraculous Medal. The following is what the Most Honored Mother of the Daughters of Charity wrote on the subject as she was relating her journey to Rome and her audience of January 27, 1923:
"The audience with the Sovereign Pontiff was consoling. As I was telling him that our Sisters were using with success the Green Scapular for the conversion of sinners, I offered one to His Holiness who took it in his hands, then placed it on his writing desk with the Miraculous Medal."
Hence there need be no anxiety about the legitimacy of this devotion. Not only does it fall under no censure, but it moreover presents itself to the piety of the faithful with all the warrants required by the Church.
Also after living for a long time in obscurity (too long, perhaps), it does not fear now to appear in broad daylight. And the Community of the Daughters of Charity, while keeping the monopoly of the Green Scapular, has decided to put it on the market. Therefore those persons who wish to procure that precious pledge of salvation must have it blessed by a priest (any priest has this power), and they must observe the conditions previously pointed out.
As to the graces of conversion or others which shall have been obtained by means of the Green Scapular, those who know of them are requested to send an account of the facts, exact and authentic as possible, to Saint Joseph's, Emmitsburg, Maryland; being careful to mention precisely the circumstances of time, place and persons; not fearing under pretense of humility to give the names. It is a question of glorifying God and His Most Holy Mother.
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