The Brown Scapular of Our Lady:
Its Origin and Promise


UNTIL IT is explained, the Scapular Promise seems unbelievable. Ever since Our Lady appeared to Saint Simon Stock on July 16, 1251, many-----yes, thousands-----have found it almost impossible to believe that for so little a practice as belonging to Her Confraternity, one could be rewarded with salvation.

It seems that Our Lady returned to Heaven and considered, as it were, the great favor She had conferred. She saw the amazement of thousands at so small an action as wearing two pieces of cloth being favored by Her with so tremendous a Promise. So She returned again to earth, and this time to make a Promise still more astounding!

In the year after Saint Peter Thomas was informed by Her that "the Order of Carmel is destined to exist until the end of the world," the Queen of Heaven conferred a favor through the habit of Her family which has caused the great Pope Benedict XV to exclaim: "Let all of you have a common language and a common armor: the language, the sentences of the Gospel; the armor, the Scapular of Mary which all ought to wear and which enjoys the singular privilege of protection even after death."

For, on March 3rd, 1322, Pope John XXII had issued the following Bull: [See P. E. Magennis: The Sabbatine Privilege [New York 1923] for a demonstration of the authenticity of this script.] 

"John, Bishop and servant of the servants of God, to the faithful of Christ, collectively and individually: As though in the most sacred heights of paradise, the so sweet and charming harmony of the Angels is heard while the sense of sight is also delighted and Jesus is seen adorned with the glory of His Father. For He saith: I and the Father are one . . . He who seeth Me, seeth also the Father . . . and the choir of the Angels ceaseth not to say: Holy, Holy, Holy. Even so, the Assembly ceaseth not to pour forth praise to the Virgin on high, O Virgin, Virgin, Virgin, be thou our mirror alike and example . . . For she is adorned with the gift of Grace, as holy Church singeth . . .  Mary, full of Grace and Mother of Mercy . . . So that hill which is reputed of the Order of Carmel, praising with song and extolling and telling of this Mother of Grace . . . Hail, Queen of Mercy and our hope . . . So, as I prayed with bended knees, the Virgin of Carmel seemed to speak to me these words: O John, Vicar of my well-beloved Son, I shall snatch thee, as it were, from thy foe. Thee who art Pope, I make my Vicar for the solemn gift which I sought from My Son and have obtained by my prayers. So, it behooveth thee to grant a favor and confirmation to my holy and devout Order of Carmel, which took its rise with Elias and Eliseus on the mountain of that name. Whoso maketh profession, whoso observeth the Rule drawn up by my servant Albert the Patriarch, whoso unfailingly sheweth obedience thereunto and to that which has been approved by my dear son Innocent, so that thou mayest accept through the Vicar of my Son on earth what my Son hath ordained in Heaven: that he who shall have persevered in holy obedience, poverty and chastity, or shall enter the Holy Order, shall be saved. And if others for the sake of devotion shall enter holy religion, hearing the sign of the Sacred Habit and calling themselves associates of either sex of my aforesaid Order, they shall be freed and absolved from a third part of their sins on what day they enter.  . . So let the professed members of the said Order be freed from punishment and from guilt on what day they go from this world," so that with hastened step they shall pass over Purgatory, I, THE MOTHER OF GRACE, SHALL DESCEND INTO PURGATORY ON THE SATURDAY AFTER THEIR DEATH AND WHOMSOEVER I SHALL FIND IN PURGATORY I SHALL FREE, so that I may lead them unto the holy mountain of life everlasting. 'Tis true that you brothers and sisters are bound to recite the Canonical Hours, as it behooveth according to the Rule given by Albert. Those who are ignorant must lead a life of fasting on those days on which Holy Church doth so ordain. Moreover, unless through some necessity they be involved in some difficulty, they must abstain from flesh meat on Wednesday and Saturday, except on the Birthday of my Son. Now, when these words had been uttered, the sacred vision departed . . ."

Purgatory! Eye has not seen nor ear heard the tremendous suffering that word implies. Some theologians are of the opinion that the worst pain we could possibly suffer on earth-----utter moral abandonment while the body be tortured by the most diabolical cruelties-----cannot be compared to the least of the Purgatorial pains. Saint Mary Magdalen de Pazzi tells us that "the pains suffered by all the Martyrs are as a pleasant garden in comparison with the sufferings of the Souls in Purgatory." [ Cf. Savaria, pg. 222.] Saint Cyril said: that, as for himself, he would rather suffer all the pains that have beset man from the time of Adam together with all that will beset him until the end of the world, rather than spend one day in Purgatory. For since nothing impure can enter Heaven, one must go to Purgatory and, there, only tremendous suffering can satisfy the temporal punishment due offenses against an Infinite Goodness. Saint Bridget beheld a Soul in Purgatory tortured inexplicably for having been vain and having thought more of frivolous diversion than of things spiritual. [Revelations (Rome, 1628) , Bk. V, ch. liii.] Saint Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, reports that a Saintly religious was detained sixteen days in Purgatory for three trifling faults and that she would have been there longer had it not been that she had been very faithful to her rule. A certain layman, although he was a good Christian, was fifty-nine years in Purgatory because of his love of comfort; another, thirty-five years for the same reason; a third, who was too fond of gambling, was in Purgatory for sixty-four years. And Saint Augustine says that the torments of Purgatory surpass all that a man can suffer on earth. [Treatise on Psalm xxxvii; cf Savaria, op. cit. 231.] But Mary, who through Her intercession has complete dominion over Purgatory, [St. Bernardine: Serm. 3, de Nom. Mar. a. 2, c. 3.] has come to Her special children to assure them that She will not suffer them to remain in its fires more than a week-----in fact, not beyond the day consecrated to Her Honor by the Church. With Saint Bonaventure, we hear Her saying in the words of Scripture: "I have penetrated the depths of the abyss, that is, the depths of Purgatory, to help those holy Souls." [Glorie, viii, pg. 305. N. B.: Novarinus says, in Cit, Exs. 86, "Crediderim omnibus qui in flammis purgantur, Mariae meritis non solum leviores fuisse redditas illas poenas, sed et breviores, adeo ut cruciatum tempus contractum Virginis ope illius sit." Such is the meaning of the Sabbatine Privilege.] Saint Bernardine said that the Blessed Virgin always liberates Her special devotees from the torments of Purgatory and Saint Denis the Carthusian and Saint Peter Damian had written that on the feasts of the Assumption, Christmas and Easter: "Our Lady descends into Purgatory and takes many souls from it." [St. Dionysius, Cart. Serm. 2, de Ass. N. B. : Note that the Saint says that Mary descends and that on a certain day: Beatissima Virgo singulis annis in festivitate nativitatis Christi ad purgatorii loca cum multitudine angelorum descendit."] But Our Lady has declared that She will not wait for the great Feasts to liberate Her devotees of the Scapular. Regardless of the punishment merited, provided they have observed chastity and practiced an act of piety regulated by their confessors, She will obtain for them the complete remission of their debt and their complete purification by the very first Saturday after their death and, on that day, escort them to eternal bliss.

When Saint Teresa was astonished at seeing a certain Carmelite carried straight to Heaven without even going to Purgatory, she was given to understand that he had been faithful to his rule and avoided Purgatory because of Bulls granted to the Carmelite order. [Autobiography, ch. xxxviii [near the end]: "I was amazed that he had not gone to Purgatory. I understood that, having become a friar and carefully kept the rule, the Bulls of the Order had been of use to him, so that he did not pass into Purgatory."

(N. B.: Fr. Zimmerman opines that this does not refer to the Sabbatine Bull and to the Bulls that confirm it; but since he gives no grounds for his opinion and since he had very "queer" ideas about the Sabbatine Privilege itself, readers of his edition of St. Theresa's autobiography might discredit his opinion. Saint John of the Cross rejoiced to die on Saturday because of this "Sabbatine" Privilege. "Everyone should strive for it," said Pope Pius XI. But there are many who miss this great Privilege. "Although many wear my Scapular," Our Lady complained to the Ven. Dominic of Jesus and Mary, "only a few fulfill the conditions for the Sabbatine Privilege." [R. P. Bauss, Das Fegfeuer (Mainz, 1883) ; cf. Scapulier-Biichlein (Graz, 1892), pg. 34.] Similarly, at her death the saintly Carmelite, Frances of the Blessed Sacrament, exclaimed:

"There are only a few who receive the Privilege because only a few fulfill the conditions." "Is it true that wearers of the Scapular are actually freed from Purgatory on the Saturday after their deaths?" was one of the questions put to her father by Sister Seraphina in the celebrated communications with his suffering soul which caused international comment. "Yes," was the answer, "'when they have truly fulfilled all the obligations."

And yet the privilege is very easily obtained. One must observe chastity according to his state in life. But this must be done, privilege or no privilege, and if one should have the misfortune of falling into grievous sin, it is the opinion of authorities that as soon as he repents and resolves never to sin again, his right to the privilege begins anew. The other condition for obtaining the Sabbatine Indulgence often varies. Our Lady required the daily recitation of the Office, or, if recitation of it should be impossible, the keeping of the fasts of the Church together with abstinence from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays. However, if one cannot observe even this condition, then any other work may be substituted by a confessor, either inside or outside the confessional. (It is to be noted, however, that only a confessor with the special faculty . . . which faculty is often obtained together with the faculty of enrolling in the Scapular but which does not follow from the latter . . . can commute the saying of the Little Office to Abstinence from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is only this latter condition which can be commuted by all confessors. Hence, were the reader told by a confessor with the proper faculties that all he had to do in order to enjoy the Sabbatine Privilege was to fervently kiss his Scapular every day [besides wearing the Scapular and observing chastity according to his state], upon doing so with the right intention the reader would have the assurance of being freed from Purgatory on the Saturday after his death.

It is a semi-triumph for Satan to cause Souls to suffer in Purgatory as the result of unrequited sin. Mary sees them, Her children, in unspeakable suffering in the Heart of Her Son, which longs to give bliss to these predestined ones whom He has ransomed at the price of His Blood, is deterred for a time from being finally united to them. Hence Satan celebrates a victory. How crushing it must be to him, an incarnation of pride, to be vanquished by so simple a Marian devotion as the Scapular! And where the promise of Salvation rendered him powerless against Souls who died in the Scapular, now a further promise almost completely curtails his power. To keep Souls in Purgatory which do not enjoy the Sabbatine Privilege he can use his wiles to prevent suffrages from being offered for them, but, before Mary's new Scapular Promise, he is impotent. How true it is that the Immaculate crushes his head, the seat of pride, with her heel! We are again forcibly reminded of the cloud that appeared to Elias over Mount Carmel, the prophetic vision that gave rise to the title of the Scapular Queen, "Our Lady of Mount Carmel."

For even as that little foot-shaped cloud brought material salvation and cooled the burning earth, so does Mary, through Her humble garment of Carmel, bring spiritual salvation and cool the fires of Purgatory.

Naturally Satan did not allow the Sabbatine Privilege to spread in the Church without a great struggle. In the opposition that has met it from every quarter it is not difficult to discern his forces at work. A privilege that is authoritatively confirmed by the Holy See, for which Popes have almost begged us to enter the Scapular Confraternity, should be utterly beyond question. A Pope granted it and Popes have ratified it: John XXII, Alexander V, Nicholas V, Sixtus, IV, Clement VII, Paul Ill, Saint Pius V, Clement VIII, Leo XI, Paul V, Urban VIII, Alexander VII, Benedict XIV, Pius VI, Pius X, Benedict XV, Pius XI. [Of the nine Popes who have sanctioned the Sabbatine Privilege, note these words of St. Pius V (Superna dispositione . . . Feb. 8, 1565): "With apostolic authority and by tenor of the present, we approve each of the privileges [of the Carmelite Order] and also the Sabbatine."] But even though everyone knows that the indulgence comes through the Church, it has been mysteriously clouded by a discussion as to the authenticity of our present copy of the original bull! As in the case of the Scapular Vision we see a document being attacked and defended again and again, as though with the fall of that document the Sabbatine Privilege would cease to exist. The easiest way to dispel such a cloud is to point out to the querulous that if the Blessed Virgin did not grant the indulgence, what they refuse to attribute to Her they cannot refuse to attribute to the Popes.

Now, it seems that there is more in the Sabbatine Privilege than first appears. In what is probably the greatest of all Marian books, the author of which has been declared a Doctor of the Universal Church, the unusual opinion is voiced that if a Scapular wearer does a little more than Mary requires as conditional for obtaining the Sabbatine Privilege, he will never go to Purgatory at all.

The book is The Glories of Mary by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri.

After the death of St. Alphonsus, there was a clamor for his canonization. When his body was solemnly exhumed, upon removal of the inner coffin covering his remains, a most remarkable sight met the eyes of the examiners: there, in the coffin, where the body and episcopal robes had decomposed, the Scapular lay incorrupt. Was it Mary's testimony to that most unusual statement, in Saint Alphonsus' famous book, concerning the Sabbatine Privilege of Her Scapular?

It is noteworthy that many devotees of the Scapular Queen hope and pray for the grace of dying on Saturday, and receive their request. An edifying incident occurred some "years ago when, despite the opinion of her doctor that she should die on Wednesday, a certain lady earnestly protested that ever since she had sought the Sabbatine Privilege she had begged Mary not to let her die until Saturday, and she felt certain that she would not die until that day. To the doctor's surprise, she did not.  Saint John of the Cross died in 1591 saying: "The Mother of God and of Carmel hastens to Purgatory with grace, on Saturday, and delivers those Souls who have worn Her Scapular. Blessed be such a Lady who wills that, on this day of Saturday, I shall depart from this life!"  Saint Alphonsus asks: "Can we not hope for the same grace if we also do a little more than Mary asked?" Saint Alphonsus himself did more, and with the result that the Mother of God came to his death bed personally to bear his beloved Soul straight to Her Divine Son.

As was said, although all else perished in his tomb, Mary's Scapular remained incorrupt. The Virgin of the Scapular is so full of love for Her children, so unspeakably good and completely condescending, that She is not content with being at their side in death, but She aids them after death. It is little wonder that Pope Leo XIII, as he saw death approaching, called his familiars to his bed and said: "Let us make a novena to Our Lady of the Scapular and I shall be ready to die!"

"Mary's love is limitless and Her mercy extends to all. Nevertheless, She has Her favorites. There is no one in the world for whom She prays more readily than the religious of Mount Carmel and all who are affiliated to them, because She has a particular tenderness for them. The reason is that the religious of Carmel were the first to consecrate themselves to Her. They are Her eldest. And the protection which Mary accords to them does not stop at the end of this life but follows on into the next life. She causes them to avoid the torments of Hell and, if they are in Purgatory, She obtains speedy deliverance for them!"

-----R. P. LEJEUNE

"For the gate of the inner court which looks to the east shall be shut for six days, but on the Sabbath it shall be opened."-----Offertory of the Mass on the Scapular Feast.


HOME-----------------MARY'S INDEX