The Brown Scapular of Our Lady:
Its Origin and Promise
FATHER MILLERIOT, of the Society of Jesus, used often to recount a certain incident that is illustrative of the meaning of Mary's Promise to a missionary.
A certain woman, who had received some favors
from the celebrated Jesuit, violated the principles of honor. When, out
of dread and shame, she determined upon taking her life, she made known
her terrible intention to Father Milleriot. The Jesuit used every
to dissuade her. Utterly blinded by shame and fear, however, the woman
was so possessed by the temptation that the missioner's words had no
Finally, he administered his reserved coup.
"At least," he said in a lowered voice, "at least you will do one little thing for me. Let me give you the Scapular and then promise me that you will not take it off."
For a moment, the sinner hesitated. Then she replied: "I will promise you, Father. I could not refuse one who has been so kind to me."
As she left, wearing the livery of Our Lady, Father Milleriot smiled inwardly and said: "My friend, I have you now. Try as you may to take your life, you shall not succeed." [Enciclopedia, pg. 227; Carm. Rev., III, pg. 323.]
Haunted by the temptation, the poor woman actually did go to the Seine and throw herself into its waters. She was rescued. The next day, she tried again. Again someone saw her fall into the water and again she was unwillingly dragged from the river. This time a severe illness followed. As she lay between life and death, still wearing that miraculous Scapular, grace touched her soul and she realized the horror of what she had been about to do. Father Milleriot found, after her recovery, that in the place of an abandoned sinner was a repentant Saint. He signified this great victory over Satan by simply stating the case: "She remained a devout and fervent client of the Blessed Virgin throughout the rest of her life." [Carm. Rev. III, pg. 323.]
What glory Mary gives to Her priests by Her universal assurance of Salvation! It is the assurance of the Queen of Souls that anyone who dies, clothed in a certain sign, shall not die in mortal sin. An elderly pastor in Vienna recently wrote: "So steadfastly do I believe in the fulfillment of the Promise that in every parish that I erected the Scapular Confraternity I always told the faithful: If your pastor knew that all his parishioners wore the Scapular and died in it, he would be certain that you would meet again in Heaven, without a single exception." [R. P. Hardt, O. Carm., Das hl. Skapulier, Wien, 1936.] Another exemplary pastor says: "Since I have given myself to propagate and spread the Scapular in my parish, I have observed that no one dies without the Sacraments." Mary has made it possible for priests to repeat at death those very words which proclaimed Her Divine Son the Perfect Pastor:
"Those whom Thou gavest me have I kept, and none of them is lost" [John vii, 12]. Moreover, this missionary value of the Scapular does not accrue solely to priests!
The greatest work one can accomplish on this earth is the salvation of souls. Nothing is more precious, nothing more dear to the heart of God, than a human soul. One might become the president of his country, the hero of nations, and it would be as nothing in comparison with the glory of procuring the salvation of a single soul.
During the World War, there was a curve in a certain trench of the Allies into which the enemy could fire. The forces of the central powers had a machine gun positioned so that the bullets struck right into the curve; with steady spurts they kept the trench continually divided by a wall of death. When Father William Doyle, the famous war chaplain, heard that a wounded soldier was dying at the other end of the trench, he was working his way through the trench with the Blessed Sacrament when he came to the death spot. Machine-gun bullets were licking the wall in front of him. He stopped. The hot thought coursed through his brain that a man was dying somewhere farther on and possibly was in need of absolution. Possibly the soul of a soldier was at stake. Hesitating not another moment, to be sure of that soul Father Doyle plunged forward through what seemed a certain death.
Such is the value of a human soul and, here, the Scapular enables the ordinary every-day man, whose unconsecrated hands are neither priestly nor pastoral, infallibly to assure the salvation of numerous fellow men simply by inducing them to the easiest religious practice imaginable!
The following facts, which appeared some years ago in The Irish Catholic, although treating of a young priest might have been your experience or mine. They are illustrative of this power at our disposal in the Scapular.
"Doctor Francis Zaldiia, former President of the Republic of Colombia, was an eminent lawyer very much opposed to the Catholic Church. He always belonged to the liberal party, which in that country, as in most countries, is hostile to the Church. To him, partly, the expulsion of the Jesuits has to be ascribed. Nevertheless, he had a son who was educated very carefully and finished his studies at the American College at Rome. The young Colombian studied for the priesthood and was particularly devoted to the most holy Virgin. Although he prayed to Our Lady incessantly for the conversion of his father, all his efforts seemed in vain.
"After the young cleric had been ordained a priest, he returned to his native country. A few years after his son's return, the old ex-President became hopelessly sick, but gave no indication that he wished to die as a Christian; on the contrary he awaited death unconcernedly. This almost exasperated the priestly son who stood near the dying father's bed. Making a final effort, the young priest said painfully: 'Dear Father, what human skill could do has been done. Do you not want any spiritual assistance whatever? Please, take this Scapular!' The dying president, accepting the offered Scapular, soon made his confession and declared that he wished to die a son of Mother Church!" [Cf. Carm. Rev., V, pg. 184.]
The Scapular is easy to take and yet spiritually transforming after it is taken. That is how we discover Mary in its Promise. She is so easily loved and, by the very fact that She is loved, She unites us to God!
Just as Mary's Motherhood is not limited only to Catholics but is extended to all men; so the missionary value of the Scapular extends not only to Catholics. Many miracles of conversion have been wrought in favor of good non-Catholics who, living according to their proper moral code, have been induced to practice the Scapular devotion out of reverence for God's Mother. What is the Scapular Promise but a corroboration of that truth which the Catholic Church has taught for centuries, that a soul dying with devotion to the Mother of God cannot possibly die in mortal sin?
The flowing hours of our lives might be likened to an escalator, upon which God has placed us. The eyes of our souls may be turned straight up to God, or partially to God, partially to the side, or down. God is at the top and the degree to which we keep ourselves turned to Him is the degree to which we render Him glory; if we reach the end facing Him directly, we immediately see Him face to face for all eternity; if we reach there facing Him but partially, we fall into Purgatory until we are acclimated to behold His infinite Beauty directly; and if we come to the end with our backs to God, having deliberately refused to look at Him during life, we stay that way forever; we have died in mortal sin and have thereby damned ourselves.
But a person who dies with devotion to the Mother of God could not have his back completely turned to Her Son; such a thing is incompatible. Nor is this merely true for those Baptized in the Church. Anyone who dies with sentiments of homage, confidence, and love for the Blessed Virgin, must die with at least some like sentiments of confidence and love towards God of whom Mary is a reflection. Hence, we can lead non-Catholics to God through the Scapular just as we can lead Catholics to Him, if we can persuade non-Catholics to be thus devout to the Blessed Virgin. Thus we may be able to get a non-Catholic to wear the Scapular who desires to possess the faith but cannot as yet bow to certain dogmas; it will assure him of Mary's intercession. Perhaps others can be enticed by the lovableness of so sweet a Mother to practice devotion to Her, and at very least so simple a devotion as that of wearing the Scapular. God revealed to Saint Gertrude that He has made Mary so lovable that She may be a Divine enticement to souls. A non-Catholic, faced with miracles wrought through the Scapular and the very logic of so sweet a practice, may be led to it and thus be assured of dying in the state of Grace [and known how only to Him, united to His Holy Church].
There are many examples of the Scapular Promise working its wonders in the souls of non-Catholics. A very recent one occurred at the Bellevue Hospital in New York. The prior of the house of studies of a religious Order, a very close friend of the present author, solemnly testifies to an incident which inaugurated his administration of the Sacrament of Extreme Unction there. He had just come back from Rome and was at once appointed to duty at the Bellevue. The morning came when, for the first time, the older priest left him alone to take care of any sick-calls. He was hoping against hope there would not be any. But one came. Nervously he prepared for it and was then led into a certain ward to the bed of a patient who, he believed, had called for a priest. Approaching the bed he asked the dying man if he wished to make his confession. "I am not a Catholic," came the surprising reply. Confused, the young priest went to the nurse and said, "Nurse, there must be some mistake; this man says that he is not a Catholic." Well, he is wearing the Scapular, Father," the nurse rejoined.
The priest returned to the bed. "If you are not a Catholic," he inquired, "why are you wearing the Scapular?"
"Because some Catholic sisters, who begged alms near our factory, asked me to wear it," came the slow answer.
"Well, would you like to be a Catholic?" asked the priest.
"Father," came the unusual answer, "there is nothing I would like better!" And he died, newly Baptized, a few days later.
The Venerable Francis Yepes, the brother of Saint John of the Cross, used to practice his lay-apostolate by getting many to wear the Scapular. He not only made that Sign of Mary a means of bringing himself closer to his Mother but he used it to give Her souls to save.
"One night," Father Velasco-----his biographer-----tells us, "while he was praying for the conversion of sinners, infernal spirits came to assail him with the most frightful temptations. Finally, seeing the uselessness of their efforts they cried to him in rage: 'What have we done to you that you torment us so cruelly? Why do you persuade so many persons to wear and to venerate the Scapular of Carmel? Wait until you fall into our power! You shall pay dearly for it!' But the venerable tertiary did not allow himself to be intimidated and quietly finished his prayer. Then he took the discipline. Now, while he was flagellating himself, his Scapular was flicked off and he had no sooner hastened to pick it up and replace it than he heard a fury of demons, as though they felt cheated, crying: 'Take it off! Take off that Habit which snatches so many souls from us! All those clothed in it die piously and escape us!' They then cried that three things particularly torment them: the first is the name of Jesus; the second the name of Mary; the third, the Scapular of Carmel." [ Cf. Savaria, pg. 179.]
Hence the Scapular is a sword in the hands of the lay apostles as well as in the hands of priests, and it is at once a means of victory and an assurance of success.
In the foreign missions, this value of the Scapular in procuring and assuring the salvation of souls seems to have been more evident and more appreciated than here at home where we think less often of the value of saving souls at all. Missionaries seem to have sensed this value of Mary's Promise and they have carried that Sign of Salvation to the four corners of the earth.
The Scapular Medal was first given because of a missionary's explanation to the Holy Father of the unsightliness and inconvenience of the cloth Scapulars as worn by natives in tropical zones. Often have missionaries been the witnesses of most unusual miracles wrought through the Scapular and it is largely to them that one can ascribe the "catholicity" of this, Mary's greatest devotion. Saint Peter Claver, in his unsurpassed labors for the conquest of souls, used the Scapular as an instrument of Divine Providence. In an apotheosis he is pictured at the moment of his death with the Crucifix in his hand and the Scapular on his breast, and around his bed are many Negroes with the Scapular hanging about their necks, kissing the feet and hands of the Sainted missionary.
In pioneer days when American Indians had been somewhat Christianized by missionaries while more selfish white men came to be their hated enemies, a most unusual sight greeted investigators at the battle site after Custer's celebrated stand. Strewn with massacred soldiers, the field presented a most harrowing scene of butchery. But among the lifeless, bloody forms, one body had been signally respected. It was that of Colonel Keogh, an Irishman of deep Catholic faith, which was propped against a tree. The garments over the Colonel's breast had been torn open ; there, carefully and neatly disposed by savage hands, was the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
The American correspondent of L'Univers commented that "without doubt the Sacred Badge awakened recollections of the teachings of some devoted missionary; one could see that several of the savages had assisted in bearing the body of an enemy, only a few moments before an object of detestation, to a sheltered spot; there placing it in a reclining position, the head leaning against a tree, they had carefully arranged the Badge, so loved by the deceased, upon his breast." [Carm. Rev., IV, pg. 70; Chroniques du Carmel, July, 1892.]
Universal, Marian, this little vehicle of a great Promise has been realized to have a tremendous value in the greatest of all human-Divine works: the salvation of souls.
God made His Mother the great missionary at the foot of the Cross on Calvary. To understand the wherefore of Her Scapular's being an instrument of Divine Providence in the salvation of souls, we have to go back to that terrible mount. It is there that we learn the meaning of the human soul and the meaning of Mary's universal motherhood.
To grasp the whole significance of the Passion, however, we need only pause at the tenth station: Jesus is stripped of His garments. For that station was the moment of supreme sacrifice. The Son of God was about to lay down his life. Oh! what a horrible sight met the gaze of His Mother as the soldiers roughly tore off His vestment: a body mangled from head to foot! That vestment, made by Her hands, became a summation of the complete Passion: the soldiers removed the crown of thorns to get it off, and then replaced it; having hardened in the scourge-wounds as the cloth was roughly pulled away it cruelly tore those wounds open anew; once fresh from Mary's hands, it was now dust-covered and its shoulders worn and blood-soaked from the painful carrying of the Cross; He was being stripped to be crucified. This was a most terrible moment. Anyone can appreciate that fact who has experienced those crowded seconds that prelude some great sacrifice or suffering.
Jesus did not suffer this anguish alone. His Mother, She who had so lovingly clothed Him in that cloak made by Her own hands, felt all those ghastly wounds opened in Her Immaculate Heart. We are told by the Saints how Our Lord, due to the perfection of His Body, suffered unspeakably more pain from each wound than we, whose sensibility to pain has been dulled, can ever realize. But Mary knew. To one who knows of the love of Mary for Jesus, is it not enough to say that "Mary stood beneath the Cross, and Mary knew!"?
But look at that bloody garment over which the soldiers are fulfilling a prophecy as they roll their dice. Does it mean anything to us? It means that we are saved! It means that for us the Son of God has mounted the Cross! He has taken off His garment to go into the Valley of Death. Nay, it means more than our Salvation; it means that the Son of God, Whose Sacred Heart is about to be opened with a spear, loves us so much that He unnecessarily suffered a cruel scourging, a thorn-crowning, a stripping, all to prove to us that He loves us more than our self-interested hearts can comprehend. Do we not see those clots of Precious Blood upon the seamless robe His Mother made?
But what is Our Lord saying from the Cross? Even those tossing the dice pause to look up. The Crucified turns His tormented head to gaze down at the Woman [ah! who can describe Her as She stands and gazes at Him!] and He says to Her: "Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy Mother."
What strange words are these! Is not He, the Crucified God, Mary's only Son? Is it not She who made that seamless garment which, as it lies on the ground, speaks so eloquently of a Bloody confirmation of Love? Surely this nailed Christ is Her only Son, possessing Her whole heart! But then, suddenly we hear the heart-rending cry: "I thirst!" We understand. One is standing there who is achieving the mission of co-Redemptrix and receiving that of Universal Mediatrix. "Mother, all the souls so dearly purchased at the price of this suffering are the object of My desire. You love Me so dearly that I commission you to bring them to Me that thus My pierced Heart may receive them. Satan has no dominion over you; I make them your children; save them by your prayers ! Mother! I thirst for souls!"
When Mary ascended into Heaven, how She must have longed to have men turn to Her that She might thus save them! How She must have longed to see men realize that they needed but to turn to Her, and Her prayers would vanquish Satan! By means of a family brought forth in a prophecy and finally nourished in all the mysteries of its fulfillment, She stooped from Heaven and gathered us into it-----beneath Her Mantle and next to Her Most Pure Heart. "Receive, my beloved son, this Scapular of my family. Whosoever dies therein shall not suffer eternal fire!"
Like the hand of an invincible missionary, Our
Lady's Scapular reaches through the world, vanquishing Satan
What a glory" it is for us, Her children, to be enabled by it to become
partners with Her in satisfying the thirst of Her Divine Son, assuring
the Salvation of many souls by simply getting them to wear the Scapular
which She has given us! Is it any wonder that Saint Conrad, canonized
Pope Pius XI, should have distributed the Scapular to as many visitors
as possible, during his forty years as porter of a Capuchin monastery?
Or that laymen, such as Venerable Francis Yepes, should seize the
as an instrument placed in their hands by Mary to achieve the greatest
work on earth-----the
work Christ was about when He taught in Palestine and died on a Cross?
Or that priests, such as several of the author's acquaintance, should
carry the Scapular with them in case of sick-calls? Or that pastors
preach the Scapular until reasonably sure that all the souls entrusted
to them shall die under Mary's Promise? The garment Mary made for the
became a symbol of Salvation and the garment She has made for the
has become an assurance of Salvation, through Her Promise. It seems
thus the Mediatrix of all Graces comes from the foot of the Cross to
us, Her children, participation in the very mission which She received
there beneath the Cross of Her Son. He said: "Mother, behold thy son!"
She has said: "My beloved children, receive this Scapular of our
WHOSOEVER dies clothed in this SHALL NOT SUFFER THE FIRES OF HELL."
"One purpose for which the Blessed Virgin was created Mother of God is that She may obtain the salvation of many who, on account of weakness and wickedness, could not be saved according to the rigor of Divine justice but might be so with the help of this merciful Mother's powerful intercession."
-----ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
"As amongst all the blessed spirits there is not one that loves God more than Mary, so we neither have nor can have anyone who, after God, loves us as much as this loving M other; and if we concentrate all the love that mothers bear their children, husbands and wives one another, all the love of Angels and Saints for their clients, it does not equal the love of Mary towards a single soul."
-----ST. ALPHONSUS LIGOURI
"As the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour, so, on the other hand, Mary goes about seeking whom She may save and to whom She may give life."
"Let us enkindle in ourselves a holy zeal for propagating, and causing to be observed with all possible perfection, this devotion which is so dear to Mary and so salutary for man. Through the Scapular, let us give Our Lady of Mount Carmel some new children, and to Heaven, therefore, some new citizens who will express their acknowledgment for all eternity."
-----RAPHAEL OF ST. JOSEPH, O.D.C.