I heard a joke recently that I think is worth passing on: Two well-armed pirate ships with large crews are closing in on a ship. The first mate alerts the captain of the ship that they are about to be attacked. The captain immediately barks out an order to the first mate: “Bring me my red shirt!” A fierce battle takes place and the captain and his crew defeat the attacking pirates. The first mate then asks the captain why he insisted on wearing his red shirt. The captain responds, “I put on my red shirt because if I would have been wounded in battle, my men would not have been able to see my blood and lose heart.” The following week, the first mate rushes up to the captain and tells him that an entire fleet of well-armed pirate ships – a dozen in all – with large crews, is closing in on the ship. The captain immediately shouts out an order to the first mate: “Bring me my I brown pants!”
Although, I don’t own a pair of brown pants, there is a brown garment that I do own and wear 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (except when I take a shower). Do you know what garment I’m referring to?
It’s my Brown Scapular.
A lot of Catholics are not familiar with the Brown Scapular (of Our Lady of Mount Carmel). On July 16, 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared (with a multitude of angels) to St. Simon Stock. While holding a Brown Scapular, our Lady made this promise:
“Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”
This promise was a guarantee that any person who dies wearing the Brown Scapular will go to Heaven (although the person may still have to pass through Purgatory first).
The Brown Scapular is a sacramental that is sometimes referred to as “Our Lady’s Garment.” It is made from two small pieces of brown woolen cloth. No picture or cover for the cloth pieces is necessary. The two pieces of cloth are attached to a string, chain, or any type of cord. The Scapular is worn around the neck (over the head on the shoulders) with one piece of cloth on the back and the other piece on the chest.
There are only two conditions that have to be met before a person can benefit from the promise of the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:
1. Valid enrollment in the Brown Scapular. Any one of the faithful (including infants) can be enrolled in the Brown Scapular by a priest. A person only needs to be enrolled in the Brown Scapular once.
2. Proper wearing of the Brown Scapular. The person enrolled must wear the Scapular over the shoulders, one piece in front and one in back. No special daily or periodic prayers are required.
In today’s sophisticated and technologically advanced society, most people would say: “It’s just a cloth. How can a couple pieces of brown cloth save a person from the fires of hell?”
There are very few people in the world who would question a piece of paper with $100 imprinted on it (with green and black ink), and issued by the United States Treasury. Lay that piece of paper on any counter in the world and you will receive the equivalent of $100 in goods or services. We have the utmost faith in that piece of paper, despite the fact that it’s only backed by a government made up of mortal sinful men and woman.
How can we develop the same faith in the Brown Scapular that we have in the $100 bill?
Here’s what St. Alphonsus de Liguori had to say about the Brown Scapular:
“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.”
Who was St. Alphonsus de Liguori? He was a Lawyer, Bishop, Doctor of the Church, and the founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. He was also a brilliant theologian who constantly reminded his fellow Catholics of the value of the holy Rosary and the Brown Scapular – “simple tools” given to us by God and our Blessed Mother to assist us with our daily struggles and temptations.
St. Alphonsus de Liguori died in 1787 at the age of 91. At the time of his death he was wearing his Brown Scapular. Over 50 years after his death, his body was exhumed from his grave (a common practice during the process of a canonization). At that time, his Brown Scapular was found to be completely intact, while his priestly vestments and flesh had rotted away. Only his skeleton and Scapular remained. St. Alphonsus de Liguori was canonized in 1839.
St. John Bosco, who died in 1888 at the age of 72, was also buried with his Scapular around his neck. When his body was exhumed in 1929 (during the process of canonization) his Brown Scapular was found intact, while his priestly vestments and flesh had completely decayed and were gone. All that was left was his skeleton and Scapular. (Both of the Scapulars that were worn by St. Alphonsus de Liguori and St. John Bosco were made with cheaper fabric than their priestly vestments.) St. John Bosko was canonized in 1934.
One of the greatest of all of the Scapular miracles involved a pope who had a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Brown Scapular. Pope Gregory X was buried on January 10, 1276 (25 years after the Blessed Mother gave the Brown Scapular to St. Simon Stock).
In 1830, 554 years after his death, Pope Gregory X’s mortal remains were removed from his casket to be placed in a new casket. At that time, Pope Gregory’s Brown Scapular was found to be intact, while his priestly vestments and flesh were gone. Today, 725 years after Pope Gregory X was buried with his Brown Scapular, anyone can see his Scapular, perfectly preserved, in a museum at Arezzo, Italy.
In the spiritual realm, there are well-armed “pirates” who are constantly plotting to capture and destroy your soul. The garment that has been chosen by the Mother of God to help protect you from those pirates is the Brown Scapular.
Do you remember that old American Express slogan, “Don’t leave home without it!”? Well, that also applies to the Brown Scapular – Don’t leave home without it!