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John Paul II and the Brown Scapular

When Pope John Paul II was shot and operated on in 1981, he told doctors not to remove the brown scapular he was wearing. [The brown scapular is] One of the two "most recommended" devotions of the Church ...  (Inside the Vatican, July 10, 2001)


Holy Father, John Paul II still wearing his same brown scapular - 70 years later

Scapular of Carmel,  A Treasure for the Church ... by Pope John Paul II, Apr 4, 2001

(click titles)


"... I therefore learned with deep joy that the two branches of the Order of Carmel, the ancient and the reformed, intend to express their filial love for their Patroness by dedicating the year 2001 to her, invoked as the Flower of Carmel, Mother and Guide on the way of holiness. In this regard, I cannot fail to stress a happy coincidence:  the celebration of this Marian year for the whole of Carmel is taking place, according to a venerable tradition of the Order itself, on the 750th anniversary of the bestowal of the Scapular. This celebration is therefore a marvellous occasion for the entire Carmelite Family to deepen not only its Marian spirituality, but to live it more and more in the light of the place which the Virgin Mother of God and of mankind holds in the mystery of Christ and the Church, and therefore to follow her who is the "Star of Evangelization" (cf. Novo millennio ineunte, n. 58) ..."


I, too, have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time! Out of my love for our common heavenly Mother, whose protection I constantly experience, I hope that this Marian year will help all the men and women religious of Carmel and the devout faithful who venerate her with filial affection to grow in her love and to radiate to the world the presence of this Woman of silence and prayer, invoked as Mother of Mercy, Mother of Hope and Grace ..."   Pope John Paul II, March 25, 2001


To order the brown scapular, please visit the Friends of Carmel website by linking here.

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History of Brown Scapular

The Brown Scapular is a Roman Catholic devotion to Mary under her title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is worn as a sign of love and devotion for the Mother of God. The Scapular was presented by Our Lady to St. Simon Stock, the Father General of the Carmelite Order, on July 16, 1251. Mary stated the following promise to him concerning the Scapular: "Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace. Another important aspect of wearing the Scapular is the Sabbatine Privilege. This concerns a promise made by Our Lady to Pope John XXII. In a papal letter he issued, he recounted a vision that he had had. He stated that the Blessed Virgin had said to him in this vision, concerning those who wear the Brown Scapular: "I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in Purgatory, I shall free, so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting." According to Church tradition, there are three conditions necessary to participate in this Privilege and share in the other spiritual benefits of the Scapular: wear the Brown Scapular, observe chastity according to your state in life, and pray the Rosary. In addition to the Sabbatine Privilege, enrollment in the Brown Scapular also makes a person part of the Carmelite family throughout the world. They therefore share in all of the prayers and good works of the Carmelite Orders. Participation in the Carmelite family also, of course, places you in a special relationship with the Carmelite saints, especially St. Elijah, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, and, most importantly, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.


Many popes and saints have strongly recommended wearing, the Brown Scapular to the Catholic Faithful, including St. Robert Bellarmine, Pope John XXII, Pope Pius Xl, and Pope Benedict XV. For example, St. Alphonsus said: "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. Pope Pius XII went so far as to say: "The Scapular is a practice of piety which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone, and has spread widely among the faithful of Christ to their spiritual profit." In our own times, Pope Paul VI said: "Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin...the Rosary and the Scapular of Carmel" and in another place referred to the Scapular as: "so highly recommended by Our illustrious predecessors." In order to receive the spiritual blessings associated with the Scapular, it is necessary to be formally enrolled in the Brown Scapular by either a priest or a lay person who has been given this faculty. Once enrolled, the enrollment is for life and need not be repeated. Anyone, adult or infant, who has not previously been enrolled may be enrolled in the Brown Scapular. Participation in this devotion is open to non-Catholics as well.

Carmelite Hopes Anniversary Renews Popular Devotion

Vatican City (CNS) - Karol Wojtyla received the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel when he was about 10 years old.  As Pope John Paul II, he is still wearing it, 70 years later.


The Pope is expected to write about the scapular and Marian devotion in the coming months as Carmelites around the world mark what may be the 750th anniversary of the scapular.


The anniversary is connected to a pious tradition that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite, in 1251 and gave him the scapular, an apron-like brown piece of fabric that fits over the head.


Over time, lay people joining confraternities connected with the Carmelites also received the scapular.


Today the small scapular has two stamp-sized cards - one with a picture of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the other of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or of St. Simon - sewn onto brown fabric and connected with brown ribbons.


The Carmelite Priest, a native of Connecticut, promotes the scapular, but with a clear view of reaching modern men and women and ensuring the devotion does not stray into superstition.


The traditional story about the vision says Mary told St. Simon that whoever wore the scapular would be saved from the fires of hell.


Although not nearly as popular as it was 40 years ago, the scapular is still second only to the rosary as a frequently used Marian devotion, Father Valabek said.


While people are technically enrolled in the scapular confraternity, when they received it, there is no longer a central registry of their names and therefore, no way to know how many people use the devotion.


Father Valabek hinted that he and other Carmelites would like to see a return to the registry and, even more, a renewed awareness of the scapular's connection to the Carmelite community and its spirituality.


Pope John Paul knew the connection even as a youth.


In his 1996 book, "Gift and Mystery", he wrote of the "Marian thread" running through his youth and the development of his vocation to the priesthood.


"On a hilltop in Wadowice," his hometown, "there was a Carmelite monastery," the Pope wrote.  "People from Wadowice would go there in great numbers, and this was reflected in the widespread use of the scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.


"I, too, received the scapular, I think at the age of 10, and I still wear it, "he wrote.


The scapular's origin was as part of the Carmelite habit, a symbol of belonging to the order and living its rule.


The tradition that Mary told St. Simon anyone wearing it would not go to hell makes sense if one realizes that wearing the scapular meant striving with one's whole being to live the Gospel, Father Valabek said.


The scapular "has hit hard times, like many popular devotions," Father Valabek said, but he is hopeful the anniversary celebration will mark its return among Catholics and a new focus on Carmelite spirituality.