What is the Scapular?
The Scapular is a small replica of the religious habit consisting of two pieces of wool connected by ribbons and worn under one's clothes so that one piece hangs in front and the other in back. The Scapular is actually a miniature form of a monk's habit. Along with the Rosary and the Miraculous Medal, the Scapular is one of the chief Marian sacramentals. A sacramental is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart, to remit venial sin.
What is its origin?
In 1251 Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock. As the Holy Virgin handed St. Simon the brown woolen Scapular She spoke these words: “This shall be the privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.” In time, the Church extended this magnificent privilege to all the laity who are willing to be invested in the Brown Scapular of the Carmelites, and who perpetually wear it.
Why wear the Scapular?
Our Lady Herself said, “Take this Scapular.” Wearing the Scapular indicates that we place ourselves under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin. The first Scapular one wears must be blessed and imposed by a Priest using the formula contained in the Roman ritual for reception into the Confraternity of the Scapular. The priest says: “Receive this blessed habit; praying the most holy Virgin, that by Her merits thou mayest wear it without stain; and that She may guard thee from all evil and bring thee to life everlasting.” R. Amen. After receiving the initial Scapular, subsequent Scapulars need not be blessed as the blessing and imposition are attached to the wearer for life.
The Sabbatine Privilege
The Scapular offers the Sabbatine Privilege which consists essentially in the early liberation from Purgatory through the special intercession of Mary, which She graciously exercises in favor of Her devoted servants on the day consecrated to Her, Saturday.
There are three conditions for the gaining of the Sabbatine Privilege. They are:
(1) One must wear the scapular.
(2) One must observe chastity according to one’s state in life.
(3) Recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (The Rosary or some other pious work can be substituted for the Office of Our Lady. The faculty to sanction this change was granted to ALL CONFESSORS by Pope Leo XIII in the Decree of the Congregation of Indulgences in June of 1901).
Pope St. John Paul II on the Scapular:
On March 27, 2001, Pope St. John Paul II wrote in a letter to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the brown scapular: “I, too, have carried the Carmel scapular over my heart for a long time!”
He also wrote: “The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother's loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a “habit". Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church."
. . .
“Two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life's journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honor on certain occasions, but must become a "habit", that is, a permanent orientation of one's own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the "covenant" and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother."