Introduction to Scapulars

A scapular is a sacramental that looks like two small pieces of wool cloth connected by string that is worn over the neck, either under or over one's clothing (typically under the clothing), such that one piece of cloth hangs over the chest, and the second piece of cloth hangs over the back. They derive from the scapulars which make up part of monastics' religious habits -- that ankle-length (front and back), shoulder-wide, apron-like part of the habit that basically consists of a long rectangular piece of material with a hole for the head (some of them have hoods and some had ties under the arms). Monastic scapulars came, over time, to be called jugum Christi (the yoke of Christ), and receiving the scapular (becoming "invested") took on solemn meaning. Abbreviated forms of the full monastic scapulars were to be worn even at night.

In addition to regular monastics of the First Order (i.e., friars) and Second Order (cloistered nuns), laity attached themselves to various religious orders, too, in what are called "Third Orders." Some lay members of Third orders -- "tertiaries" -- are "Third Order Religious" who live in a monastic community and generally take vows; most others are "Third Order Secular" who live in the world and generally make solemn promises. In the beginning, many of these lay people were invested with the full habit; later, they came to wear only the very small scapulars, as seen at left, under their clothing. Scapular

In addition to these Third Orders, Confraternities of lay-people (married or single -- just "regular Catholics") developed whose members were invested with Scapulars of Religious Orders to which they were attached. It is these scapulars for lay people belonging to a Confraternity or a Third Order that one generally thinks of when one hears the word "scapular."

Some scapulars have privileges and indulgences attached to wearing them, but like any sacramental (holy water, blessed candles, etc.), scapulars are not magic; their efficacy depends on the proper intentions and faith of the wearer. Only by following through on the promises one makes when becoming invested can the benefits associated with them be had. They are best thought of as signs of a commitment to do certain things and of one's being a part of a religious community. They act as reminders, too, of these things they signify and of the Saints who are parts of the religious community in question. They are reminders to behave with holiness.

How it Works and Where to get them

The first thing you need to do is to find out if enrollment in a particular Confraternity is necessary before wearing one with the rightful expectation of spiritual benefit. This varies with the type of scapular, but most scapulars do not require any sort of enrollment that your parish priest can't handle for you.

You can buy scapulars from Catholic Gift Shops, Catholic mail order catalogues, etc. They're very inexpensive, and you can also often find free ones from various places, such as the religious Order with which the desired scapular is associated or from charitable organizations and souls who make them available. Just do a Search for "Free Scapulars." Know, though, that free scapulars are often poorly made, are not made of wool, and are not of traditional design. It is best if you can find a traditional source for your scapulars, especially the Brown Scapular.

After you get your scapular, you must have it blessed by a priest. After it's been blessed, you then become "invested" when the priest recites certain prayers (different scapulars have different prayers for investement). Many scapulars do not require investment at all, but simply need to be blessed -- as do all scapulars -- and then used properly per the directions below.

You only need to have your first scapular blessed; it it wears out and you need to replace it, the blessing "transfers" to replacements. (The proper way to get rid of worn out scapulars -- or any sacramental -- is to either burn it or bury it.)

Scapular medal sometimes used to replace cloth scapulars
Scapulars can also later be replaced by a religious medal called the "Scapular Medal" (see picture at right), but if this is done, the new medal must be blessed. This medal must "show the image of Our Most Holy Redeemer, Jesus Christ, showing His Sacred Heart, and the obverse that of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary," according to a decree of Pope St. Pius X (see picture at right).

Below are some of the different types of scapulars. The religious Orders they are associated with and the date of the scapular's origin appear in italics under the Scapular's popular name.

Brown Scapular
Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Carmelites)
A.D. 1251

"The Brown Scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel," associated with the Carmelite Order, is the most well-known. In A.D. 16 July 1251, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock in Cambridge, England after he prayed for help for his Order. She appeared to him with the scapular and said, "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant."

Whether this happened exactly in this way or not (St. Simon's original descriptions of the vision are not extant and the wording may not be exact), the Scapular was given to St. Simon Stock, and the devotion spread and was well-known by the 16th c. What can be safely believed because of papal decree is the promise known as the "Sabbatine Privilege." The Sabbatine Privilege is the promise that Our Lady will intercede and pray for those in Purgatory who, in earthly life:

bullet wore the Scapular in good faith;
bullet were chaste according to their state in life;
bullet daily recited the Divine Office or, with the permission of one's Confessor, the Little Office of Our Lady [a shorter form of the Divine Office in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, used by certain religious orders and laity. It is similar to the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Roman Breviary] or the Rosary; and
bullet departed earthly life in charity.

You can be enrolled in the Confraternity of our Lady of Mount Carmel by any valid priest. Just obtain a scapular, take it to him to have it blessed, and express your desire for enrollment.

Warning: Some falsely believe that wearing the Brown Scapular offers some sort of guarantee of salvation because of the legendary words attributed to Our Lady. This is against Church teaching, is superstitious and a grave error. Sacramentals are not magical ways to manipulate God; they are Church-instituted rituals/objects that remind us of what we are supposed to be doing/thinking of, that depend on the faith, hope and love of the user, and which help prepare us to receive God's saving grace.

For more information on the Brown Scapular...Click Here

Blue Scapular
Clerics Regular (Theatines)
A.D. 1605

"The Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception" originated with the foundress of the Theatine Order of nuns, Venerable Ursula Benicasa. To her, Christ promised favor to that Order and she asked Him to extend those promises to those who associated themselves with the Order through the faithful wearing of the Scapular. The Blue Scapular is worn for the conversion of sinners.

Enrollment in the Theatine Confraternity is necessary for investment with this scapular.

Red Scapular
Priests of the Mission (Lazarists)
A.D. 1846

"The Red Scapular of the Passion" came about when a Sister of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul had a vision of Christ in 1846 in which He promised an increase in the theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity) of those who wore the scapular faithfully and contemplated His Passion. One side of the scapular shows Christ on the Cross, with the words, ""Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Save us"; the other side shows the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of His mother with the words, "Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, protect us."

Pope Pius IX granted the Priests of the Mission ("Lazarists") the faculty of investing the faithful with this scapular, and the Superior General of the Lazarists may allow other priests this faculty.

Black Scapular
Order of Friar Servants of Mary (Servites)
A.D. 1240

"The Black Scapular of the Seven Dolors of Mary," or "The Our Lady of Sorrows Scapular," has on its front a depiction of Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady appeared to seven rich and prominent citizens of Florence who decided to give up their worldly possessions and follow Christ, promising to honor His Mother in her sorrows. Thus began the Servite Order. Mary gave them the Servite habit and said that "these garments shall be to you a perpetual memory of the sufferings of my heart." This is the more common Black Scapular.

The General of the Servite Order may grant the faculty of investment with this scapular to other priests.

Black Scapular
Discalced Clerks of the Most Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
ca. A.D. 1720

St. Paul of the Cross, before founding the Congregation of the Passionists, received in apparitions the black habit of the order with the badge on the breast. Later, after the foundation of the congregation, the Passionist Fathers gave the faithful who wished to associate themselves more closely with their order a black scapular in honour of the Passion of Christ. "The Black Scapular of the Passion" has a replica of the emblem worn on the habits of the Passionists. It includes the words "Jesu XPI Passio" and below "sit semper in cordibus nostris."

The Superior General of the Passionists may grant to other priests the faculty to bless and invest someone with this scapular.

White Scapular
Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians)
A.D. 1198

"The Scapular of the Most Blessed Trinity" is the badge of the members of the Confraternity of The Most Blessed Trinity. Its front depicts a red and blue Cross, and it first came about in 1198 when a Spanish priest, John of Matha, had a vision of an angel wearing a white robe adorned with a Cross whose vertical line was red and whose cross-beam was blue (this Cross design came to be on the habit of the Trinitarian Order). This Scapular was first used for the purposes of of increasing action to "ransom the captives" -- the Christians taken prisoner by Muslims.

The General of the Trinitarians may grant the faculty of investment with this scapular to other priests.

Green Scapular or Scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (Paulists)
A.D. 1840

In 1840, Mary appeared to Sister Justine Bisqueyburu (a Seminary Sister of the Daughters of Charity) in Paris, France and commended the Green Scapular to her. It's known as "the Scapular of Conversion," and its promises are the strengthening of faith, protection against Satan, a happy death for Catholics, and, most of all, for conversion for those outside the Church. It's to be worn or carried by the faithful, or given to an unbeliever for their conversion. The following prayer is to be said daily by the wearer:

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death

If the scapular is given to an unbeliever for their conversion, the person giving the scapular prays the prayer for them if the unbeliever does not want to pray the prayer himself. If the unbeliever does not want the scapular, it may be hidden in their vicinity and the prayers said for him. Enrollment in a Confraternity is not necessary for this scapular, but the scapular should be blessed by a priest before use.


The Green Scapular

By Robert A. Macdonald, C.Ss.R., written 1948

It is my conviction, that despite all the wars, the threats and the horror of Communism, we are living in the happiest of centuries. Never since the days that she taught the Infant Jesus to pray has the Mother of God been closer to the earth. We are living in the Age of Mary. Countless signs show us that she has come down from the Galilean hills of heaven to give us a new Bethlehem, a reborn Christ in the hearts of men. Germany, Italy, Portugal and France have been singularly blessed by her gentle presence. From all sides witnesses spring up to attest with wondrous proofs, her presence among us. She is walking on the earth!
However, there is a dark side to the picture today, the darkness of the beast. He prowls to trample and destroy. Never has he been so apparent. His time is growing short. No one knows better than he. He has never forgotten the prophecy in the garden: "I will put enmities between thee and the woman... she shall crush thy head" (Gen. 3:15).

He realizes well what the coming of Mary means to him and his empire. God alone knows the furious activity of hell, the rage with which it strives to make this world a madhouse of hate. How he must hate the tender Virgin as she journeys from country to country. His power has been so great that he thought God had abandoned the world because of its unbelief. He was hopeful of finally conquering the world, of snatching souls from the nail-scarred Hands of Christ. Then came Lourdes, then Fatima and, today, the Mother of God sitting at the bedside of a sick world.
For years he has succeeded in hiding the beautiful devotion of her Immaculate Heart in the Green Scapular. I am sure that most of you have heard of this matchless devotion only lately. Yet the good Sister to whom it was revealed died over forty years ago. This is not surprising. See how well the evil spirit hid the marvels of Fatima although Our Lady's power flamed in the heavens before fifty thousand men and women.

Let me tell you the story of how I discovered the Green Scapular. This is my only way of trying to spread a true and tender love to her Immaculate Heart and of paying my debt to her. Seven years ago, before penicillin was in use, I was lying in a hospital very ill with pneumonia. I began to hemorrhage and the doctors decided to operate as a last resource. Then a little nun came into my room.

"Father, have you great faith in the Mother of God, especially in her Immaculate Heart? If so, you can be cured."
"How, Sister?"
"Through the Green Scapular."
"What is that?"
"Four years ago, Father, I was operated on for cancer. I was so filled with it, that they just closed me up and sent me away to die. Then I prayed to Our Lady of the Green Scapular; grew tired of waiting to die and came back to work. I am cured, Father. Do you want me to give you a Scapular?"
"Please, Sister."

With that she put one over my head. A feeling of tremendous confidence poured into me and the bleeding stopped. Two days later, in the X-ray room, they asked me when the hemorrhage had ceased. When I replied that it was a matter of a couple of days, they expressed great surprise.
"Your have a wound that is six months healed and there is no other mark." Today even the scars are gone. No wonder I speak of an un-payable debt to her Immaculate Heart. Since then I have done everything possible to foster this devotion. To my great joy and amazement, those to whom I have spoken of the Green Scapular have become more zealous than I. Never have I seen the equal of the faith and confidence of these new apostles of Mary. The tremendous fervor of the crusades must have been like it.

During May I asked the rector of St. Patrick's, Toronto, for permission to speak of it at the Wednesday devotions. I had a thousand Green Scapulars on hand, but no one thought that more than thirty would be asked for. The thousand were gone the first morning. The room where we distributed them was so jammed that I feared someone would be injured. The rest of the day I was besieged on all sides for more. Foolishly, I showed the one I had for myself and it was quickly snatched from my hand.

The spirit in Toronto today is beyond belief. Ten thousand more have been too few. Over twenty-five priests have come to our monastery begging for scapulars. I have been stopped on the streets and accosted on trains by total strangers asking where these Scapulars could be obtained. Montreal has since shown a like fervor.

I am stunned at the response. I have no explanation for it. Certainly it was not due to the simple little sermon that I preached. I believe the explanation of it was given by a priest with all the simplicity of the priesthood: "She wants her heart loved."

Those who doubted in the beginning are today the most devoted to the Green Scapular. It has become something priceless. They love to say the beautiful prayer which we learned from Mary's lips: "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." Toronto today is feeling the warmth of that heart. A man, who had refused for years to see a priest, remained adamant on his deathbed. One of the family brought the Scapular into his room, said the prayer twice and, suddenly out of a clear sky, he begged for a priest.
I must insist that the peculiar power of this Scapular is that of conversion. To bring her Son into the hearts of men. To give Him a new birth there. Although there are many cures like my own, I repeat, her greatest desire is to give her Son birth in the cradle of your soul.

The Green Scapular is the story of Sister Justine Bisqueyburu. An orphan in early life, she was adopted by a wealthy relative who left her his fortune. Her greatest day of joy was November 27, 1839, when she entered the novitiate of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent of Paul in Paris. Her Sisters in religion are stationed in Maryland. Address: Sisters of Charity, Central House, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

They can tell you much better than I the story of a Sister who inspired love and emulation in everyone who met her. One who was a confidante of Pope Pius IX in the dark days preceding his imprisonment in the Vatican; one who was the admiration of the Mohammedans of North Africa; the recipient of the flattering imitation of the famous Florence Nightingale on the battlefields of the Crimea. They can tell you the great efforts she made to keep her identity unknown; how her secret was revealed. How the Green Scapular found its way to the desk of Pope Pius XI. They will repeat the description of the Mother of God, standing in all her beauty before the young novice, and returning again and again until the Scapular was made and distributed. Telling the young Sister that the Scapular could be blessed by any priest, carried or worn on the person, even left in one's room, the only obligation being to say, once a day (and this can be said in favor of another): "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death."

(The above article was published in the Madonna Magazine, August 1948, and was copied with permission by the Quarterly Bulletin of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Agony. March, 1949. It also appeared in Fatima Findings, September, 1949, published by the Reparation Society of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Baltimore, Maryland.)
The Green Scapular or Scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is, like the Miraculous Medal, a gift of our Blessed Mother to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

On November 27, 1839, Justine Bisqueyburu, destined by Providence to make known this devotion, enters the Seminary, or Novitiate of the Daughters of Charity, 140 rue du Bac, Paris. On January 28, 1840, during her first retreat, the young Sister was favored with a celestial vision. Our Lady appeared to her clothed in a long white robe over which hung a bright blue mantle. Her hair, which fell loosely over her shoulders, was not covered with a veil, and in her hands she held her Heart, from the top of which issued brilliant rays. To the dignity of her bearing was joined the dazzling brightness of celestial beauty. The young Sister, seized with admiration and fear, could scarcely repress an explanation.

The same apparition was repeated four or five times during her Seminary on the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin. This favor seemed to have no other end than to increase in the Sister herself tender devotion to Mary Immaculate. Clothed with the habit, Sister Bisqueyburu was sent to Blangy and shortly after her arrival, September 8, 1840, feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, she was favored during prayer with an apparition of the Mother of God, who held in her right hand her heart surrounded by flames, and in her left a sort of scapular, consisting of a single piece of green cloth suspended from a cord of the same color. On one side was a picture of the Blessed Virgin as she had shown herself in the apparitions; on the other, a Heart all inflamed with rays more brilliant than the sun, and clearer than crystal.

This Heart pierced with a sword was surrounded by an oval inscription, surmounted by a cross. The inscription read: "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." At the same time an interior voice revealed to the Sister the meaning of this vision. She understood that this new Scapular, through the medium of the Sisters of Charity, would contribute to the conversion of those who have no faith, and above all, procure for them a happy death, and that it should be distributed immediately with confidence.

For various reasons the execution was long delayed, in consequence of which the Blessed Virgin in several apparitions between 1840 and 1846 complained to the Sister. As obstacles were removed, the Scapular was distributed, producing wonderful conversions and some bodily cures.
Among favors obtained are the following: A sick man, a declared enemy of all religion, was thrown into frenzy by the mere sight of a priest. He accepted a Green Scapular on September 19, 1842. Eleven days later, arising from dinner, he withdrew into an adjoining room, fell on his knees and took out his Scapular which he called an intermediary agent. Kissing it and bathing it with tears, he promised Our Lady to go to Confession within a week. That delay seemed too long, for the next day he received the Sacraments.

In 1844, a child of fourteen with depraved morals received the Scapular and in a few days his conversion was affected.

At Constantinople a Greek schismatic was converted by the Scapular and also cured of a hideous leprosy. Many similar examples might be cited.

The manner of using the Scapular was indicated by the Blessed Virgin. Since it is not the badge of a confraternity but simply a double image attached to a single piece of cloth and suspended from a cord, the formalities of a Scapular are not required for the Benediction and Imposition. It suffices that it be blessed by a priest and worn by the one for whom it is intended. It may be placed in the clothing, on the bed, or simply in the room. The only prayer to be recited is the inscription surrounding the Heart on the reverse of the Scapular: "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." This should be repeated daily, if not by the one wearing it, by the one giving it. The Scapular may be distributed everywhere. Although wonderful graces are attached to it, they are proportionate to the confidence with which it is given, as signified by the rays of different lengths which in the last apparitions, issued from the hands of the blessed Virgin.

The Green Scapular was twice approved by Pope Pius IX, in 1863, and again in 1870 when he said: "Write to these good Sisters that I authorize them to make and distribute it."

An exact account of any conversion or cure which may be attributed to the Green Scapular should be sent to Marian Center, Saint Joseph Central House, Emmitsburg, Maryland, with all circumstances of time, place and persons. Names should not be withheld under pretext of humility, for there is question of the glory of God and of His Holy Mother.

Nihil Obstat: E. A. Cerny, S.S., S.T.D., Censor Librorum
Imprimator: Francis P. Keough, D.D., Archbishop of Baltimore
Feast: Immaculate Heart of Mary, August 22, 1950


Scapular of St. Joseph
A.D. 1880

A gold and violet-colored scapular with a white cord, the front shows St. Joseph holding the child Jesus in one arm and a staff of lillies on the other. Underneath are the words, "St. Joseph, patron of the Church, pray for us." On the back of the scapular are the papal crown under a dove as the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Underneath those are the Cross, the keys of Peter, and the inscription: "Spiritus Domini ductor eius" (The Spirit of the Lord is his Guide).

The scapular is to remind us of St. Joseph's virtues (humility, modesty, purity); to remind us to pray to St. Joseph, asking him to pray for the Church; and to assist the dying since St. Joseph is the patron of a happy death.

In addition to the above benefits, there is a plenary indulgence for those who confess, receive Holy Communion and pray for the intentions of the Holy Father on the following feast days: 25 December the day of investment of the scapular), 1 January, 6 January, 2 February, 19 March, 25 March, Easter, Feast of the Ascension, 15 August, 8 September, 8 December, 3rd Sunday after Easter and at the time of death. It is recommended also to say 5 Our Fathers, 5 Hail Marys and 5 Glorias before the Blessed Sacrament at these times.

Five-Fold Scapular

The Five-Fold Scapular is made of 5 of the following Scapulars above: first, the "The Red Scapular of the Passion," then the "The Scapular of the Most Blessed Trinity," the "The Brown Scapular of our Lady of Mount Carmel," the "The Black Scapular of the Seven Dolors of Mary," and the The Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception." Any priest can invest you with this scapular.

NOTE: Text and Imagery is courtesy of FISHEATERS.COM