Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Brown Scapular

One of the signs in the tradition of the Church from many centuries ago is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. It is a sign approved by the Church and accepted by the Carmelite Order as an external sign of love for Mary, of the trust her children have in her, and of commitment to live like her.

The word scapular indicates a form of clothing, which monks wore when they were working. With the passage of time, people began to give symbolic meaning to it: the cross to be borne every day as disciples and followers of Christ. In some religious orders, such as the Carmelites, the Scapular turned into a sign of their way of life. The Scapular came to symbolize the special dedication of Carmelites to Mary, the Mother of God, and to express trust in her motherly protection as well as the desire to be like her in her commitment to Christ and to others. Thus it became a sign of Mary.

In the Middle Ages many Christians wanted to be associated with the orders founded at that time: Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and Carmelites. Groups of lay people began to emerge in associations such as confraternities and sodalities.

All the religious orders wanted to give these lay people a sign of affiliation and of participation in their spirit and apostolate. That sign was often a part of their habit: a cloak, a cord, a scapular.
Among the Carmelites, the stage came when a smaller version of the Scapular was accepted as the sign of belonging to the Order and an expression of its spirituality.

The Blessed Virgin teaches us:
*To be open to God, and to his will, shown to us in the events of our lives;
*To Listen to the Word of God in the Bible and in life, to believe in it and to put into practice its demands;
*To pray at all times, as a way of discovering the presence of God in all that is happening around us;
*To be involved with people, being attentive to their needs.

The Scapular finds its roots in the tradition of the Order, which has seen in it a sign of Mary’s motherly protection. It has therefore, a centuries old spiritual meaning approved by Church.
*It stands for a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model of all the disciples of Christ. This commitment finds its origin in baptism by which we become children of God.
*It leads us into the community of Carmel, a community of religious men and women, which has existed in the Church for over eight centuries.
*It reminds us of the example of the saints of Carmel, with whom we establish a close bond as brothers and sisters to one another.
*It is an expression of our belief that we will meet God in eternal life, aided by the intercession and prayers of Mary.
The Carmelite Scapular is not:
*a magical charm to protect you
*an automatic guarantee of salvation
*an excuse for not living up to the demands of the Christian life
It is a sign:
*which has been approved by the Church for over seven centuries;
*which stands for the decision to
*follow Jesus like Mary:
*be open to God and to his will
*be guided by faith, hope, and love
*to pray at all times
*to discover God present in all that happens around us.

1 comment:

Gretchen said...

Thanks for the information on the meaning of the Scapular. I enjoyed learning about it.