Our Lady's Promise of the Scapular

Our Lady's Promise of the Holy Scapular

A gift to you from Our Lady.

- promise of Our Lady to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251

The scapular, the two small pieces of wool most people think of when they hear the word, is a sacramental based on an important piece of the monastic habit. A true scapular, in the original use of the word, is a piece of cloth, about shoulder width, that is worn over the shoulders and falls not quite to the wearer’s feet. It is the most important garment for those in monastic orders and has also been adopted by non-monastic religious orders for both male and female. In the past the scapular also had bands on the arm, connecting the front and back panel of fabric and thus forming a cross on the body of the wearer; this style of scapular is sometimes still used today. For this reason, the scapular was also simply called a crux, meaning ‘cross.’

The scapular is meant to be symbolic of an apron, indicating the wearer’s readiness and willingness to serve. That the scapular is a symbolic and not merely a practical apron is based on the point in the St. Benedict’s Rule, where he says that it is to be worn “for work.” Benedict uses a non-specific word for work here, not the word for manual work or labor, which he uses elsewhere in the Rule, and not the words specific to ‘God’s work,’ which he used elsewhere to include prayer. So it is believed that "scapulare propter opera" ("scapular for work") means a scapular to be worn always, whether while at prayer or while doing manual prayer.

In the middle ages, it was common for the lay faithful to join religious orders in an affiliate sense, as a tertiary. Since some did not take full vows, they would not wear the full habit. Some others who took private vows would wear almost the full habit. The non-monastic, one not taking full vows, would be granted a “reduced scapular” to wear. This was two pieces of wool, about 2 inches by 3 inches each, held together by a band or cord and worn over the shoulder with one rectangle in front and one in back. Still larger than the devotional scapular worn by many Catholics, the shape and small size of this scapular is closest in appearance to what may lay Catholics wear. They are still often worn by tertiary members of the Franciscan, Carmelite, and Dominican orders.

In the year 1251, in the town of Aylesford in England, Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite. She handed him a brown woolen scapular and said, “This shall be a 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.

The term scapular (from Latin scapula , "shoulders") as used today refers to two specific, yet related, Christian Sacrementals, namely the monastic and devotional scapulars, although both forms may simply be referred to as "scapular."

The "monastic scapular" appeared first, perhaps as early as the 7th century in the Order of Saint Benedict . It is a somewhat large length of cloth suspended both front and back from the shoulders of the wearer, often reaching to the knees. It may vary in shape, color, size and style. Monastic scapulars originated as aprons worn by medieval monks, and were later extended to habits for members of religious organizations, orders or confraternities. Monastic scapulars now form part of the habit of monks and nuns in many Catholic religious orders.

The "devotional scapular" is a much smaller item and evolved from the monastic scapular. These may also be worn by individuals who are not members of a monastic order and the Roman Catholic Church considers them sacramentals. The devotional scapular typically consists of two small (usually rectangular) pieces of cloth, wood or laminated paper, a few inches in size which may bear religious images or text. These are joined by two bands of cloth and the wearer places one square on the chest, rests the bands one on each shoulder and lets the second square drop down the back.

In many cases, both forms of the scapular come with a set of promises for the faithful who wear them. Some of the promises are rooted in tradition, and others have been formally approved by religious leaders. For instance, for Roman Catholics, as for some other sacramentals, over the centuries several popes have approved specific indulgences for scapulars.


True devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary consists in three things: VENERATION, CONFIDENCE AND LOVE. By simply wearing the Scapular, we can tell her every moment of the day that we venerate her, love her and trust in her protection.

The Scapular Is a Silent Prayer

As Our Lord taught us to say the Our Father, Our Blessed Mother taught us the value of the scapular. When we use it as a prayer, Our Lady draws us to the Sacred Heart of Her Divine Son. It is good, therefore, to hold the scapular in the hand. A prayer offered while holding the Scapular is as perfect as a prayer can be. It is especially in time of temptation that we need the powerful intercession of God’s Mother. The evil spirit is utterly powerless when the wearer of a scapular faces temptation, calling upon the Holy Virgin in this silent devotion. “If you had recommended yourself to me, you would not have run into such danger,” was Our Lady’s gentle reproach to Blessed Alan de la Roche, one of her devoted servants.

Enrollment in the Confraternity

To be eligible for the scapular promise, one must be enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity. This is a simple ceremony which can be performed by any priest (see below). The members of the Confraternity have the added benefit of sharing in all the spiritual benefits of the Carmelite Order.

According to a statement made by the Carmelite Fathers at the National Scapular Center, every priest now has the right to invest the faithful in the Brown Scapular and to substitute the rosary in lieu of the Little Office

The scapular must be 100% wool without plastic casing and should not be pinned or affixed to clothing. It is worn over the head, under one’s clothes, with one square of wool hanging on the chest and the other on the back.

Procedure for the Blessing and Investiture of the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

To be eligible for THE SCAPULAR PROMISE, one must be enrolled in the Family of Carmel.
This is a simple ceremony, which takes only a moment and can be done by any Carmelite or
duly authorized priest. The words used by the priest when enrolling a person in the
Confraternity of the Scapular are as follows:

Priest - Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.

Respondent - And grant us Thy salvation.

Priest - Lord, hear my prayer.

Respondent - And let my cry come unto Thee.

Priest - The Lord be with you.

Respondent - And also with you.

Priest - Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, sanctify by Thy power these scapulars,
which for love of Thee and for love of Our lady of Mount Carmel, Thy servants will wear devoutly,
so that through the intercession of the same Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and protected against
the evil spirit, they persevere until death in Thy grace. Thou who lives and reigns world without
end.  Amen.


Receive this blessed Scapular and beseech the Blessed Virgin that through Her merits, you
may  wear it without stain. May it defend you against all adversity and accompany you to eternal
life. Amen.


I, by the power vested in me, admit you to participate in all the spiritual benefits obtained
through the mercy of Jesus Christ by the Religious Order of Mount Carmel.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

May God Almighty, the Creator of Heaven and earth, bless you, He who has deigned to join you
to the confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Of Mount Carmel; we beseech Her to crush the head
of the ancient serpent so that you my enter into possession of your eternal heritage, through
Christ our Lord.

Respondent - Amen.

The first Scapular must be blessed and imposed by a Priest using the (above) formula
contained in the Roman ritual for reception into the Confraternity of the Scapular.

The Sabbatine Privilege

The Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel has promised to save those who wear the scapular from the fires of hell; She will also shorten their stay in purgatory if they should pass from this world still owing some debt of punishment.

This promise is found in a Bull of Pope John XXII. The Blessed Virgin appeared to him and, speaking of those who wear the Brown Scapular, said, “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.”

Our Lady assigned certain conditions which must be fulfilled:

1) Wear the Brown Scapular continuously.

2) Observe chastity according to one's state in life.

3) Recite daily the "Little Office of the Blessed Virgin."


3a) Observe the required fast of the Church as well as abstaining for meat on Wednesday and Saturday


3b) Recite the Rosary daily


3c) With permission, substitute some other good work.

Pope Benedict XV, the celebrated World War I Pontiff, granted 500 days indulgence for devoutly kissing your scapular.

The Morning Offering

O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary (here kiss the scapular as a sign of your consecration), I offer Thee the Precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world, joining with It the offering of my every thought, word and action of this day. O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can, and I offer them, together with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that she may best apply them to the interests of Thy most Sacred Heart. Precious Blood of Jesus, save us! Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us! Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

The Popes and the Brown Scapular

Pope Leo XIII: “The Carmelite Scapular’s nobility of origin, its extraordinary spread among Christian peoples for many centuries, the spiritualizing effects produced by it and the outstanding miracles worked in virtue of it render the Scapular of Carmel commendable to a wondrous degree.”

Pope Pius XI: “In consideration of the munificent goodness of the heavenly Mother towards her children, it surely ought to be sufficient merely to exhort those who belong to the Scapular Confraternity to persevere in the holy exercises which have been prescribed for the gaining of the indulgences to which they are entitled.”

Pope Pius XII: “All Carmelites, whether they live in the cloisters of the First or Second Orders or are members of the Third Order or of the Confraternities, belong to the same family of our Most Blessed Mother and are attached to it by a special bond of love. May they all see in this keepsake of the Virgin herself a mirror of humility and purity; may they read in the very simplicity of the Garment a concise lesson in modesty and simplicity; above all, may they behold in this same Garment, which they wear day and night, the eloquent expressive symbol of their prayers for divine assistance.”

Pope John XXIII: He spoke “of the Mother of God who is honored in this Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Devotion to her becomes a necessity; towards Our Lady of Mount Carmel we are drawn with a most tender, yet irresistible, attraction.”

Pope Paul VI, speaking of Marian devotions, especially of the Scapular, says “Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin approved by the teaching authority of the Church. It is Our conviction that the Rosary of Mary and the Scapular of Carmel are among these recommended practices. The Scapular is a practice of piety, which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone.”

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Brown Scapular

Also called simply the Brown Scapular, this small scapular is the most well known and likely the earliest form of the devotional scapular. It may even be referred to merely as “the scapular,” where all other scapulae are referred to in the full name or by some distinguishing characteristic. Along the same line, the phrase “The Feast of the Scapular” refers to the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Pious tradition holds that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251 in England, with a scapular in her hand and said to him, "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." According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, these precise words of Our Lady only appeared in written form in 1642, in a document that said these words had been dictated by Simon to his secretary and confessor. Historical documents cannot support the exact details or words, but the content is held to be reliable. That is to say, it is credible that Our Lady assured St. Simon Stock in a supernatural manner of her special protection over his whole order and all who would wear the Carmelite habit, indirectly extending to all Christian faithful who should wear the scapular as a badge of devotion, even if we cannot place the exact words.

Conditions for Receiving the Graces of the Scapular

The promise and the following conditions are typically associated with a vision and Bull of Pope John XXII. The Bull that has been handed down since the 1400's was never mentioned for over 100 years after its supposed promulgation in 1322 and no record of such a document exists in the writings of Pope John XXII. It has been generally assumed that the extant text of the Bull is not an authentic document but the promises and conditions are valid and several popes have given the Carmelites permission to preach them.

Form of the Scapular

The scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel should be brown, though black is acceptable as well, and must be wool. To have an image of Our Lady presenting the Scapular to Simon Stock on the scapular itself is quite common, but the scapular may also be blank. It is also common to have an inscription of Our Lady’s promise on the scapular. It may also have other images on it. For example there are Brown Scapulae bearing images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Sacred Heart, St. Charbel, St. Bendict, and others.

Other Devotional Scapulae

Though the brown scapular is the most common, there are many more approved scapulae faithful Catholics may wear:

The Green Scapular – This scapular is also called the Scapular of the Immaculate Heart. It is not a true scapular in that it is one single woolen square, not two. However it is a sacramental and so it is a scapular in the devotional sense. It is the only scapular that does not need to be worn but can be carried; it can come on a green cord to be worn or may also come on a small green loop. This scapular may be given in faith to someone you want to be cured or converted. The giver of the scapular must continue to pray daily to the Immaculate Heart of Mary after giving the scapular.

The White Scapular – This is another scapular associated with the Immaculate Heart of Mary. However this scapular is white wool, and is associated with the Sons of the Immaculate Heart. The front depicts the image of the burning heart of Mary, out of which grows a lily, and is circled with a wreath of roses.

The Trinity Scapular – This is a small white scapular with a red and blue cross and is connected to the Confraternity of The Most Blessed Trinity and tertiaries of the Order. The Order's founder, St. John de Matha, had a vision during his first Mass of two Christian captives, one of whom held a staff with a red and blue cross on top. From this vision St. John knew he was destined to work among captives for their redemption. Tradition also holds that in 1198, an angel wearing a white garment with a blue and red cross appeared to Pope Innocent III, who subsequently approved the Order of the Trinitarians.

The Blue Scapular – This scapular is also known as the Scapular of the Immaculate Conception. It is associated with Venerable Ursula Benincasa, founder of the Theatines of the Immaculate Conception and was approved by Pope Clement X in 1671. It is now also associated with St. Bernadette and the miraculous apparitions at Lourdes because Our Lady said to the girl, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” There are plenary indulgences attached to this devotion with this scapular, under the ordinary conditions.

The Sacred Heart Scapulae – There are two sacramentals bearing the name of Sacred Heart Scapular. One is, like the Green Scapular, actually a sacramental badge. It is a wearable image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was promoted by St. Mary Margaret Alacoque. It may or may not be wool. The other is a true scapular, associated with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. One side bears an image of the Heart of Jesus and the heart of Mary in their traditional representations, the other an image of Jesus on the cross, the instruments of the passion at His feet. The scapular must be made of red wool and the bands connecting the two squares must be red woolen material as well. This scapular is also called the Red Scapular of the Passion or simply, the Passion Scapular.

The Black Scapular – The scapular associated with the Servite Order and the Seven Sorrows of Mary. It is black wool and has an image of Our Lay of Sorrows on the front piece. This scapular must be worn constantly if one wishes to gain the indulgences of the confraternity. This scapular must be invested to one by a priest from the Servite Order.

The Five Fold Scapular - This scapular. also called a Five Way Scapular, is a Redemptorist Sacramental. It is a combination of five of the most popular scapulae: the Brown, Black, Blue, Trinity white and Red Passion scapulars.

The Scapular of St. Michael – This scapular traditionally is in the shape of a small shield (though it may also be a standard rectangle) and is made of blue and black woollen cloth. It is connected to the Archconfraternity of the Scapular of St. Michael and depicts St. Michael triumphing over Satan.

The Scapular Medal -  In 1910 Pope Pius X approved the medallion form of the scapular. It bears an image of the Sacred Heart on one side, the Blessed mother on the other, and may be worn or carried in place of a cloth scapular, under certain special circumstances, by a person already invested with a scapular. These special circumstances would include situations where wearing a non-metal scapular would be impractical, say in the case of a swimmer or in doing work which could result in damage or destruction of a cloth scapular.