Scapular - Why do Catholics wear two square pieces of cloth, attached by a string around their neck, as a sign of devotion? The Scapular originally was the long, wide piece of cloth worn around the neck by religious as part of their habit. While today's religious orders continue to wear such a Scapular, the smaller version with which we are familiar has been made available to lay people.
Many forms of Scapulars have been associated with different religious order, the most common being the Brown Scapular, which comes from the Carmelites. As a sign of their consecration and in witness to poverty, the Mercedarian friars wear the habit of the Order. It is white, of simple material, composed of a tunic, belt, scapular, capuche and shield. The white Mercedarian Scapular can be seen as a "smaller version" of the Order's habit for laypeople.
The Mercedarian Scapular spiritually unites its wearer to the work of the worldwide Mercedarian Order in its work in ransoming Christians from various types of captivity. The Sodality of the Scapular is a spiritual organization of the lay faithful who have a special devotion to Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mercy and wish to be spiritually united to the work of the Mercedarian Friars in the ransoming of Christian Captives in danger of apostasy. Besides wearing the White Scapular, members offer daily prayers for the Order, the Holy Father, and suffering and persecuted members of the Church.
The wearer of the Scapular places himself under the loving protection of Mary. Like all sacramentals of course, the Scapular is not magic. Its promise of salvation depends on the interior disposition and faith of the wearer. There has been much support for the wearing of the Scapular, including these words of Pope Pius XII about the well-known Brown Scapular:
"These effects are especially secured by means of those devotions which more than others are seen to enlighten the mind with celestial doctrine and to excite souls to the practice of the Christian life. In the first rank of the most favored of these devotions, that of the holy Carmelite Scapular must be placed-a devotion which, adapted to the minds of all by its very simplicity, has become so universally widespread among the faithful and has produced so many and such salutary fruits."
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Sr. Jeanette Marie, HMSS