The Meaning Behind the Brown Scapular

Shared by Steven Zimmerman, filed under Christian Beliefs

“Whoever dies in this garment shall not suffer the eternal fire.”

The Brown Scapular is a ubiquitous sight in almost every Roman Catholic Church in El Paso. You’ll see them around the necks of the faithful as they participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. A small brown square, worn in front and back, with an image of Our Lady of Mt Carmel on it.

What is the Brown Scapular, and why do people wear them? That’s a question I’ve received more than once over the last few months, and I thought I would attempt an explanation for you.

The Brown Scapular is a uniquely Catholic item, a Catholic sacramental. For members of the Roman Catholic Church, it honours Mary as the first of her Son’s disciples. Like Baptism, it’s an outward sign, in this case, of Mary’s protection. 

In Aylesford, England, in the year 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Simon Stock, a Carmelite, and handed him a brown woollen scapular. As St Simon Stock placed his hand upon the Scapular, the Virgin Mary said, “This shall be a privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.”

The Blessed Mother, by this one act, extended her protection upon all members of the Carmelite Order. Over time, the privilege of the Brown Scapular has been extended to all of God’s faithful within the Catholic Church.

“The Scapular is a silent prayer,” said Brother William, a member of the Order of Carmelites. “It serves as a constant tool that brings us that much closer to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Brother William and the teachings of the Catholic Church say that if a prayer is said while holding the Scapular, it then becomes a perfect prayer.

“Evil is powerless, rendered powerless when one calls upon the Blessed Mother,” says Br William. “’If you had recommended yourself to me,’ our Blessed Mother has said, ‘you would not have run into such danger.’”

The Brown Scapular we see today is not the same as given to St Simon Stock. When it was first given, with the promise of eternal life, it was much larger.

“The Scapular,” said Brother William, “was not as inconspicuous as it is today. It was then, as is now, part of our habit.”

The Brown Scapular, in the thirteenth century, was part of monk’s habit, part of the outer garment. It was the outermost part, worn almost as a yolk, draped over the monk’s shoulders and may or may not have had a hood attached.

Over time, the scapular became smaller, as it was extended to all members of the Church and comes in many different sizes and styles.

“One may wear the style they are most comfortable with,” says Br William, “as long as they adhere to the basic rules of the Scapular.”

The scapular must have two wool squares of cloths, connected by strings, ribbons, or any material. When worn, you must wear it in such a way that one square is in front, laying on your chest with the other on your back.

For the Scapular promise to be granted, the Scapular must be blessed by a priest, and you will need to be invested in the scapular.

“You should include the prayers in your article,” says Br William. “It would be most helpful for those seeking enrollment. At the end of your piece, maybe?”

You must also wear the Scapular all the time. By taking the Scapular off, and for the time you have it off, Br Williams says that you are no longer under the promises granted to one who wears the Scapular.

While researching this article, I discovered that the Scapular is made of a material other than wool. I’ve found Scapulars made of metal, leather, wood and so much more. I had to ask Br William if all are equally valid, or if there is one that is more preferred over the other.

“No,” says Br William. “There are only two forms of the Brown Scapular that are recognised by the Church. The first is one made of wool, and the next would be the Scapular Medal.”

In 1910 the Church allowed one to substitute the Scapular Medal in place of the woollen medal only if the wearer had already been enrolled with the woollen Scapular.

“There are some situations in life where one cannot wear the wool Scapular,” says Br William.

However, a Scapular made of leather or hard plastic (any plastic, actually) is not permitted.

“Plastic and leather are more for a fashion statement,” says Br William, “and not in the Spirit of the Church or of the Blessed Mother. We are gaining our reword, as the Lord has said, by being praised for what we are doing. That is too often what occurs when one wears a finely tooled leather Scapular or one of highly decorated plastic.”

So, what is the Scapular? It’s Mary’s mantel for the faithful. It is a visible sign of Her promise to intercede for you. It is Her protection over members of the Catholic Church.

There is so much more I’ve learned about the Scapular and chose not to include in this article. For example, the history of those who took to Mt Carmel for a life of prayer, and dedication to the Mother of God, centuries before the advent of Christ. I also didn’t include the history of the Carmelites travelling to England after the Crusades, or about the Sabbatine Promise of the Scapular. All are very interesting worth a read.


As Br William has said, any priest may invest you in the Scapular. These are the prayers provided.

Priest: Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.

Respondent: And grant us Thy salvation.

P: Lord, hear my prayer.

R: And let my cry come unto Thee.

P: The Lord be with you.

R: And also with you.

P: 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.

(Sprinkling Holy Water) 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.

R: Amen.


O Mary, Queen and Mother of Carmel, I come today to consecrate myself to you, for my whole life is but a small return for the many graces and blessings that have come from God to me through your hands.

Since you look with special kindness on those who wear your Scapular, I implore you to strengthen my weakness with your power, to enlighten the darkness of my mind with your wisdom, and to increase in me faith, hope and charity that I may repay each day my debt of humble homage to you.

May your Scapular bring me your special protection in my daily struggle to be faithful to your divine son and to you. May it separate me from all that is sinful in life and remind me constantly of my duty to imitate your virtues. From now on, I shall strive to live in God’s presence, and offer all to Jesus through you.

Dearest Mother, support me by your never-failing love and lead me to paradise through the merits of Christ and your own intercession.