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What Is a Scapular?


Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Barto, PA. (© flickr user jcapaldi; CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

A statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding the brown scapular and the Christ Child, at the National Padre Pio Center in Barto, PA.

(Photo © flickr user jcapaldi; licensed under Creative Commons Some Rights Reserved)

Definition: In its original form, the scapular is a part of the monastic habit (the outfit that monks wear). It is composed of two large pieces of cloth, connected in the middle by narrower strips of cloth. The narrower strips provide an opening through which the monk places his head; the strips then sit on his shoulders, and the large pieces of cloth hang down in front and in back.

Today, the term is used most often to refer to a sacramental (a religious object) that has essentially the same form as the monastic scapular but is composed of much smaller pieces of cloth (usually only an inch or two square) and thinner connecting strips. Technically, these are known as the "small scapulars" and are worn by lay faithful as well as those in religious orders. Each small scapular represents a particular devotion and often has a certain indulgence or even a revealed "privilege" (or special power) attached to it.

The most famous of the small scapulars is the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (the "Brown Scapular"), revealed by the Blessed Virgin Mary herself to St. Simon Stock on July 16, 1251. Those who wear it faithfully as an expression of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is said, will be granted the grace of final perseverance.

Pronunciation: ˈskapyələr

Common Misspellings: scapula

Examples: "Every year, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Father blesses Brown Scapulars and distributes them to the parishioners."

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