Thursday, March 08, 2007
Alert Level Green
We've had a question from a reader that I am delighted to address because it gives me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects, the Scapular!
Here's the question:
Do you think that if a faithful Catholic (or perhaps more than one) is praying persistently for a non-Catholic who is earnestly Christian and truth-seeking, that conversion to Catholicism is inevitable?
Also, do you consider non-Catholics who are faithful followers of Christ to be part of the true church?
Let me explain about what a scapular is and then come back to the question.
A scapular is that part of the habit of a nun, or the robes of a priest that is rather like a big cloth sandwich board. The head goes through a hole in the middle and the cloth hangs all the way down the front and the back. If you are lucky enough to be in an order that includes a scapular, you can hide all kinds of things under there, tucked into your belt: laser pointers, keys, a cotton hankie....I knew an old nun who kept an 18" ruler there as though she were one of the Musketeers.
The Church Militant (that's you) gets to wear another kind of scapular. It's two little rectangles of cloth on two strings. One rectangle goes in the front and the other goes in the back...like a necklace that hangs both back and front. Most people are familiar with the Brown Scapular, which I believe is the Original Scapular.
Here's what happened. The Carmelites wear a brown scapular (and hide their keys and hankies there). There was a time in the Church when the Carmelites were being suppressed. That means the Church wanted the Carmelites to calm down about something, and they were being told to go behave themselves. (A modern example of that is Medjugore, where the Church has finally said, "Enough already! Why would Our Blessed Mother have to come every day for years on end to make her point? Please don't talk about it anymore.") I don't know what the Carmelites were on about at the time, but there you have it.
Our Blessed Mother appeared to a Carmelite named Simon Stock (now SAINT Simon Stock) and told him that whoever wore the brown scapular, (meaning a CARMELITE) would not see the fires of hell. The Pope was so enamoured of this plan that he extended the privilege to the entire church, which is why you have your little brown scapular.
Don't get carried away. You will not see the fires of hell provided that you are actually wearing it at the time of your death. The hand of God may reach down in the form of a bus that hits you, knocking you out of your shoes and your scapular, or in the form of a clueless paramedic saying, "What's this?" and tossing it out the back of the ambulance.
Also, just because you won't see the fires of hell doesn't mean you won't do time in Purgatory. The good news is that part of the Pope's pronouncement states that scapular wearers will get out of Purgatory of the first Saturday after their death.
So: Don't leave home without it. And..........Shoot for a Friday passing.
There are many other types of Scapulars, though, and they come in different colors, like our national Terror Alert System, only useful.
Which brings me at last to answer the question (remember that?). There is a specific scapular to call people back to the church. It is the Green Scapular. It's also used for sick people.
Here's what you do. You have the person wear the Green Scapular when they are sick or away from the church (another type of illness!) and say the prayer that's on there and they get better and/0r are called back to the Church. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
But here's the best part: if they won't wear the the Green Scapular you just slip it into their purse, or slide it onto their nightstand and YOU say the prayer on there and they are STILL called back to the Church.
It's like stealth Catholicism!
As for the second part of your question....you can't be part of the TRUE Church if you are not part of the True Church. That's rather like asking, "Can I be from South America if I am from North America?" No, you can't be.
We love the South Americans and so does Jesus, but they are not from North America, unless you stick a Green Scapular in their purse.