About Me

My photo
Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

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.


DCMS said...

Stealth Catholicism! My new favorite phrase. :)

Anonymous said...

I love it--stealth Catholicism!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if that green scapular I taped under the desk of my fallen - away boss 20 years ago is still there...would any benefits transfer to the next desk owner?

Sister Mary Martha said...

Monica, not.... unless you're still saying the prayer.

Anonymous said...

This brings to mind something that has bothered me for some time. How is it that a scapular (or any sacramental) confers salvation by simply wearing it? Based on what you said, I think the Pope meant that by staying true to the vows that clothed them with a scapular would guarantee them heaven.

People claim it's a magic charm. I don't know how to answer questions like that from antagonists (or most importantly, my husband, who is growing toward but not yet Catholic).


Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that in a certain sense all baptized Christian's are part of the true church. They may not be North Americans, but they are Americans still. This is why they do not undergo the rite of election, but instead the rite of continuing conversion.

Sister Mary Martha said...

No, that's not what the Pope meant. He meant what he said, which is written right on the scapular in no uncertain terms. The scapular has that power because the Pope gave it that power. And he has that power to give it that power.

Anonymous said...

Well, I do pray ocassionally (as it occurs to me) but I don't remember the particular prayer. I'll go squint at the photo again to see if I can read it.

Anonymous said...

Um, Sister....the official "status" of the Sabbatine Privilege connected with Our Lady's Brown Scapular has changed. See the article:

Pastoral Comments On The Brown Scapular Of Our Lady Of Mount Carmel By The North American Carmelite Provincials

which can be found (among other places) at the website of the Carmelites in Ireland at:


and scroll down to the question:

What is the official status of the Sabbatine Privilege?

Respectfully submitted...clare

antonina said...

Uhm, I'll take following Jesus' commandments rather.

Got to love how we try to secure slavation through any means possible, regardless of how puerile or ridiculous it is. How can a piece of cloth guarantee salvation? What are we, Hindu?

Along these same lines of superstitious, pagan left-overs in the Church, the Eastern Orthodox have numerous nifty wearable items and prayers to gurantee just the thing you need! Sure glad the church thought of everything. 100% money back guarantee, just like Folsom Lake Ford. Except this time it'll be too late to go spend your money.

Seeker said...

I am really interested in your comments about Medjugorje. Do they mean that you don't believe the visions are authentic?

Medjugorje represents a big problem for me. I have been there 3 times, but am still unsure about it. My husband is however totally convinced and loves the place so much. His faith has been totally renewed because of it.

The visionaries I have seen seem genuine people and the faith of the pilgrims is awesome. There is still something not quite right for me though......

Anonymous said...

I love your blog!!!

Are you really a nun?

Anonymous said...

Call me crazy but I can see REALLY ticking someone off by putting a scapular in their belongings without their permission. Stealth Catholicism (much as I love the phrase) could well end up causing damage instead of achieving the desired end. Why not just give it to the person as a gift, telling them that with it comes your daily prayers for them?

Love the blog too btw...

june cleaver said...

Sister, what if the person is not Catholic, has never been Catholic, but is married to a Catholic and goes to Sunday Mass and has children being raised Catholic? Will the Green Scapular work for them? Is is just for those who have fallen away from the Church--in saying that, hasn't all who are not Catholic fallen away from the Church?
I have to go buy a green scapular~

cattiekit said...

C,mon now, denise. It's not magic.

It's *faith*. ;>)

Anonymous said...

I am I to understand that as long as I wear the brown scapular (provided it doesn't fall off), I get to heaven even if I deny the Trinity, the Real Presence and Christ's Redemption by the Cross?


Anonymous said...

well, Denise, if you were to even think about denying Them, probably the first thing you'd do is take the scapular off. Generally if you're willing to wear one, you're willing to pray the prayers that go with it, which, in general, would mean you believe. Prayer fosters belief, and it goes around in a spiral. Unless you wear one and it feels like a spider on your back, and you get up out of bed just to make SURE it's not a spider, and it turns out to be a HUGE GNARLY spider and you scream and wake up your husband and make him kill the spider. After that you don't want to wear a scapular for a Really Long Time, no matter how seriously you believe in the Blessed Trinity and the Real Presence and Christ's redemption by the Cross.

Anonymous said...

"Through her continuous intercessions, pious suffrages, merits, and special protection the Most Blessed Virgin, especially on Saturday, the day dedicated to her by the Church, will help after their death the brethren and members of the Sodality who die in charity. In life they must have worn the habit, observed chastity according to their state, and have recited the Little Office. If they do not know how to recite it, they are to observe the fasts of the Church and to abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays, except for the feast of Christmas."

-Pope Paul V

This the first existent Papal Bull regarding scapulars. It hardly gives the impression that all a person needs to do is wear a little scapular. The scapular is meant to be an external sign of an internal devotion.

Moreover, there is further clarification...

"We are concerned, namely, with that which is of supreme importance to all and with the manner of achieving it safely. . . But not for this reason may they who wear the Scapular think that they can gain eternal salvation while remaining slothful and negligent of spirit, for the Apostle warns us: "In fear and trembling shall you work out your salvation" (Phil. 2:12)."

-Pope Pius XII

So you see, the scapular is not a charm that grants salvation.

For more information about scapulars check out catholicculture.org

cattiekit said...

Dang, monica! :>O

A big hairy SPIDER???!?!?!

Hope you can sleep decently by now. :>}

Anonymous said...

Obviously, a faithful and faith filled catholic relies on Christ and the Sacraments not pieces of cloth (and thanks to anonymous for the long quotes from Pius XII and Paul V). The posting does not stress the idea that this is in addition to faith and prayer.

I checked out a Catholic information booth at the State Fair one year and the eager ladies there showered me with sacramentals and their benefits without mentioning Christ or His Church.

The point I am trying to make is that when catholics make claims about sacramentals without giving the whole story, non-catholics easily fall into the "Catholics aren't Christian. Catholics are idolators" and a whole bunch of other stuff. I have to frequently explain to non-catholic friends the ideas of sacramentals, praying 'to' saints, and 'worshipping' the Blessed Virgin.


Anonymous said...

cattiekit, it's been a few years, but I'm sleeping again! (most nights, anyway.)

Anonymous said...

Question: To what extent is baptism by water necessary for salvation?

Also, how can baptism confer grace on an infant who has no capacity for belief?

What happens to unbaptized babies when they die?

Kasia said...


Not that Sr. Mary Martha can't answer this, but just in case she's busy and doesn't have a chance...

As I understand it, baptism by water is necessary (but not necessarily sufficient in and of itself - that is, if you get baptized and then run amok unrepentantly for fifty years, don't count on the baptism to save you) for salvation as the Church understands it. So it's an essential component. I have heard that baptism by blood (martyrdom) and baptism by desire (earnestly desiring water baptism but being unable to get it) can also work for salvation. However, as my priest often says, God is not bound by the sacraments. He says that it is conceivable that God could choose to save someone who was not baptized. However, the Church and those of us on earth *are* bound by the sacraments. So if we know what we're supposed to do and we don't do it, it's a very serious thing.

I would have to dig out my notes about regenerative baptism to speak to your second question. I have never asked the third (simply trusting, I suppose, that God being good, He would not damn a baby who died before being baptized), but can ask my priest.

Feel free to e-mail me if you like (clamrampant at yahoo dot com) and we can talk.

Sparki said...

Another sacramental question. My husband's Rosary came apart. He kept using it, even though the loop was broken, and so I never got around to fixing it. Well, my 3-year-old daughter found it while my mother-in-law was babysitting one day. Apparently, Mom (who is NOT Catholic), thought it was jewelry and put it back together for my daughter to wear around her neck. Except now there is a big portion missing -- one "Our Father" bead with half a dozen of the decade beads on one side and two or three on the other. I don't know where the missing section is -- Mom might have pitched it. If I can find it and put the rosary back together again, does a priest have to bless it again because it was a bit mangled? Does a priest have to bless any rosary again when it's been repaired? P.S., I'm already trying to teach the 3-year-old not to wear a rosary.

Anonymous said...

I have just recently started wearing a brown scapular. I am a pretty devout cristian, and i was wondering about what was said about it falling off at the time of death. How are you to prevent this from happening? also, if i happen to buy a new one should i get it blessed, or do they come blessed?