The brown scapular is an outward sign of an inward devotion, not some sort of magical token. It’s a sign of Mary’s protection, a sign that is only meaningful if it is accompanied by prayer and fidelity. But how did this devotion come to be?
In 1251, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock in Cambridge, England, and gave him the brown scapular as a sign of divine protection for his Carmelite order which was suffering oppression and hardship. In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima appeared holding a rosary and a brown scapular.
The rosary is our weapon and the scapular our shield. Wearing the brown scapular is a continuous expression of devotion—an exterior sign of interior fidelity.Our Lady of Mt. Carmel promised that anyone who dies wearing the brown scapular would not suffer the eternal fire. However, just wearing a scapular is not enough. It is not a magical token. You have to be “vested” in this Carmelite devotion by a Catholic priest, and, more importantly, you have to keep the promises that it involves. But once you’re in, you’re in for life. (All of our scapulars come with a handy prayer card to bring to a priest so you can be vested right away!)
And let’s be absolutely clear: no sacramental gives grace by its own merit. Rather, “by the Church’s prayer they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.” (CCC 1670) And even in the most basic material sense, what you wear affects how you perceive yourself. This sacramental is a way to remind yourself constantly of Our Lady’s love and intercession for us—an exterior sign of interior fidelity… ultimately to Jesus, her Son.