What the brown scapular IS—and what it ISN’T

The Brown Scapular is an outward expression of our devotion to Mary and a reminder to be faithful to her as she is to her children. While Our Lady of Mount Carmel did promise special privileges and protections to those who wear the brown scapular, these protections do not come from the garment itself. The garment represents a way of life and disposition of the heart, not a magical token or a superstitious talisman. Certainly not a get-out-of-hell-free card!

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. The Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of all mankind, promises that any soul who perseveres wholeheartedly in this fidelity until death will not suffer the eternal flames.


holding a brown scapular with Our Lady of Mount Carmel


Why did Our Lady give us the brown scapular?

On July 16, 1251, the Carmelite order was suffering a period of oppression and hardship. The order of hermits had recently fled their Mt. Carmel home in the face of violence from the Saracens, and now they floated about Europe, struggling to adapt to their new surroundings amidst local hostility and skepticism.

Their way of life was changing, and the future was uncertain. In the face of these trials, the prior general Simon Stock (now St. Simon Stock) appealed to Our Lady, the perfect model of their way of life, for help and assurance. In response, Our Lady of Mount Carmel appeared to him with a gift: the brown scapular. She offered this garment as a sign of divine protection for the Carmelite order and promised special privileges for those who wear it faithfully.

The Church extends this Carmelite devotion to all the laity who are “vested” in the brown scapular, enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity, live according to the Marian devotion, and wear the sacramental continuously.


illustration of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding Jesus with a brown scapular

What are the Promises of the Brown Scapular?

Many scapulars are embroidered with the original promise of the Holy Virgin to St. Simon Stock: “Whosoever dies clothed with this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” While this is the most well-known promise associated with the brown scapular, it is not the only benefit of the devotion! Here are all the privileges connected to the scapular devotion.

  • As a sacramental, the brown scapular confers extra grace and disposes us to cooperate with it. (CCC 1670)
  • The Blessed Virgin Mary promises special protection in life and death
  • Final perseverance “at the hour of death”
  • Assistance after death and an early release from Purgatory (also called the Sabbatine Privilege)


What is the Sabbatine Privilege?

In 1322, a papal bull titled Sacratissimo uti culmine was attributed to Pope John XXII. The Bull records a Marian apparition to the Pope with a description of how and when the Blessed Mother would free those who wear the brown scapular from Purgatory: “I, the Mother of Grace, shall descend on the Saturday after their death and whomsoever I shall find in purgatory I shall free so that I may lead them to the holy mountain of life everlasting.”

This swift rescue from Purgatory is known as the Sabbatine Privilege, named for the day of the week in which it is said to take place (the Jewish Sabbath). 

Whether or not Pope John XXII was the authentic author of the Bull is debated by Church scholars. In light of this controversy, the Holy Office released a decree in 1613 clarifying what the Carmelites should preach about its contents. The decree states that those practicing this devotion, “may derive after death – especially on Saturdays, the day consecrated by the Church to the Blessed Virgin – through the unceasing intercession of Mary, her pious petitions, her merits, and her special protection.”

So while it is unclear whether Our Lady of Mount Carmel makes a routine visit to Purgatory to retrieve her devoted servants on Saturdays, we can count on her special help after death, especially on this particular day of the week dedicated to her honor.


Our Lady with a crown of 12 stars and the rosary


What are the requirements/conditions to receive the promises of the brown scapular?

Our Lady assigned certain conditions to her promises regarding the brown scapular devotion

  1. Wear the brown scapular continuously.
  2. Live a life of charity.
  3. Observe chastity according to your state in life.
  4. One of the following: 
    1. Recite daily the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Divine Office
    2. Abstain from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (an exception is made for Christmas) in addition to the fast days prescribed by the Church.
    3. With the permission of a priest, say five decades of the Most Holy Rosary.
    4. With the permission of a priest, substitute some other good work.


The Blessed Virgin Mary with her arms around a girl wearing the brown scapular

How to get enrolled in the brown scapular: Step-by-Step Guide.

  1. Order a brown scapular. A brown scapular is defined as two pieces of brown wool connected by cords worn across the chest and back. Other colors and designs may be present on the face of the scapular, but the wool itself must be brown in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Every scapular on our site fulfills these requirements :)
  2. Find a priest. Any priest is eligible to enroll you in the Brown Scapular Confraternity.
  3. Ask him to vest you with the scapular using the handy prayer card that comes with each scapular in our collection.

You are now enrolled in the Brown Scapular Confraternity! There is no need to be re-enrolled or have a new scapular blessed if you need to replace it in the future. The Catholic Church certifies that this blessing follows the devotee, not the garment, so once you’re in, you’re in for life! All of our scapulars come with a handy prayer card. 

Modern scapulars are notoriously breakable and uncomfortable, a far cry from the comfort and assurance of Our Lady’s protection they are meant to signify. Don’t settle for a low quality sacramental that needs to be replaced every few months. Each “Super Scapular” from our collection comes with a guaranteed lifespan of 7 years (under normal use), so you can wear your brown scapular continuously without worrying about the effects of daily wear and tear!


Read More: MYTH: Brown Scapulars are supposed to be uncomfortableMount Carmel in ScriptureRespectfully Dispose of Your Old Scapulars 


“Let the faithful hold in high esteem the practices and devotions to the Blessed Virgin approved by the teaching authority of the Church. It is Our conviction that the Rosary of Mary and the Scapular of Carmel are among these recommended practices. The Scapular is a practice of piety, which by its very simplicity is suited to everyone.”

- Pope Paul VI


Steve Kerekes, Founder of Scapulars.com

Steve Kerekes
Founder of Scapulars.com


Sources:  Sisters Of Carmel, New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholic Leader, Wikipedia

Gabor Kerekes