The scapular

The Scapular of the Sacred Heart: an authentic devotion of Marian piety

The scapular of the Sacred Heart summarises and unites in one symbol two great devotions of our Christian life: the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Virgin. It also reminds us that Mary leads us to the merciful Jesus.

On December 8, 1876, in Pellevoisin (Diocese of Bourges), the Virgin Mary confided to Estelle Faguette: “See the graces I am pouring out on those who will wear the scapular with confidence. As she said this,” Estelle wrote, “the Blessed Virgin stretched out her hands; an abundant rain fell from them, and in each of these drops I seemed to see graces written down, such as piety, salvation, trust, conversion, health (15th apparition).

In 1900, Pope Leo XIII officially recognised the scapular of the Sacred Heart and encouraged all the faithful (baptised or catechumens of the Catholic Church) to wear it. Numerous indulgences are granted to it by the Church.

The faithful who have received the scapular can become members of the Archconfraternity of Our Lady of Pellevoisin, whose mission is to promote the sanctuary.

Why receive the imposition of the scapular of the Sacred Heart?

  • To consecrate oneself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  • To be intimately united, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Mercy, to the Heart of Jesus which was pierced on the cross and which is the source of all grace.
What am I committing to?
  • To wear the scapular devoutly; the so-called “scapular medal” may replace it if it has been previously imposed.
  • To live, with the grace of God, a fervent Christian life: by participating in the Sunday Eucharist, by frequently receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, by praying to the Virgin Mary, by living the spirituality of the Sacred Heart and of mercy, by sanctifying the first Friday of the month etc.
  • To discover more and more the message of the Virgin Mary at Pellevoisin, if possible: by regularly reading the account of the Apparitions; by meditating and praying the words of the Virgin Mary; by taking part in the annual pilgrimage on the last weekend of August, and in the weekend of Mercy on the 2nd Sunday of Easter; by reading the magazine of the Sanctuary; by becoming a member of the Association Notre-Dame de Miséricorde. (This list is not exhaustive, see below)
What should I do to prepare for the imposition of the scapular?
  • Read the message from Pellevoisin
  • Confess and receive Holy Communion (if my life situation allows it), in order to benefit from the plenary indulgence
  • Meet with a priest or deacon to have the scapular imposed on him after agreement with the rector or a priest of the shrine
To go further…
  • To obtain scapulars of the Sacred Heart and the complete account of the apparitions “Estelle nous parle”: Boutique du Pèlerin, 3b, rue Notre-Dame, F-36180 Pellevoisin
  • To become an adherent member of the Archconfraternity of Our Most Merciful Lady of Pellevoisin: write to Father Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy, 3b, rue Notre-Dame, F-36180 Pellevoisin,

On 16 July, the Church celebrates Our Lady of Mount Carmel who promised to save all those who consecrate themselves to her by wearing the scapular. In fact, in the 12th century a group of hermits settled on the slopes of Mount Carmel. They built a small church in honour of the Virgin Mary. Following persecution, they were driven out of their monastery. In deep distress, they begged the Virgin Mary, who appeared on 16 July 1251 to Saint Simon Stock, their prior general, to strengthen him in his mission and to assure him of her protection by giving him a habit similar to his own: the scapular. The scapular of Mount Carmel thus became for many Christians the sign of consecration to the Virgin Mary.

Carmelites, as well as other religious, wear a large scapular on their dress, like an apron on their shoulders, to signify their desire to entrust to the Virgin Mary the consecration of their lives to Christ according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.

From the 16th century onwards, many lay faithful also wished to wear a small scapular under their clothes. There are different scapulars, but they all have basically the same meaning: receiving a scapular means that we want to receive the motherhood of the Virgin Mary in order to live our baptismal consecration.

At Pellevoisin, during the 9th apparition, by showing a scapular decorated with the Sacred Heart, the Virgin Mary reveals the secret that makes her live: the Heart of her Son.

“I love this devotion,” she says. She reminds us that the life of the baptized takes its source in the Heart of Jesus. Wearing the scapular expresses the will to be united to the Heart of Christ, to want nothing outside of it, to rest on his heart, to be enveloped in the mercy of Jesus and to act in everything to glorify the Father.

The scapular of the Heart of Christ is a sign given by the Virgin Mary, which, placed daily on our heart, helps us to associate ourselves with the mystery of salvation acquired at the Cross, in the same love for the Father and for all humanity.

The imposition may include the reading of biblical texts expressing the importance and symbolism of clothing in the scriptures:

– He has clothed me with the garments of salvation (Isa 61:10-11)

– Elisha inherits Elijah’s mantle (2Ki 2:7-13)

– Put on the finery of God’s glory (Ba 5:1-5)

– Your beauty was perfect. (Ez 16,8-14)

– The woman touched the garment of Jesus and was healed (Mk 5:25-34)

– Offer yourself and your life to God (Rom 12:1-2)

– God sent his Son, born of a woman (Gal 4:4-7)

– You must put on the new man (Eph 4:17, 20-24)

– Put on God’s equipment for the battle (Eph 6:10-17)

Mary is the first to receive the fullness of the Revelation of God the Trinity. She is the mother of our faith: “Faith […] is an inner robe of brilliant whiteness, which dazzles the sight of the understanding. Once the soul is clothed in faith, the devil is powerless to hinder it, for faith has more power than the other virtues against this enemy, the strongest and most cunning of all. Hence, St. Peter proposes this weapon as the best way to defeat him, with these words: “Resist him by remaining firm in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:9).

In order to obtain the good graces of the Beloved and union with Him, the soul cannot clothe itself with a better interior tunic, nor give better support to the other garments of the virtues, than this white tunic of faith, for, “without it,” says the apostle, “it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). On the contrary, when one has a living faith, it is impossible not to please him, since he himself says to us through the prophet Hosea: ‘I will marry you in faith’ (Hosea 2:20)” (Saint John of the Cross, Dark Night 2, 21,3-4).

The scapular, like a white tunic of faith, protects us from the assaults of the devil by keeping us in the obedience of faith, in loving dependence on the will of the Father, under the breath of the Holy Spirit. It is faith that makes us touch God as he is and keeps us in his hand.

In order to let this inner tunic envelop us in its brilliant light, we must be willing to walk humbly along paths that are obscure to our sick eyes, but in reality resplendent with clarity.

The scapular, by its simplicity, expresses humility and trust. The simplicity and discretion of the sign of the scapular express the trust and humility of faith. Led by the light of faith, the believer leaves the uncertain shores of the spectacular, the worldly glitter, and embraces the patient labour of the pilgrimage of faith, in consent to the will of God accepted in the duty of state, obedience to events, words of divine Providence. Mary always precedes us on this path.

Just as the Virgin Mary clothed Jesus from his birth to the seamless tunic from which he was stripped in his passion, so the scapular is a gift from the Mother of the Redeemer. How can we fail to see the presence of the Mother of the Saviour in the maternal gesture of the Church in clothing the neophyte with the baptismal robe?

By her life of faith, Mary in her virginal heart has, as it were, woven for us this garment of grace and clothes us in it until the day when we reach the fullness of Christ’s stature (cf. Eph 4:13).

The scapular today unites millions of the faithful in the same desire to live their baptismal consecration, protected and led by the Virgin Mary.

In Carmel, the scapular is brown, elsewhere it is brown or black (Benedictines), white, green, blue… it specifies a particular fraternity linked to the community or shrine that wears it. For all, it is a sign of the fraternity that binds them to a particular community or shrine. Through the imposition of the scapular, they are welcomed into a “spiritual family”, from which they share the spiritual treasure of all the brothers and sisters who are journeying together towards the heavenly Jerusalem. Thus, those who receive the scapular become associated with a particular order and commit themselves to live according to their spirituality in conformity with the characteristics of their state of life.

On 25 March 2001, in his message to the entire Carmelite spiritual family on the 750th anniversary of the presentation of the Scapular of Our Lady of Carmel, Pope John Paul II revealed that he too wears it:

“The sign of the Scapular constitutes an eloquent synthesis of Marian spirituality that nourishes the devotion of believers, making them sensitive to the loving presence of the Virgin Mother in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a “habit”. The one who receives it is included or associated in a more or less intimate way with the Order of Carmel, consecrated to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church (cf. Formula on the imposition of the Scapular, in the “Rite of the Blessing and Imposition of the Scapular”, approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 5/1/1996) The person who puts on the Scapular is thus introduced into the land of Carmel, so that “he may eat its fruits and produce” (cf. Jer 2:7); and so that he may experience the gentle and maternal presence of Mary, in the daily commitment to clothe himself interiorly with Jesus Christ and to manifest him in a living way in himself for the good of the Church and of all humanity (cf. Formula for the Imposition of the Scapular, cit.).

The truths evoked under the sign of the Scapular are therefore twofold: on the one hand, the permanent protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only during the journey of life, but also at the moment of passage to the fullness of eternal glory. On the other hand, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour in certain circumstances, but must constitute a “habit”, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through the frequent practice of the Sacraments and the concrete exercise of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way, the Scapular becomes a sign of “covenant” and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: in fact, it translates in a concrete way the act by which Jesus entrusted his Mother to John on the Cross, and through him to all of us, and the instruction of the beloved apostle and of all of us to Mary, constituted as our spiritual Mother.

The witness of holiness and wisdom of the many saints of Carmel, all of whom grew up in the shadow of Mary and under her protection, is a splendid example of this Marian spirituality, which inwardly models people and configures them to Christ, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.

I too have long worn the Scapular of Carmel on my heart! Because of the love I feel for our common heavenly Mother, whose protection I constantly feel, I hope that this Marian year will help all the religious of Carmel and the pious faithful who venerate her filially, to grow in her love and to make the presence of this Woman of silence and prayer, invoked as Mother of mercy, Mother of hope and grace, shine forth in the world.