SACRAMENTS AND SACRAMENTALS
ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SCAPULARS (II)
Dear friends, today we shall finish off our discussion on scapulars. On Monday we looked at its origin and its usage developed over time.
Today we shall discuss the regulations involving its use, what it means to the one who wears it, and how it disposes us to receive the graces associated with it.
There are specific regulations for wearing a scapular, including “investment” (the blessing of the scapular by a priest) and, if applicable, enrollment in a confraternity, which must be done by a priest. Investment can be as simple as a priest’s recitation of the appropriate and applicable prayers, along with a blessing. This blessing is required only for one’s first scapular.
Scapulars must be made of wool and must be worn constantly (though they may be removed for short periods of time). Worn-out or damaged scapulars should be buried or burned (as with any sacramental) and not just thrown away.
Alternatively, it’s also acceptable to wear a scapular medal, which must be blessed along with the wool scapular it is replacing. The medal must have the images of Jesus and his Sacred Heart on one side, and the Blessed Mother on the other.
Perhaps the most popular scapular is that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or the “Brown Scapular.” Wearing the Brown Scapular expresses devotion to the Mother of God, trust in her intercession, submission to her spiritual maternity, and a desire to emulate her faithfulness. In return, wearers may hope, in faith, to receive the privileges and promises associated with the wearing of the scapular.
Occasions of Grace
As with any sacramental, a scapular does not offer magical protection. But it can be spiritually powerful, due to the blessings bestowed on it through the Church’s intercession. Sacramentals, which both symbolize holiness and actually become holy through the blessing they receive, dispose us to receive graces.
Wearing a blessed scapular indicates, first and foremost, the conscious effort of one who is motivated to live as a true disciple of Christ. In this way, a scapular offers many occasions of grace. It acts as a reminder to pray regularly, to ask the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and to live a faith-filled life. What it cannot offer is an unconditional guarantee of salvation.
“Properly disposed” is a key phrase here. Regarding sacramentals, the Church has always taught that one must be properly disposed for them to be effective.
While it’s true that a sacramental is made objectively holy by its transformed nature (having become a blessed object), it’s also true that blessings don’t operate in a vacuum. God uses them, in cooperation with our will, to impart grace. But if we’re unwilling, they can become meaningless.
If my doctor advises me to cut out sugar, walk regularly, and take my medicine, I’d be presumptuous to down milkshakes for breakfast, crawl slothfully through my days, and expect the medicine to compensate for my omissions. Similarly, I cannot expect a scapular to compensate for what I’m unwilling to contribute to my spiritual health.
The scapular is a time-honored and powerful devotion that asks its wearers to live out the faith they profess. The “medicine” can’t work if we’re working against it, so we should never exercise presumptuous expectations. But if we wear a scapular out of genuine love for Christ and a deep desire to be with Him in eternity, we can hope, in faith, that our expectations will be fulfilled.
In that sense, the privileges associated with that “sacramental thing on strings” are genuine promises. They are the assurances of things hoped for, but not yet seen.
Lets meet next Monday, 3rd October, 2016 to dissect and discuss the 7 Sacraments one after the other.
God bless you.
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