July 20, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — In the Old Testament, Elijah asked God to reveal Himself. God told him to meet Him on a mountain, and there He would reveal Himself to Elijah. The prophet witnessed a fierce wind, and then an earthquake, and then fire, but God was in none of those. He was in a small, still whisper. When the Blessed Mother needs to capture our attention, sometimes she is quiet, sometimes she whispers, and other times she drops breadcrumbs that look more like baguettes.
Last year, after encountering a series of what seemed to be never-ending roadblocks, I decided to double down on my devotion to the Blessed Mother. Led by instruction on spiritual warfare by Father Chad Ripperger, I carved out time for the recommended 33-day preparation for St. Louis de Montfort’s total consecration to Jesus through Mary. I had attempted it 25 years ago, but I never got through it. From the manner in which some people in Catholic circles described it, you would think it was like climbing Mt. Everest, but it was actually astonishingly beautiful and sweet.
After my consecration on May 31, the Feast of the Visitation, I noticed a calming sense of peace and relief because I knew that I truly belonged to Mary. I stopped frowning about circumstances beyond my control, and I knew Our Lady was directing me because I transformed my dismal attitude about many matters that made me feel unhappy. It was not about sloppy things suddenly becoming neat and easy, or having my prayers answered instantaneously. Rather, I was learning how to “Joan-up.” It wasn’t about “me” anymore, and I understood that maybe that recurring dream I kept having about showing up for class on the last day to the final exam, only to realize I had skipped the entire semester, may be about unused gifts and wasted time worrying about when God would finally answer that one prayer.
Along with total consecration was the ongoing spiritual formation, which included adherence to our Lady’s request at Fatima to make reparation for the grave offences and sacrileges committed against God and to prevent Russia from spreading her errors throughout the world. The primacy of her message was given witness by a great solar miracle and was intensified by a warning that if her urgent plea for prayer and penance was ignored, and the Holy Father did not consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart, Russia would spread her errors throughout the world, and the world would experience a great chastisement. But in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph, the Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, and the world will experience a period of peace – but not before suffering the great chastisement, which at the time of the apparition could still be averted. She said the cup was already running over – 104 years ago.
With the ominous state of our country and our Church worsening, I renewed my commitment to intensify my response to the request she made during the last of the six apparitions, on October 13, 1917, when she appeared to the three shepherd children as Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding a Brown Scapular. I knew I needed to make a concerted effort to attend Mass on Saturdays. I was praying my daily rosary, and I practiced fasting.
There was just one thing missing: the Brown Scapular.
Wearing the Brown Scapular was something I struggled with for many years. I often wondered if the priest had officially invested me in the Brown Scapular when I made my first Holy Communion, and I would dismiss the prompting to wear it with the promise to wear it as soon as I got enrolled for certain. Unlike religious devotionals to which a priest can extend impromptu blessings, in order to for you to receive Our Lady’s promise, a Catholic priest first has to “vest” you in the brown scapular and the recipient must fulfil certain conditions such as wearing it continuously, observing chastity for one's state in life, and saying five decades of the Rosary daily.
The mystery of the invisible face
The first nudge that I should put the scapular back on came from my coworker, Mary Rubines, who wears her scapular every day. Last week she shared an intriguing account about something that had occurred the previous day when she was having her new photo ID taken. The administrator had been taking photos of employees all week without any issues, but this time she could not take a photo because of an unusual error message. The system detected two faces!
The only other image of a face near Mary was her photo ID on the lanyard hanging below her waist, but she removed it anyway. The error message continued. Reluctantly, Mary removed her scapular, which was laying closer to her neck, to see if it could have been interfering with the transmission. Her photo was then taken without any issues. Both Mary and the administrator agreed it was strange, and the administrator reminisced about the scapular her grandmother wore every day until she died.
Although the incident remains a mystery, I would be remiss if I did not point out the possibility that Our Lady was making a discreet yet powerful statement about the Brown Scapular, which some have referred to as her personal relic.
The following Sunday at the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Coral Gables, FL, Monsignor Oscar Castaneda urged everyone, “Wear the Brown Scapular and never take it off!” My mom and I exchanged that “we are so busted” look as though we had just been caught cheating on a test. Then I grabbed the two brand-new brown scapulars I had been carrying inside my purse and draped them over our heads. We have both gone through several scapulars over the last 30 years, but we stop wearing them when they break or begin to interfere with our outfits, mostly due to our sins of vanity.
Later that week, I encountered a post on Instagram about the Brown Scapular. It was the first post in my feed, and the first comment I saw was from a young woman who said wearing the Brown Scapular changed her life. This was the third lightning bolt in a week about the Brown Scapular. I asked her to message me, and she gave me permission to include her testimony with the caveat that she remained anonymous; she wanted the focus to be on the scapular and not on her.
The young woman explained that she was very far from being a true Catholic when a priest asked her to wear the Brown Scapular and observe the necessary dispositions and prayers to receive the Sabbatine privilege of being saved from Purgatory the first Saturday after death.
The young woman said that she wore the scapular for six months without any feeling towards it. Then on July 16th, 2017, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, while praying at the Shrine of St. Charbel, my correspondent started crying tears of repentance. She looked at the Tabernacle, and told St. Charbel, “I need to confess; I did a mortal sin. Please, St. Charbel, help me to have the courage to confess and send me a priest. I will close my eyes and open them. Please send me a priest [of your choice].”
When she opened her eyes, the young woman saw a priest directly in front of her. She said she needed to confess right away, and he said, “Of course.” The young woman began to confess to the priest, and then she began to hear what she described as an interior voice telling her, “That’s not everything.” It brought to mind all of the sins she had committed since birth. After 45 minutes, she left confession feeling dizzy, and it took several minutes to remember where she was.
“I have literally experienced a second birth,” she said.
“I am living proudly for Jesus. I dress modestly, I pray, confess, go to mass, and read the bible like a real Catholic. Mama Mary saved me! Glory to God! Now I ask every person I meet to wear the Brown Scapular, the Scapular of Salvation.”
The next day, my 28-year-old daughter was visiting, and I was wondering how I could approach her about wearing the scapular. One of her issues is that she is athletic, and we live in a tropical climate, so I was afraid she would not wear one. When my mother walked in the room holding up the medal form of the scapular that I had lost soon after my cousin gave it me in 2017, I was stunned. I shared all these stories with my daughter and draped the medal scapular over her head as though she had just finished her first marathon. Note the medal privilege is only for those who could not conveniently wear the cloth Brown Scapular, such as those in the service of their country, those in boiler rooms or similar workplaces, and citizens of tropical countries.
Now literally dazed, I reached out to other devoted Catholics about the Brown Scapular, and I realized that I am not alone. Many Catholic women struggle with wearing the scapular.
Traditional Catholic millennial Tatyana Talamas said her parents raised her with a devotion to the Brown Scapular, but she never wore it around her neck because she was concerned with the look.
“I would keep it tucked somewhere discreetly, but then I did some research and thought I should actually wear it,” said Tatyana, who began making scapulars as Christmas gifts for her family.
“Because it is a sign that you are always thinking of the Virgin Mary, that motivated me even more to wear it visibly.”
Tatyana shared how the Brown Scapular dates back to Mount Carmel and the Holy Land. It is very interesting that when the Blessed Virgin appeared in Fatima, during the cosmic solar phenomena of her last apparition, she appeared as our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Tatyana also noted with delight that the Carmelite order, which started in Palestine, was the first Marian Order. The Carmelites tried to stay in the Holy Land, but Muslims persecuted them and they ended up in England, thanks to St. Simon Stock. Tatyana describes the Carmelite spirituality as climbing Mount Carmel and achieving spiritual illumination and union. Once you reach that mountain, you feel like you are in the line of the prophet Elijah.
“I guess I am a Carmelite at heart,” Tatyana said.
“Every time I put [the Brown Scapular] on I kiss it, and there is an indulgence [attached].”
There is a litany of testimonies about miracles associated with the Brown Scapular, but this one from my friend Tim Gavin of Toledo fell in my lap the other night. He recalled that his third-grade teacher, Sister Mary Maurice, told his class a miraculous story of a US army veteran who had been shot in the chest during WWII. The bullet hit the scapular and tore it but did not go into his body.
The power of the Brown Scapular is also powerfully expressed through the often-shared story that devils told Francis of Yepes, the brother of St. John of the Cross, that three things especially tormented them: the Holy Name of Jesus, the Holy Name of Mary, and the Brown Scapular.
“Take off that habit which snatches too many souls from us,” they shouted at Francis.
“All those clothed in it die piously and escape us.”
I have prayed diligently for discernment about whether or not to share these accounts. Perhaps it's just the frustrated would-be screenwriter in me who cannot help but reflect in wonderment on the final scene of 1989 sports fantasy “Field of Dreams.” Did Our Lady synchronize the events over a two week period so I could get the word out, or were they just for me?
As the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 17 has just passed, there is a time-sensitive opportunity to proclaim her message of urgency: Wear the brown scapular and never take it off.
I did not know that the rosary and the scapular are inseparable. I thought I did everything I needed to do to be totally consecrated to Jesus through Mary, but no. There was one more thing: the Brown Scapular.
Anne DiBernardo carrying daughter, three-year-old Mary Elizabeth, through the woods during a pilgrimage in in 1996.
The Brown Scapular – Don’t be Caught Dead Without One
Steven Kerekes, a father of nine, began wearing the Brown Scapular when he was 18 because he was working in a high-risk position on a ship in the Balkan sea off Alaska. His chronic experience with broken scapulars led him to start making durable scapulars with merino wool and para-military cord, and so he founded Scapulars.com, an online company that exclusively manufactures and sells scapulars.
While his cautionary tagline, “Don’t be caught dead without one,” gets Our Lady’s message across powerfully, he prudently juxtaposes it with a potent caveat – “The Brown Scapular is not a get-out-of-Hell-free card.”
“There is a dual-sided promise. The Brown Scapular should serve as an exterior sign of interior fidelity… a sign of your consecration and dedication to Our Lady, a choice to live for Christ through Mary’s help. A silent prayer, it serves as a daily reminder to clothe yourself, literally and figuratively, in the virtues of the Faith,” Kerekes said.
Matthew Mangiaracina and his wife Lia pose for a photo after their wedding on May 7, 2017. The couple chose the date because it coincided with the centennial of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. After a four-day visit to the hometown of their patron, St. Gianna Beretta Molla in Magenta, Italy, they ended their honeymoon by attending the historic celebration in Fatima, Portugal.
Matthew asked Lia if she would wear the Brown Scapular when they began dating. “I knew about it, but Matt is the one who put it back on the radar,” Lia said. Lia believes the scapular should not be worn like jewelry, but in certain circumstances it cannot be hidden, and we should never be ashamed of our expression of faith and devotion to Our Lady.