For most Catholics, the word ‘scapular’ brings to mind a small necklace with two wool patches. But scapulars were originally worn by members of religious communities as part of their habits. Scapulars didn’t start as the small necklaces they are today – instead they were the size of a large work apron. It was often referred to as the yoke of Christ, and members of religious communities wore them at all times – even when they went to sleep!
During the Middle Ages, lay people wanted to associate themselves with religious orders, so they formed confraternities. Part of the criteria for belonging to the confraternity included wearing the scapular. Because large wool work aprons were impractical to wear for the average lay person, the scapular began its transformation into the smaller necklace size that we know today.
The most popular scapular is the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Given to Saint Simon Stock by Our Lady herself, the scapular holds a series of special promises to the wearers of the sacramental. Today, there are many kinds of different scapulars, and not all of them are in line with a confraternity.
Here are nine scapulars you may not have heard of before.
1. The White Scapular of the Most Blessed Trinity
The Scapular of the Holy Trinity is a devotional scapular first developed by the Order of the Trinitarians. The religious order previously wore the scapular as part of their religious routine, and the scapular was accepted by Pope Innocent III in 1198. It is a white scapular with a red and blue cross. Wearing the scapular is a sign of purification to the Holy Trinity.
2. The Black Scapular of the Seven Sorrows of Mary
This scapular is connected to the Servite Order, which was established in 1255. Members of the order wear a habit made of black cloth, so members of this confraternity wear a scapular made out of a similar black cloth. The Servite order is particularly devoted to Our Lady’s sorrows, and her image is ingraved on the scapular.
Enrollment in the confraternity includes the duty of wearing the scapular, praying for 15 minutes a day for the Servite order and the church, praying at least one Hail Mary and one Hail Holy Queen, and doing works of mercy for suffering souls.
3. The Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception
This scapular, most commonly known as the blue scapular, traces its roots all the way back to Venerable Ursula Benincasa, the foundress of the Theatine order of religious sisters. The scapular is made of blue wool cloth and a depiction of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.
4. The Red Scapular of the Passion of Our Lord
In 1846, Sister Appoline, a member of the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, had a vision. Christ appeared to her and told her to wear this red scapular every Friday. Christ promised that those who wear the red scapular will be given an increase in faith, hope, and love. The scapular is made of red cloth, and the words “Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, save us” on one side. On the other side of the scapular, an image of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the words “Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, guide us” are found.
5. The Blue and Black Scapular of Saint Michael the Archangel
Pope Leo XIII (who introduced the Saint Michael Prayer) approved of this scapular in 1880. It’s in line with the confraternity of Saint Michael the Archangel. This scapular is uniquely shaped like a shield, calling to mind the role Saint Michael plays in spiritual warfare. One shield is black, and the other is blue. The scapular features an image of Saint Michael killing a dragon. The words ‘Quis ut Deus’, meaning ‘Who is like God’ – a translation of the Hebrew form of Saint Michael’s name – are also located on the scapular.
6. The Scapular of Saint Benedict
This scapular is often worn by oblates of the Order of Saint Benedict, but others can wear it as well. The front of the scapular usually has a depiction of Saint Benedict, but the picture isn’t essential. The confraternity and the scapular were both endowed with indulgences in 1882, and again in 1883. Members of the confraternity who live in warmer climates are permitted to wear a medal of Saint Benedict rather than the scapular – in as much as the scapular is preferred.
7. The White Scapular of Saint Joseph
This scapular was approved in 1890s by Pope Leo XIII. Devotion to the scapular was publicized by members of the Capuchin Order. In as much as it was initially produced on white cloth, it can now be found in white, gold and purple. One side has an image of Saint Joseph and Jesus with the words “Saint Joseph, patron of the Church, intercede for us”. On the other side, pictures of a dove, cross, and the keys of Peter are found along with the words “The Spirit of the Lord is his Guide”.
8. The White Scapular of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
This scapular has an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on one panel, and an image of Mary, Mother of Mercy, on the other panel. Devotion to this scapular was spread in the 1800s by Estelle Faguette, a French house servant. She claimed to have had a series of visions where the Blessed Mother showed her this scapular and requested that she spread a devotion to it.
9. The White Scapular of Saint Dominic
The scapular of Saint Dominic was approved by Saint Pope Pius X in 1903. Attached to the scapular is a 300 day indulgence to those who wear the scapular and devoutly kiss the sacramental. The scapular is white, and while no image is particularly found on all of them, always one side of the scapular will depict Saint Dominic kneeling before the crucifix. The other side may have an image of Blessed Reginald of Orleans being given a religious habit by Our Lady.