Sunday, December 19, 2010

7th Graders and Scapulars



Our 7th grade theology teacher came to me this past week and asked if I'd be willing to bestow scapulars upon any of her seventh graders; she said they'd been talking about scapulars in class and that some of them were interested in enrolling. I was a little skeptical that any of them would actually want to do it, but I agreed to meet them in the chapel during homeroom to go through the ceremony.

The word scapular first referred (and still does today) to a cloth that hung the length of the body, front and back, and would drape over the shoulders of monks and religious sisters. This scapular originally had a use - it kept the underlying habit clean when one was working. The scapular essentially served as a two-sided apron. Today, many religious orders still feature a scapular as part of their clothing. Now, it is typically more often used to signify the promise of Christ - "My yoke is easy and my burden light." The scapular takes the shape of a yoke around one's neck, but, being made of cloth, is obviously quite light on one's shoulders.

The scapular has also come to refer to a smaller version as well, and is usually more like a necklace than an apron. There are many different types of scapulars that can be worn, and each is usually associated with some special devotion to Our Lady. The most popular of these scapulars, by far, is the brown scapular which is the sign of a devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In the apparition associated with the Carmelite order, Mary promised that if those wearing a scapular kept their daily promises of praying (either from Scripture or the Rosary) then she would lead them in to Heaven.

Criticism obviously arises from our modern world with regards to the Scapular, because some accuse its wearers of superstition and so forth. Certainly, to a world that is completely devoid of the supernatural, the scapular takes its place in a long line of Catholic Hocus Pocus. However, if one sees the scapular for what it is, a pledge by the wearer to conform their life to Christ and to pray daily, the idea that those promises would lead to eternal life is not that far-fetched.

Anyways, after explaining to the 7th graders in the chapel the various serious promises that a scapular-wearer makes to pray daily and to live a life of holiness, I asked all who were interested to come up and take a scapular and place it on the altar. I was shocked, because all but about 5-10 kids came up and took one! It was very moving for me to see the young kids so interested, even after hearing what all they were promising.

I've been meaning to have a priest bestow a scapular on me for many years. I've been living the promises for about 10 years, but I've just never gotten around to actually wearing the scapular because I can never find a priest to do the ceremony for me when I'm thinking of it. The 7th graders were my inspiration, and yesterday I had my spiritual director bestow a scapular upon me. From the mouth of babes!