Scapulars
“Suspicious Superstitions?” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day
Guest Post: Scapulars are Distractors from What’s Really Important” by B.

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

I never realized how superstitious Italians and Irishmen are. They are also very proud people, so I’ll be clear: I get to say this because I’m both Irish and Italian (with German, for good measure).

Italians will not drink with out clinking glasses and you must take a sip from the glass before setting it down after clinking. It’s an involved process and must be handled with care. One must never toast with a glass of water in this exchange, however, because that is bad luck and will have a table-full of nervous Italians trading glances.

The Irish believe that a deceased aerospace engineer has it out for them. Edward Murphy, Jr., they say, preys on the Irish through his rule, Murphy’s Law. “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” There are many other superstitions involving bad omens that prey on the Irish. For instance, did you know women with red hair are most unlucky?

Is she unlucky? Or just unwise…

That is, as they say, the luck of the Irish.

Though I think superstitions are mostly silly and pessimistic, many stress that they can be dangerous if one truly believes the minute act causes a rip in the universal order of “luck.” If superstitious people honestly think that having red hair or toasting with water in one’s goblet will result in misfortune, they excuse a certain amount of faith in God and natural order.

This is what makes people so uneasy about the idea of a scapular. The item resembling a necklace, if worn at the time of death, is said to be a “ticket to Heaven.” Using this kind of language closes the proverbial door on discussion because it seems obviously superstitious.

Take, beloved son, this scapular of the order as a badge of my confraternity and for you and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant” -Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to St. Simon Stock, 16 July 1251

I once wrote it off as superstitious and if I had worn a scapular anyway, I wonder if that would have been sinful. If I’m wearing it with false faith, I’m not really wearing it as a “badge of confraternity,” and I’m therefore trying to avoid the pain of hell without the desire to be in union with God.

A scapular played a triumphant role in my reversion, but that’s another story. When I wore it that day, I wore it with a profound faith that Mary would not have lied if she had made this promise. I was trying to turn back to God and my faith was in faith alone, though I was holding on by a thread.

I understand why people would object to the practice of wearing a scapular. As Catholic Christians, we believe, as the Bible explains, we will be judged for our faith and works (Romans 2:6, etc). It seems almost “unfair” that someone would bypass the system when it seems their only motivation is to avoid hell in the easiest way.

I argue that wearing a scapular with the believe in Mary’s promise is an act of faith, and is therefore an expression of both faith and works.

What other ways do we believe lead us to Jesus’ merciful judgment to bring us into Heaven? We believe our job as a spouse is to bring each other to Heaven. We believe parents are meant to lead their children to a path to Heaven. We believe that absolution of sin heals us as much as we can be healed on Earth, and in effect, if we were to die immediately after leaving a good confession session, we trust we’d go to Heaven.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” -John 14:6

It all comes down to God’s mercy and we should never presume we can limit it by determining we know who goes to Heaven and who goes to hell. We can have faith that our loved ones are in Heaven, but absolute statements about those going to hell take on God’s role.

Discern it, reflect on Mary’s words, and listen to see if God is calling you to wear an outward sign of faith. Perhaps wearing one will be a reminder to behave more like the person God created you to be.

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