The two most essential and important practices associated with True Devotion are the praying of our Lady’s Psalter, the Most Holy Rosary, and the wearing of the Brown Scapular (and the other scapulars of our Lady).
Saint Dominic himself made an incredible prophecy in the presence of Saint Francis of Assisi and the great Carmelite Saint Angelus of Jerusalem about the importance of the Rosary and the Scapular. This prophecy was recorded and handed down to us in the ancient history of the Carmelite Order written by Ventimiglia…
One day, Brother Angelus, to your Order of Carmel the Most Blessed Virgin Mary will give a devotion to be known as the Brown Scapular, and to my Order of Preachers she will give a devotion to be known as the Rosary. And one day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, she will save the world.
It is most interesting to note that when our Lady appeared at Fatima in that final and greatest apparition, during which took place the Miracle of the Sun, she appeared to the children as our Lady of the Rosary, our Lady of Sorrows, and our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Montfort, a third Order Dominican, certainly agrees with the importance of these two practices and name them among the most important for those who practice the True Devotion…
True devotion to our Lady has also several exterior practices. Here are the principal ones…carrying such signs of devotion to her as the rosary, the scapular, or a little chain. (True Devotion, #116)
Montfort even wrote a little book called: The Secret of the Rosary, which is the best book on the Rosary in existence. It is very short and extremely powerful. In it he makes possibly the most profound statement ever made about the Rosary…
If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins ‘you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.’ Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if– and mark well what I say– if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins.
“Even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic…” This statement is not just theory for Montfort was proved correct about this in the case of Blessed Bartolo Longo, who was born almost at the same time the manuscript of True Devotion was discovered. Bartolo was raised a devout Catholic, but fell away from his faith at University and ultimately was consecrated a satanic priest. But by the grace of God, he was converted by a Dominican Priest with the help of the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas and the prayer of the Rosary. Bartolo would take up the rosary and not only would be converted totally but would become one of the greatest apostles of our Lady and the Rosary since Saint Dominic or Blessed Alan. So great in fact that Pope Leo XIII, the Pope of the Rosary, in Bartolo’s lifetime gave him the title: The Man of Mary. You can listen to a sermon on his story here: From Satanic Priest to the Man of Mary: Blessed Bartolo Longo
And so now let us take a closer look at what Montfort says about the importance of the Hail Mary and the Holy Rosary…
Those who accept this devotion should have a great love for the Hail Mary, or, as it is called, the Angelic Salutation.
Few Christians, however enlightened, understand the value, merit, excellence and necessity of the Hail Mary. Our Blessed Lady herself had to appear on several occasions to men of great holiness and insight, such as St. Dominic, St. John Capistran and Blessed Alan de Rupe, to convince them of the richness of this prayer.
They composed whole books on the wonders it had worked and its efficacy in converting sinners. They earnestly proclaimed and publicly preached that just as the salvation of the world began with the Hail Mary, so the salvation of each individual is bound up with it. This prayer, they said, brought to a dry and barren world the Fruit of Life, and if well said, will cause the Word of God to take root in the soul and bring forth Jesus, the Fruit of Life. They also tell us that the Hail Mary is a heavenly dew which waters the earth of our soul and makes it bear fruit in due season. The soul which is not watered by this heavenly dew bears no fruit but only thorns and briars, and merits only God’s condemnation.
Here is what our Blessed Lady revealed to Blessed Alan de Rupe as recorded in his book, The Dignity of the Rosary, and as told again by Cartagena: “Know, my son, and make it known to all, that lukewarmness or negligence in saying the Hail Mary, or a distaste for it, is a probable and proximate sign of eternal damnation, for by this prayer the whole world was restored.”
These are terrible words but at the same time they are consoling. We should find it hard to believe them, were we not assured of their truth by Blessed Alan and by St. Dominic before him, and by so many great men since his time. The experience of many centuries is there to prove it, for it has always been common knowledge that those who bear the sign of reprobation, as all formal heretics, evil-doers, the proud and the worldly, hate and spurn the Hail Mary and the Rosary. True, heretics learn to say the Our Father but they will not countenance the Hail Mary and the Rosary and they would rather carry a snake around with them than a rosary. And there are even Catholics who, sharing the proud tendencies of their father Lucifer, despise the Hail Mary or look upon it with indifference. The Rosary, they say, is a devotion suitable only for ignorant and illiterate people.
On the other hand, we know from experience that those who show positive signs of being among the elect, appreciate and love the Hail Mary and are always glad to say it. The closer they are to God, the more they love this prayer, as our Blessed Lady went on to tell Blessed Alan.
I do not know how this should be, but it is perfectly true; and I know no surer way of discovering whether a person belongs to God than by finding out if he loves the Hail Mary and the Rosary. I say, “if he loves”, for it can happen that a person for some reason may be unable to say the Rosary, but this does not prevent him from loving it and inspiring others to say it.
Chosen souls, slaves of Jesus in Mary, understand that after the Our Father, the Hail Mary is the most beautiful of all prayers. It is the perfect compliment the most High God paid to Mary through his archangel in order to win her heart. So powerful was the effect of this greeting upon her, on account of its hidden delights, that despite her great humility, she gave her consent to the incarnation of the Word. If you say the Hail Mary properly, this compliment will infallibly earn you Mary’s good will.
When the Hail Mary is well said, that is, with attention, devotion and humility, it is, according to the saints, the enemy of Satan, putting him to flight; it is the hammer that crushes him, a source of holiness for souls, a joy to the angels and a sweet melody for the devout. It is the Canticle of the New Testament, a delight for Mary and glory for the most Blessed Trinity. The Hail Mary is dew falling from heaven to make the soul fruitful. It is a pure kiss of love we give to Mary. It is a crimson rose, a precious pearl that we offer to her. It is a cup of ambrosia, a divine nectar that we offer her. These are comparisons made by the saints.
I earnestly beg of you, then, by the love I bear you in Jesus and Mary, not to be content with saying the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin, but say the Rosary too, and if time permits, all its fifteen decades, every day. Then when death draws near, you will bless the day and hour when you took to heart what I told you, for having sown the blessings of Jesus and Mary, you will reap the eternal blessings in heaven. (True Devotion, #249-54)
The reform of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, returned the Carmelite order to its ancient observances after it had become very lax and corrupted over the centuries. The Carmelite Order is the most ancient in the world as it dates back to the time of Elias and the hermits that lived on Mount Carmel thousands of years ago praying and awaiting the coming of the Messiah. The monks on Carmel were not made into an official religious order of the Catholic Church until Saint Albert of Jerusalem, the Patriarch at that time, wrote for them a rule for them to follow at about the same time when Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic were founding their respective orders in Italy and France. Within a very short time the monks for forced to flee to Europe because of the encroaching danger of Islam in the area, and we see in their Liturgy many elements of the East and of the military Crusading orders, but is still very much a part of the family of Western Liturgical Rites.
When the monks came to West they were forced to change their life somewhat to accommodate their new situation and Pope Innocent IV had two Dominican Friars make changes to the rule of the order written by Saint Albert, which allowed for a very strict anchorite type of life for a Carmelite Monk or for a life much closer to the Dominican Order as a Mendicant Friar. There was much work then to do in order to collect the diaspora under one head, and into this situation stepped the humble anchorite from England: Saint Simon Stock. He took charge of the order and led it well through the early and difficult years. He had much to suffer and then one day while undergoing a great trail he received a visit from the ever Blessed Virgin Mary who said to him:
Receive, my beloved son, this habit of they order: This shall be to thee and to all carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire. (Viridarium Ordinis B. Virginis Mariae de Monte Carmelo per JOHANNEM GROSSI, reproduced in the Analecta Ordinis Cannelitarum, VIII [1932, Rome] from the Spec., t. I, by Danieis a V. M.)
This was the beginning the great devotion to the Scapular of the Order of Mount Carmel. The scapular, if you are not familiar, was merely a narrow piece of cloth which hung in front and back over your tunic in those days and was used to protect your cloths while you worked. There were also more ornate versions which were bore the coat of arms of the Lord or Lady to whom you had swore fealty. Monks had long had these scapulars, such as the Benedictines, but now our Lady gave this scapular a special significance and made it the standard that we could bear outwardly showing our inward love and devotion to our Mother and Queen.
For the faithful it was a wonderful sacramental that allowed one to partake in the many graces and prayers of the Carmelite Order as well as the privileges that were attached to the wearing of it. The first I have just given above, but a second was given to Pope John XXII by our Lady and which he oblished in Papal Bull issued on March 3, 1322. It is known as the Sabbatine Privilege. This Privilege was afterwards approved and confirmed by many popes including Pope Saint Pius V. The promise says that that those who wear the Scapular and fulfill two other conditions will be rescued from Purgatory by our Lady on the Saturday immediately following their death.
What is important to note what the two conditions are: 1) Observe chastity according to one’s state in life and 2) Recite the Little Office of Our Blessed Mother (you may also have this commuted to the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary by your parish priest, spiritual director, or confessor) Now Our Lady revealed to Venerable Dominic of Jesus and Mary that: “Although many wear my Scapular, only a few fulfill conditions for the Sabbatine Privilege.” And so I hope to make this known to you all today so that you may begin meriting this wonderful privilege.
The Brown Scapular, however, isn’t all there is. There are a number of other Scapulars, but there are four others in particular which are of great importance and have been heavily laden of indulgences by the Holy See over the years. And these are: the Black Scapular of the Seven Sorrows of our Lady, which is attached to the Order of Servites; the Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception, which is attached to the Theatine Order; the Scapular of the Holy Trinity (White w/ Blue & Red Cross), which is attached to the Trinitarian Order; and finally the Red Scapular of the Passion of our Lord and the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, which is attached to the Congregation of the Mission (Lazarists).
One might think this is overkill to speak about so many different scapular devotions but as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux says: “Of Mary there is never enough.”
Now Montfort, though clearly recommending the practice of wearing the scapular does not go into it in any depth. So we shall turn to the equally capable hands of that other great devotee of our Lady the great Bishop and Doctor of the Church: Saint Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri, in his The Glories of Mary…
In bygone days, the servants of famous people were distinguished by the fact that they wore the livery or distinct garb of their masters. The servants of Mary, too, can be distinguished by the fact that they wear her livery, namely, her scapular, as a sign that they have dedicated themselves to her service and that they are members of the household of the Mother of God. Heretics, as a rule, ridicule this devotion. But Holy Church has approved it by many bulls and indulgences. Father Crasset and Lezzana, in their accounts of the scapular of Mount Carmel, relate that in the year 1251 the Blessed Virgin appeared to Saint Simon Stock, and Englishmen, and gave him the scapular, telling him that all who wore it would be saved from eternal damnation. She said: “Receive, my son, this scapular to your Order, the badge of my confraternity, a privilege granted to you and to all Carmelites. Whoever dies while wearing this will never suffer hell-fire.”
Father Crasset also relates that Mary appeared to Pope John XXII and commanded him to make it known that all who wear this brown scapular will be delivered from purgatory on the Saturday after their death. He declared this in a bull which was later confirmed by Alexander V, Clement VII, and other popes. Pope Paul V, as we have already remarked, clarified the bulls of his predecessors, and set out the conditions that must be observed in order to gain the promised privilege. These conditions are: that each one should observe the chastity required of his state in life and that he should recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. If a person is unable to read, he should at least observe the fasts of the Church and abstain from the meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The indulgences attached to the scapular of Mount Carmel, as well as those attached to the scapulars of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, of the Blessed Trinity, and especially of the Immaculate Conception, are innumerable—both partial and plenary—during life and at the hour of death. I have made it a point to be invested in all these scapulars. It is worth knowing that the scapular of the Immaculate Conception, which is blessed by the Theatine Fathers, enjoys many special indulgences.
Now it use to be that for each of these scapulars you had to find a priest of their respective orders to invest you in them because they all reserved prayers to members of each order. And this is still the case with all except the Brown Scapular which you can be invested in by any priest. Unfortunately, unlike in the days of Saint Alphonsus in the Kingdom of Naples you will have a most difficult time finding a Servite priest, still more difficult a Theatine, or for that matter a Lazarist or Trinitarian, as all these orders having been decimated almost to extinction in the last 40 years. There is yet a way though that you can be invested in all five, because around 100 years ago all five were combined into what is known as the “Five-Fold” Scapular and one can be invested in it by any priest and being invested in this one scapular invests you in all five. Sadly, the investiture was removed from the new Rituale Romanum, but thankfully because of the freeing up of this wonderful Liturgical Book of blessings by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 any priest can use the investiture prayer.
Now as a final inducement to be invested in and wear with great devotion to the Scapular of our Lady I would present for your consideration the following sermon: Stories Of The Brown Scapular