14 January 2008


Aylesford Abbey, founded by St. Simon Stock

Many are familiar with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel that was given by Our Lady to St. Simon Stock, the Prior General of the Carmelite Order, in 1247. Way back in the Middle Ages, the scapular was a full-length garment worn over other clothing by monks and nuns, the color signifying the particular religious order. Our Lady appeared to St. Simon Stock and gave him the scapular along with the associated promises as a result of his pledge of complete loyalty to her (known as a privilegium), saying, "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee 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."

Saints and popes throughout the ages have worn and encouraged wearing of the brown scapular, and many miraculous events have attested to the value of the sacramental (the scapular worn by Blessed Pope Gregory X, who died in 1276, was found intact in 1830), from Wiki.

1. Wear the Brown Scapular (or scapular medal) after enrollment*
2. Observe chastity according to your state in life
3. Recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary or five decades of the Rosary daily (usual requirements)

1. "...whosoever dies wearing this (the brown scapular) shall not suffer eternal fire"
2. Partial indulgence granted by Pope Benedict XV to those who devoutly kiss the scapular

And, the controversial,

3. Sabbatine Privilege: release from purgatory on the first Saturday after death (revelation by the Virgin to Pope John XXII in 1322).

I've had two very orthodox priests give me completely different answers on the Sabbatine Privilege and gotten some answers from some devote lay Carmelites. What I have found is:

The conditions required for gaining the Sabbatine Privilege are: wearing the Scapular, observe chastity as it applies to their state in life, recite the Office - the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In 1322, Pope John XXII issued a papal bull which stated that those who followed certain conditions relating to the Scapular would be released from Purgatory, through Our Lady's intercession, on the Saturday after their death. This is where the term "Sabbatine" meaning Sabbath or Saturday, comes from.

From a very informative piece on the Brown Scapular by Father William Most, it says, "the original copy of the bull was lost. This is not too strange in view of the disturbed state of Rome after the sack of 1527. Some other documents of the same Pope are also lost. There was a copy of the bull, given by Pope Clement VII, dated May 15, 1528, but for some reason it was never solemnly issued, and so is technically invalid. The same Pope on August 12, 1530 did issue a transcript, but it promised only special help, not liberation."

The problem also comes from the revelations to St. Simon Stock being considered private revelations (this is similar to Fatima which is also considered private revelation). See Father William Most's article for a very good discussion of this.

Also, during the time of the Inquisitions in the early 17th century, there were special investigations into various Religious Orders. The issue of preaching the Sabbatine Privilege came up and was presented to the Inquisitor General in Portufal, Cardinal Millino. Cardinal Millino presented the question to the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition in Rome, that then issued a decree under Pope Paul V. The decree of 20 January 1613, officially upheld the authority for the Carmelites to preach the Sabbatine Privilege:

"It is lawful for the Carmelite Fathers to preach that Christians may piously believe in the help promised to the souls of the brethren and the members of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, namely, that the Blessed Vigin will assist by her continual intercession, suffrages and merits and also by her special protection, particularly on the Saturday after death (which has been consecrated to her by the Church), the souls of the brothers and the members of the Confraternity departing this life in charity who shall have worn the habit, and shall have observed chastity according to their particular state of life, and also have recited the Little Office or, if unable to read, have kept the fasts of the Church, and have abstained from the use of meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays, unless the Feast of the Nativity of Our Divine Lord should fall on one of those days."

A friend sent me the following information. In an Apostolic Letter issued for the Sixth Centenary of the Sabbatine Privilege in 1922 (NB: I could NOT find this complete apostolic letter after hours of scouring the internet and the Vatican website, just this particular quote), Pope Pius XI, wrote, "It surely ought to be sufficient to merely exhort all the members...to persevere in the holy exercised which have been prescribed for the gaining of the indulgences to which they are entitled and particularly for gaining of that indulgence which is the principal and the greatest of them all, namely, that called the Sabbatine."

However, I did find another apostolic letter from Pope Pius XII issued in 1950 in commemoration of the Seventh Centenary of the Brown Scapular that says, "And certainly this most gentle Mother will not delay to open, as soon as possible, through Her intercession with God, the gates of Heaven for Her children who are expiating their faults in Purgatory--trust based on that Promise known as the Sabbatine Privilege."

Since the time of Pope John XXII, sixteen popes have added the weight of their approval to this Privilege. The debate goes on.

For my parents' sakes, I hope it is true. I do know that my experiences with Byzantine Catholics has encouraged me have faith in things that haven't been officially declared by the Church. The East considers the West, the Roman Catholic Church, to be the "Church of Rules." What they have held as tradition for centuries doesn't need to be legislated (e.g. Mary's Assumption). For centuries many, but not all, Carmelites have handed down the Sabbatine Privilege as part of the Carmelite tradition. Unfortunately, one good priest told me to keep praying for my parents and another, who enrolled me in the Brown Scapular, said we can have faith in the Sabbatine Privilege.

A friend told me to keep praying for my parents until they tell me to stop. And, so it goes.

"...for those who wear her Habit worthily shall never suffer the pains of hell; and the special love which She exercises towards them will enable them to die well and to join Her in Heaven as soon as her 'suppliant omnipotence' has won the crown for them."
Father Kilian Lynch


ArchAngel's Advocate said...

Look at it this way, the conditions for faithfully obtaining the Sabbatine Privilige are condusive to living a hloy life, whether or not one wears the Scapular (as is true of most indulgences). The Privilge isn't a "get out of jail free" card, but a method for developing a healthy habit (in other words, a virute).

swissmiss said...

I was going to mention that in my post, that these sacramentals and such are NOT "get out of jail free" things. I've heard the analogy of wearing a soldier's uniform. You can't just wear the uniform and expect to reap the benefits of being a soldier. You actually have to have the character of a soldier and perform as a soldier to get rewarded as a soldier.

I just wish I knew definitively if my parents were in Purgatory or not. Just me wanting God to indulge my whims!

tara said...

On my way to work--I changed into my "scrubs" and forgot to put on my brown scapular--oh, no, what if I died today in an accident--no brown scapular. Sigh, I believe in the Sabbatine privilege!

However, even though I believe in the privilege--all prayers have value and praying for your parents is a very good thing--you never know how they will be used.