Posts Tagged With: Pope John Paul II

The Scapular: Is it a Discipline or a Free Pass?

6707474031_8cea44a5a8Get Your Free Ticket to Heaven!

I’ve been intrigued by the Brown Scapular for years, and the other day, my sister-in-law (who is also a convert) and I were discussing them. Scott bought me one for Christmas (it’s just beautiful; it has a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe on it) but after reading about being blessed and accepted into an order, I was confused and set it aside for later. After my discussion with my sister-in-law, I decided it was time to do my research, because something has kept the tradition alive all these years, and I have a hard time believing it’s because it’s a free ticket to Heaven.

The Scapular goes back to the Carmelites, who got their start as hermits on Mount Carmel. By the time St. Simon Stock was Father General of the order, they were friars who worked among the people and lived lives of contemplative prayer. As far as the origin of the Brown Scapular, that, my friend, is a matter of some considerable controversy.

Simon Says….or Does He?

According to legend, Simon Stock was praying for aid for his order when he had a vision of Mary, who gave him a Brown Scapular saying,

Receive, My beloved son, this habit of thy order: this shall be to thee and to all Carmelites a privilege, that whosoever dies clothed in this shall never suffer eternal fire …. It shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger, and a pledge of peace.

Now, when I say Brown Scapular, I don’t mean two little squares of wool joined by a bit of string. We’re talking about a full habit! In Medieval times, a religious habit was an essential part of your identity if you were part of an order, and removal of your habit was the same as abandoning your order and your vows altogether. Wearing the brown habit was an outward expression of a commitment to the life of the Carmelites, a commitment to observing the rules of the order. It’s no surprise then, that many orders believed that their habits were holy, and even sacred. So, Simon Stock’s vision of Mary, handing him a Brown Scapular/habit and telling him it would offer special graces to the wearer wasn’t unusual at all.

Except that it most likely never happened.

In preparation for the 750th anniversary of the scapular, a Catechesis of the Brown Scapular was prepared with the oversight of the North American Carmelite order. The history and myths of the scapular are separated pretty clearly. The Church does not recognize the vision of St. Simon Stock as a historical event because there’s no reason to believe it ever happened. No one ever heard of the vision until a century and a half afterward–there’s no record of Simon Stock ever claiming it happened!

However, if you’re interested in the Brown Scapular, it’s not because you heard about an apparition. You’re probably far more interested in the Sabbatine Privilege. If you go looking for more information on it, you’re bound to find an atheist mocking it. I was delighted to find that little gem, by the way. Every little bit of vitriol brings joy to my heart. I especially like the bit where she says she’ll be an atheist all her life. It was only a year later that she came home to the Catholic Church.

Back to the Sabbatine Privilege. What I’ve been told in the past is that if you are wearing the Scapular when you die, you will immediately go to Heaven. It’s a “free ticket.”

Maybe it’s my Protestant upbringing, but….I just….just no.

Upon further research, that’s not what the Sabbatine Privilege says at all. No, the Sabbatine Privilege states that if you are wearing the Brown Scapular and you should perish, you will be released from purgatory the Saturday following your death.

Despite the absolute implausibility of the Brown Scapular’s promises, I still felt inexplicably drawn to it, so I knew in my soul that there was something else to it.

Whom Do You Trust?

I trust John Paul II! Explaining why would be like explaining why I drink water when I’m thirsty. It turns out John Paul gave a speech to the Carmelite community back in 2001 in which he addressed the particular graces of the Brown Scapular.

The sign of the Scapular points to an effective synthesis of Marian spirituality, which nourishes the devotion of believers and makes them sensitive to the Virgin Mother’s loving presence in their lives. The Scapular is essentially a “habit”. Those who receive it are associated more or less closely with the Order of Carmel and dedicate themselves to the service of Our Lady for the good of the whole Church. Those who wear the Scapular are thus brought into the land of Carmel, so that they may “eat its fruits and its good things,” and experience the loving and motherly presence of Mary in their daily commitment to be clothed in Jesus Christ and to manifest him in their life for the good of the Church and the whole of humanity.

Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life’s journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a “habit”, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the “covenant” and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother.

–Bl Pope John Paul II, 2001 Message to the Carmelite Community

Bam! Do I even need to expand on that? Could I?

Forbidden by the Holy See

Now, truth be told, no one was waiting around until 2001 to find out whether or not the Sabbatine Privilege was dogma.

As a matter of fact, in the year 1613 the Holy See determined that the decree establishing the “Sabbatine Privilege” was unfounded and the Church admonished the Carmelite Order not to preach this doctrine. Unfortunately, the Order did not always comply with this directive of the Holy See.

At the time the Carmelites were instructed to stop mentioning the “Sabbatine Privilege” the Holy See acknowledged that the faithful may devoutly believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary by her continuous intercession, merciful prayers, merits, and special protection will assist the souls of deceased brothers and sisters and members of the confraternity, especially on Saturday, the day which the church dedicates to the Blessed Virgin.

Consistent with the Catholic tradition, such favors associated with the wearing of the Brown Scapular would be meaningless without the wearers living and dying in the state of grace, observing chastity according to their state in life, and living a life of prayer and penitence. The promises traditionally tied to the scapular offer us what the Second Vatican Council says about the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “By her maternal love, Mary cares for the brothers and sisters of her Son, who still make their earthly journey surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led to their happy fatherland.”

–Catehesis on the Brown Scapular

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about what the Brown Scapular is for!

A Sign of Our Identity34447257

The Brown Scapular is a habit, the dress of the Carmelite order. By wearing the Brown Scapular, I identify myself as part of that order, and commit myself to charity, contemplative prayer, and chastity (according to my state of life). I join my prayers, my challenges, my spiritual journey to that of the Carmelites. The Brown Scapular is a sacramental, like holy water. It is a tool for bestowing blessings and grace but it does not give grace in itself. It is one of the most abused sacramentals in the Church, and its true meaning has been mostly lost. It is truly beautiful to join ourselves as laypeople to the devotion and sacrifice of our Carmelite brothers and sisters and truly commit ourselves to a way of life that is absolutely separate from the world. Yet it’s been reduced to the status of a rabbit’s foot.

This Lent, I’d like to challenge you. Get a Brown Scapular (get it free here!), have it blessed, and put it on. Take a minute or two each day to devote yourself to the principles of the Carmelite order. Then, tell someone; tell one person what the Brown Scapular really is, so that its true meaning isn’t lost forever.

Some of the basic principles of the Carmelite order:

  • frequent participation in the Mass and reception of Holy Communion;
  • frequent reading of and meditation on the Word of God in Sacred Scripture;
  • the regular praying of at least part of the Liturgy of the Hours;
  • imitation of and devotion to Mary, the woman of faith who hears the Word of God and puts it into practice;
  • the practice of the virtues, notably charity, chastity (according to one’s state of life), and obedience to the will of God.

I think this is a wonderful list to take with us into Lent!

Now, I’ve certainly left a lot out, but there’s so much myth and so much truth around the Brown Scapular, there’s no way I could ever get it all in. A little research yields much fruit in this case, and I  am excited about sharing this wonderful gift!

 

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Categories: Chasing After God, What the Catholic Church Teaches | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Visions and Doubts

 But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day: But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (saith the Lord,) I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come. –Acts 2:14-20

In two months and 6 days, it will be a full 6 years before I officially converted to Catholicism and 4540497839_211250edb3came into full communion with the Catholic Church. It has been much longer since I fell away from the Protestantism that taught me all of these visions were hogwash, despite the fact that scripture clearly tells us to expect visions and dreams as the final days draw nearer. No, I’m not going all doomsday–it’s a fact. The final days certainly aren’t drawing further away (if that’s even good grammar).

When I converted, I looked at Lourdes and Fatima, and the Divine Mercy and I told myself these things didn’t matter. If they were hard to believe, I didn’t have to believe. These things are best viewed with a skeptical eye, after all.

As time goes on, these visions bother me more and more, because I do look at them with doubt and downright disbelief sometimes. I doubt in my mind what my heart is starting to believe.

In April 2009, my sister and I decided to make mission rosaries. I was working at a call center at the time, and I was able to make knotted twine rosaries as I worked. As I became more skilled, I was able to make 3 or 4 a day. Since I was churning out rosaries at such a fast pace, purchasing crucifixes at Walmart got expensive quickly. I found a seller on ebay where I could get crucifixes for 10¢ each. Outstanding! I ordered 100 liturgy and 100 old fashioned bronze. When the liturgy crucifixes came, I was a little put off. In addition to the familiar design on the front, the back had a strange mark. It read “MEDUGORJE MIR MIR MIR.” I remember wondering what that meant.

And then thinking nothing of it again.

Every day, I made my rosaries and finished them off with a crucifix. Every day, I saw the strange words but didn’t take 10 seconds to type it into Google. Then I quit working at the call center and wasn’t able to make rosaries at work anymore. I still had dozens of crucifixes and they ended up in my purse and everywhere.

EC362Sometime around late August/early September 2010, almost a year and a half after first getting the crucifixes, I was at work looking in my purse for who-knows-what when I saw one of the crucifixes and took a look at it. It had been in my purse for well over a year, and I’d looked at it often. That day, however, it was like it was brand new. Why have I never looked up what this meant? My gosh, I sent off 100 mission rosaries to a charity and half of them had this crucifix on them. What if it meant something vile?

That’s how I learned about Medjugorje. I was stunned, to say the least. These visions started up a few months before I was born. This has been happening my entire life, but somehow, I’d never heard of it. I spent some time at work looking into it, and when my lunch break was over, I forgot about it entirely.

It wasn’t time for me to forget, though. When I went home that evening, I headed straight for our office to get online. Scott had EWTN streaming on the computer. The instant I sat down, I mean precisely the instant my tush hit the chair, a news bulletin came on.

The Vatican had announced an official investigation into Medjugorje.

I told Scott what happened and he was just as flabbergasted as I was.  We both started to wonder if this was something we should be looking into.

As I recall, it was that very night that Scott was looking at a book of short stories about the rosary and he came running to show me that the first story he pulled up mentioned Medjugorje. The very next chance we got, we went down to the Catholic book store and picked out a book about Medjugorje, Medjugorje: The Message by Wayne Weible. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I was just as skeptical as ever when I put the book down, but I started to open my mind up to the possibility that these visions were real. After that, I briefly studied the miracles at Lourdes, and I found the evidence to be strikingly convincing.


I should have kept researching, but I didn’t. Perhaps the time had not come for me to do so, but it’s definitely time now. As I was searching for an Amazon Lending Library pick for February, I stumbled upon Blessed Pope John Paul II, The Diary of St. Faustina and The End Times by Susan Crimp. Why? Because I love the Divine Mercy prayer. I love the message. I’ve carried the Divine Mercy booklet around with me for years. But I have a hard time believing it was given to Faustina in a divine vision. There’s still a big part of me that just doesn’t want to believe that these kinds of things happen. I downloaded the book, and as soon as I started reading it, I knew I’d picked the right one. It feels as if the author is speaking directly to me and knows me all too well.

I started this post with a Bible verse for a reason. We like to believe that the Bible has the words THE END written on the last page, but it doesn’t. In fact, it promises that there will be more miracles, more prophesies, more dreams, more revealed along the way. Not everyone who says or thinks they saw a divine vision has seen one; that I will not argue. However, when it comes to Faustina, “Why would the most famous Pope that ever lived and one of the world’s greatest theological scholars dare to stake his impeccable reputation on these messages?” That’s a question s worth finding the answer to and what better time to go chasing for answer than the Year of Faith?

Categories: Chasing After God, Year of Faith | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!

I’ve had a lot of good posts floating around in my head. They tend to stay up there, floating around, each the very pinnacle of greatness and bloggy perfection. Beautiful flowers they are, each of them, sweet smelling and delicate. It’s a pity they wilt the very instant I sit down to type them out.

I’d like to type one of them out for you, but instead, I’m going to write about a topic I very much did not ever plan to write about. Let’s talk about Confession.

Hey! Where are you going? Get back over here!

I must confess…

How did I even get on this topic? Certainly not of my own doing. When we converted to Catholicism back in 2007, we had to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at some point during Lent. I went the last day it was available. I walked in, rattled off my “major” sins, as I had been told to do, read the prayer from the sheet, and got out of there!

Let’s talk about “major” sins for a moment here. How do we define “major” sins? Um, how about if we just name the ones we’re okay with naming? That sounds good! I mean, there is a line in there where we say we are sorry for all the sins of our past life, so that works, right? I mean, there’s no point in rattling off every single one. Just a brief overview of the ones we’re comfortable with should be more than sufficient.

Let’s just say that based on what I determined to not be worth mentioning…dear Pope Benedict VI might make a public statement denying that the Catholic Church has any association with me. I left out some big stuff. Really big. Without going into detail, I had a few wild and crazy wilderness years before I met my darling husband. Years I wish more than anything I could take back. To top it off, I didn’t go back to Confession. About 3 years ago, I started listening to daily Mass on EWTN and I kept hearing over and over again about the importance of Confession. I bought a few guidebooks and started planning to go. I mean, it would be pretty easy, right? I just had to go over the sins since I went to confession before. But as I kept studying up for my perfect Confession, I realized I needed to confess those old sins, too. What’s more, I realized I wanted to.

It’s just really super hard to get to Confession.

I mean, I don’t remember what the schedule was like at our church in Tulsa, but here in Norman, Confession is heard Saturday from 3:30-4:30. I work until 7:30 most weekends. Sure, I could make it down to the church and back on my lunch break, but….what if there’s a long line? Am I going to have time to eat? I really need to rest on my break, you know. On the Saturdays that I’m off, I’m usually off because I have somewhere to go, someplace to be. This once a week thing is really inconvenient for me. Yeah, I can make an appointment, but Father Ed is so busy, I don’t want to make him go out of his way for me just so I can tell him what a lousy human being I am.

I can keep going if you like. I have a whole bag of excuses over here.

But I suppose none of them are really very good.

So, I’ve spent the last 3 years filling my bag with excuses and carrying on, ever so sad that I just can’t manage to get into Confession.

Well, recently, I’ve started reading encyclicals. I’ll pick one at random, read it, and revel in it. I love them so very much. To hear our beloved Popes, speaking frankly, bluntly and lovingly on Church teachings is such a wonderful gift. And thanks to the handy dandy internet, I can read any of them, whenever I want. Lovely, lovely, lovely. A few days ago, I randomly picked Pope John Paul II’s Misericordia Dei: The Mercy of God. Guess what it’s about?

The Mercy of God

The importance of making a good Confession cannot be overstated. Canon law 960 states:

“Individual and integral confession and absolution are the sole ordinary means by which the faithful, conscious of grave sin, are reconciled with God and the Church; only physical or moral impossibility excuses from such confession, in which case reconciliation can be obtained in other ways”

Blessed Pope John Paul II goes on to state that all sins must be confessed, not just the “major” ones, citing Canon 988:

 Since “the faithful are obliged to confess, according to kind and number, all grave sins committed after Baptism of which they are conscious after careful examination and which have not yet been directly remitted by the Church’s power of the keys, nor acknowledged in individual confession”, any practice which restricts confession to a generic accusation of sin or of only one or two sins judged to be more important is to be reproved. Indeed, in view of the fact that all the faithful are called to holiness, it is recommended that they confess venial sins also.

This blessed Sacrament is so essential that Bl. Pope John Paul II goes into great detail about the administration of it. The proper facilities must be available, reasonable requests for appointments must never be turned down, the priest should be visible so that the faithful immediately know where to go, and a “fixed grille” must be present to accommodate those who desire it. He even goes on to suggest that, when possible, Confessions be heard before and during every Mass.

Ready or not!

Upon finishing the encyclical, I wanted more than ever to make Confession, and to receive Absolution. In fact, I felt like I should do it before receiving Communion again. I double checked the parish website early in the week, and sure enough, Confession is going down Saturday from 3:30-4:30, and I was scheduled to work until 5:30. Too bad. Once again, my schedule is just working against me. I kept thinking about it throughout the week, wondering if I could take an incredibly late lunch….no, no, it wouldn’t work out.

When I arrived at work on Saturday, my manager advised me that we were overstaffed and I could leave at 3:30.

I reached for my bag of excuses. It was still full, let me tell ya, but none of them fit!

This is what I wanted, wasn’t it? I sat down with my Laudate app and started preparing my confession. I was feeling pretty good about it until, out of nowhere, the truth came calling.

There’s no scheduling conflict, there’s no time crunch, no nothing. I haven’t made it to Confession because I don’t want to go to Confession and I’m not going to! There is no way on this earth I am walking in there and telling another human being I did all of these things!!!!! I can’t bear to think of these sins, how can I speak of them? Can’t I just leave them in the past?

So, I have a few choices. I can go in there and confess a good portion of my sins, get it over with and just keep to the straight and narrow so I don’t have to humiliate myself in such a way ever again. Or, I can go in, make another “general” Confession and make a mockery of the Holy Sacrament, which would only further blemish my soul and put a greater distance between myself and the God I’ve pledged to chase after.

Or I can just never go to Confession again and reassure myself with the old, “Lots of Catholics don’t go to Confession.”

It sounds like such a no brainer, but that’s how shame works.

You can read the conclusion to my Confession saga here.

Categories: Chasing After God, What the Catholic Church Teaches | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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