Mel Gibson and Me

TBM Topic 18: Scapulars

“Mel Gibson and Me” by Julie Robison
“I Feel Weird” by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
“Suspicious Superstitions?” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!

Mel Gibson, hot mess extraordinaire, wears a scapular.

Now, I’m not one to dig into celebrity gossip, but it’s hard not to ignore the facts:

1. Mel Gibson is a Catholic.

“We’ve seen worse.” –The Catholic Church

2. Mel Gibson has said and done some pretty dreadful things since producing The Passion, including divorce his wife.

3. Mel Gibson has [recently] been spotted wearing a scapular.

My personal pet theory is that we’re all living within appalling strangeness of the mercy of God, and Mel Gibson is just another soul in need to redemption, sanctification and help against temptations from the Devil. Everyone Else on the other hand, has taken up drinking haterade around Gibson. Fortunately, Robert Downey Jr. has come to his defense of late, asking Hollywood to forgive Gibson’s trespasses.

But back to scapulars.

I like that Mel Gibson wears a scapular. Correction: I like that the Mel Gibson who has royally messed up his public, private and career life still wears a scapular. If Mel Gibson was still married to his wife and making quality films, everyone would still be mumbling about what a religious fanatic he is. Instead, he’s been labeled a twit.

Romans 4:16 says, “All depends on faith, everything is grace.” That scapular, to me, is evidence of God’s grace still working in Mel Gibson’s life. Is that scapular a fact that grace is in Mel Gibson’s life? No. But we cannot see God’s ways. We can only see the scapular.

Scapulars are considered sacramentals in the Church, and are meant to enhance the faith. Sacramentals come from the Church; they “are indicated by the word Sacramentalia, the object of which is to manifest the respect due to the sacrament and to secure the sanctification of the faithful” (New Advent). Sacramentals are common things (i.e. relics, water, incense) that are another way to help people open up to receiving God’s grace. The physical sacramental (in this discussion, for example, the scapular) does not possess any power. That being said, like all passing things in this world, sacramentals may be occasions for God’s miracles.

There are a number of examples of sacramentals (specifically, relics) in Scripture: the hemorraging woman who touches Jesus’ cloak (Matt. 9:20-22); the use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life (2 Kgs. 13:20-21); sick people cured when Peter’s shadow passed over them (Acts 5:14-16); and, of course: “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and sweet baby JC

That being said, sacramentals are easy targets for non-Catholics to “prove” Roman Catholics are heretics, which is why the scapular is such a hot topic. The brown scapular in particular, passed down from Our Lady of Carmel, bears these words: “Those who die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”

Wow. That’s quite a promise. It’s also, however, not an assurance of salvation. The only assurance anyone has of salvation comes in the personhood of Jesus Christ. Scapulars are devotions. Oftentimes, people feel so strongly about their faith that they argue the scapulars’ salvation legitimacy through the Blessed Mother. That argument is a red herring. Even worse, it can distract a truth seeker from the road to Rome, and can distort another’s understanding of Mary’s role within God’s plans for the Kingdom. She only and always points to her son, period.

FAQ: Whenever you (Julie) fly on an airplane, your father insists you wear a scapular. Why do you listen to him?

That’s my discretion. The Church does not have any teachings on scapulars. I choose to respect my father’s wishes.

So you wear a scapular?

Yes. I mean no. Not usually, but yes while traveling. I do carry it around with me too.

Why?

Good question. My answer is not impressive; I enjoy keeping the reminder of our faith close to me. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. It is not from works, so no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). With eyes so dimmed by sin, the scapular is a reminder to me. I see it and think, My God! Am I prepared to meet you now?

Which brings me full-circle back to Mel Gibson. It’s easy to judge a man by his earthly actions, especially when they have been less than honorable.

But let the scapular be a lesson in humility to you: there are interior reasons why people wear scapulars.

Behind closed doors, people pray. Behind brave faces, people despair. In moments when life seems like too much, I find myself staring at the crucifix or even just holding a rosary. When I can barely find words, I take comfort in the material reminders of my faith as much as I do a hug from a friend.

My bestie boo’s husband gives great hugs

The scapular is a gift and, aided by a genuine faith, the wearing of such a religious item may lead to a true change of heart for some people. Others may find it a distraction and that is okay; if this is the case, I imagine God would prefer the absence of scapulars rather than a fake piety or bitterness.

“But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”… And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9,13).

I’m pulling for you, Mel Gibson! Praying for you too.


A special guest post by B.! “Scapulars are Distractors from What’s Really Important”

Ecce Nostra Feminia

The Bright Maidens‘ Topic 9: Mary, Our Guide

“Ecce Nostra Feminia” by Julie Robison
“Simple Things” by Trista at Not a Minx, a Moron, or a Parasite
“Mary’s vapor rub” by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We’re here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion!

Last night, Dad and I went to the grocery store after work, to pick up vegetables, bread, cheese and a few more gallons of milk. We were in the bakery section, and Dad was looking at the bread called “Ecce Panis.”

“Do you know what ‘ecce’ means in Latin, Dad?” I asked.

“What is that,” he replied, humoring me.

“‘Ecce’ means ‘look’ in Latin, so ‘ecce panis’ is ‘look, bread!’ The word for bread looks like it is in the nominative case, but really it’s the vocative, which is supported by ‘ecce,'” I rambled on to him.

“I think it also can be translated as ‘behold,'” said Dad. “As in, ‘behold- bread!'”

I liked that translation, but more because I began thinking about Mary, the Theokokos, the Mother of God.

Behold, Our Lady! Loving and sanguine, I always imagine Mary half-smiling at Jesus at the wedding in Cana, when he told her his time has not yet come, and she, gentle mother, flicking her wrist and saying to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Just as Jesus is our Savior, wholly part of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, who will come back to earth to judge the living and the dead, Mary is our mother, and de facto, our liaison to God. Her earthly comings are always with the purpose and intent to bear messages from Jesus. She is a reminder of our need for the spiritual, through her vibrancy and consistent persuasion for us to follow her Son, who is the way, the truth and the life. Mary always points towards Jesus, which makes her our own guide in this life, if we are to play the role of Dante.

Marina Warner wrote, in her 1976 book Alone of All Her Sex, “Whether we regard the Virgin Mary as the most sublime and beautiful image in man’s struggle towards the good and the pure, or the most pitiable production of ignorance and superstition, she represents a central theme in the history of Western attitudes to women. She is one of the few females to have attained the status of myth– a myth that for nearly two thousand years has coursed through our culture, as spirited and often as imperceptible as an underground stream.”

So good!

I have been reading Judith Dupre’s Full of Grace: Encountering Mary in Faith, Art, and Life and give it cannot be more highly recommended. Dupre offers 59 meditations, equal to the number of beads on a rosary. She writes, “This text is a three-part invention: narrative, visual narrative, and marginalia. In the main text, I offer short essays, sometimes personal, sometimes theological or historical, on Mary’s place in our everyday lives. The imagery and captions form a ‘book within a book’ that traces Mary’s influence on Western art. The selections from history, poetry, and prose in the margins offer additional insights into Mary and are formatted after the midrash commentary on the text of the Hebrew Bible, which is used also but to a lesser extent in the New Testament and the Qur’an.”

One of the most beautiful elements this book has truly brought to light for myself is Mary’s ability to penetrate the hearts of many religious traditions. Charlene Spretnak says in Missing Mary that, “Mary saves us from denying the kinship among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: All three live in her spiritual presence.”

Though I wrote in my last Mary post that many Protestants reject Mary so as to reject the temptation to idolatry, the very idea that one would idolize such a woman is apt evidence of her power. Dupre writes,

In a 1952 essay, Archbishop Fulton Sheen opined that Mary chose to appear in the sleepy backwater of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917 as a “pledge and sign of hope to the Moslem people.” Despite the evangelical nature of Sheen’s opinion at the time is was made, the idea of reconciliation through Mary is worth considering anew. Muhammad, who has tirelessly warned Muslims not to deify him, embodied his faith, virtue, and surrender to God so wholeheartedly that he forged in his own person a living link between heaven and earth. Like Mary, his will was only to do God’s will. At a time when the need to reconcile differing culture traditions has never been more urgent, there has probably been no symbol or concept in Christendom that can mediate and build bridges with more success and amplitude than Mary.

It should not be surprising then that Catholics so whole-heartedly take on a devotion to Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother in Heaven. I’ve always been amused by the viewpoint taken in True Devotion to Mary, when St. Louis De Montfort states that the Devil fears Mary more than all angels and men, and in a sense more than God Himself, because it is mortifying to be overcome by such a small woman.

Mary cannot forgive sins, but she teaches us how to live without them, as she did. She guides souls to God by teaching them how to love, and anyone who loves God cannot be taken by the Devil, even if they will be tempted by him. Even Jesus was tempted by the Devil, so, in many ways, our trials are compliments. And Mary is there to help.

Behold, Mary! Full of grace, help us also to be filled with grace, to say “yes” to God, and to accept our trials. Let us never forget that Mary was not spared from the worst kind of suffering, be it scorn from neighbors or watching her son unjustly put to death. Still she stands benevolent, the Queen of Heaven, with her hand outstretched. As the Rev. Patrick Ward said in a 2008 homily, “When Mary says, ‘Let is be with me according to your word,’ what she is really saying is, ‘Lead me on, Lord. You have more in store for me than I can possibly imagine.'” Behold Mary, joyfully and lovingly guiding us souls to God.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgins of virgins, my Mother! To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer me.
–The Memorare prayer, attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux