TBM Topic 18: Scapulars
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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.
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”