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.


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”

Bright Maidens: Daydream Believers and Emotional Disasters

The “Bright Maidens” were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!
Topic: Emotional Chastity
Daydream Believers and Emotional Disasters

Check out our Facebook page for guest posts!

It happens all the time.  You bump into a man on the street.  He smiles charmingly and holds the door for you.  You walk away, maybe shooting him a backwards glance, and can’t help but think, “Maybe he’s the one.”  What a kind, cute gentleman.  Good qualities for your man.

You daydream as you eat your lunch, and the day passes by in a blur of warmth, hope, and affection.  He could be the one.  You imagine your first dates, his proposal, your glorious wedding.  The laughter of your kids as they run through the house.  His hand in yours as your face life, together.

It doesn’t seem so wrong to pass the time daydreaming like this, but in reality, it is frightening: you are building an emotional bond with a man to whom you haven’t spoken more than three words!  Sometimes with a man who doesn’t even exist!  I’ve been emotionally invested in many fictional characters, and the age of middle school and high school was ripe for idealized obsession of pop stars, actors, and the boy in my science class!  What is the fruit of that emotional bond?  Usually disappointment, hurt, and worry. It is better to have not built that bond in the first place.
The danger of emotional chastity does not stop there.  It can worm it’s way into dating relationships and marriage.  A woman in a dating relationship may amplify her beloved’s qualities to the point that she no longer sees him for who he is.  Her “love” is not real and is not based in reality.  As Edward Sri explains in Men, Women and the Mystery of Love, “The most tragic effect of sentimental idealization is that we end up not really knowing the person we find so attractive.  A man in sentimental love may seek to be close to his beloved, spend a lot of time talking with her, and even go to Mass with her and pray with her.  If he has idealized her, though, in reality he remains quite distant from her: The powerful affection he feels depends not on her true value, but only on the ideal values that he has projected on to her.” (50)  
Like sexuality, emotional attachment has to be integrated into the fullness of the person, otherwise it can be disastrous.  A couple who takes idealized versions of each other into marriage will have a serious crisis upon realization they married someone they do not know and do not authentically love.  They may then be open to the temptations of emotional cheating and adultery.
What can we do to safeguard ourselves from false love and dangerous emotional intimacy?  Edward Sri (57) suggests pondering these questions:
Am I committed to this other person for who he is or for the enjoyment I receive from the relationship?  
Does my beloved understand what is truly best for me, and does he have the faith and virtue to help me get there?  
Are we deeply united by a common aim, servicing each other and striving together toward a common good that is higher than each of us?  Or are we just living side-by-side, sharing resources and occasional good times together while we selfishly pursue our own interests and enjoyments in life?
I would add: Guard your heart.  When the temptation to fantasize about life with a stranger presents itself, pray for that person instead.  Identify what prompted that temptation.  Are you lonely?  Tired?  Frustrated?  Jealous?  Take those emotions to Jesus.  You don’t have to guard your heart around him!  Reach out in kindness and interest in getting to know the other as person.  Take things slowly.  Pray for wisdom and grace to authentically see and love each other.  Invite your beloved to spend time with your family and friends.  Value their opinions on your relationship.  
We are called to love as God loves, and not to love for our own sake, but to glorify the Lord.  Avoid being an emotional disaster and a daydream believer: love people for who they are.

Blood Boiling

On Tuesday, I attended my Young Adult group’s Spiritual Classics Book Club.  Somehow we veered off the topic of Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales and engaged in a hearty talk on dating in modern American culture.  One of my dear friends admitted that she’d had an upsetting chat over the weekend with someone who told her that if she didn’t play by modern rules (sleeping together relatively soon, etc.), she wouldn’t find anyone to date, let alone marry.

The minute I heard this I began to seethe.  Literally turned red, blood boiling, hands shaking.  Because who DARES to tell my beautiful, delightful friend that unless she decides to devalue sex, her body, her soul, she won’t be able to find a husband?  WHO DARES?

Isn’t the body the Temple of the Holy Spirit? 

Can we get a little respect please?

If you have a brain, heart, dreams, and want a meaningful, chaste relationship, you might as well give up? 

You’re only worth one part of your body, didn’t you know! 

If you have a vagina and are willing to play, you’re in!  If not, you’re out!


When Jesus saw his Father’s Temple turned into a marketplace, he was consumed with zeal, drove out the livestock with with a whip, and overturned tables in anger (John 2: 15-16).  Maybe it’s time to show our anger.  No more mincing words.  Call the hook up culture for what is it: blatant use of another person’s body.  Remind people that IT IS NOT OKAY.  I don’t care if two people agree to use each other.  I don’t care if it feels good.  I don’t care if you don’t care.  IT IS NOT OKAY.

My sister and I once had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: So your friends are dating?
Sister: No, hooking up.
Me: They really like each other?
Sister: Uhh, they’re just hooking up.
Me: So they’re using each other?
Sister: I mean, if you want to put it that way…

Well, yes, I do want to put it that way.  Because that’s what it is, and I’m disgusted by it.  That someone might dare to view my family members or my friends as one body part, specifically one naked body part, makes my blood boil.  Each person is a unique, beloved child of God, and our culture wants to make us into nothing more than writhing masses.  It’s sickening.  It’s maddening.  It’s disgusting. 

Time to start cracking the whip!