AskDefine | Define scapular

Dictionary Definition

scapular adj : relating to or near the shoulder blade


1 a feather covering the shoulder of a bird
2 garment consisting of a long wide piece of woolen cloth worn over the shoulders with an opening for the head; part of a monastic habit [syn: scapulary]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Of or pertaining to the scapula

Extensive Definition

For the shoulder bone see the article Scapula.
A scapular (from Latin scapula, shoulder) is a length of cloth suspended both front and back from the shoulders of the wearer, that varies in shape, colour, size and style depending on the use to which it is being put, namely whether in Christian monasticism or in Christian devotion.
The monastic scapular is part of the garb, the habit, of many Christian religious orders, of both monks and nuns, at least since the time of St Benedict. In its basic form it is a shoulder-wide floor-length piece of cloth covering front and back, and worn over the traditional tunic or cassock, almost like a sleeveless surcoat, traditionally in the case of some orders even during the night. It is the equivalent of the analavos worn in the Eastern tradition. From its mention in the Rule of St Benedict it may be argued that according to his mind the purpose of the scapular is solely of a spiritual nature, namely like an "apron" to be a sign of the wearer's readiness to serve, in this case that of the workman in the service of God. This understanding of the purpose of the monastic scapular as a purely symbolic apron is supported by the fact that monks and nuns, when engaged on some manual labour, tend to cover it with a protective apron or carefully tuck it up or throw the front length back over their shoulder to prevent it from getting in the way and possibly soiled and maybe even damaged.
Some religious orders give a short version (sometimes called the "reduced scapular", but this usage is archaic) of their own scapular to non-monastics that are spiritually affiliated with them (e.g. Third Order, Secular Oblates). Such short scapulars are designed to be unobtrusive and can be worn under regular clothing at home and at work.
In various Christian traditions the term scapular is also applied to a small devotional artifact worn by male and female non-monastics in the belief that this will be of spiritual benefit to them. The Roman Catholic Church considers it a sacramental. It consists of two small squares of cloth, wood or laminated paper, bearing religious images or text, which are joined by two bands of cloth. The wearer places one square on the chest, rests the bands one on each shoulder and lets the second square drop down the back. Some scapulars have extra bands running under the arms and connecting the squares to prevent them from getting dislodged underneath the wearer's top layer of clothes. In lieu of it, the "scapular medal" may be worn, for good reason.

The monastic scapular

Over the centuries the religious orders adapted the basic scapular as they considered appropriate for themselves, as a result of which there are now several distinct designs, colours, shapes and lengths in use. For example, the Dominican Order and Carthusians attached a hood to their scapular, rather than keeping the former a separate item of their habit.
Even today, a long scapular identifies its wearer as a member of a religious order. It may be said that just as the stole is the vestment that came to mark the office of a priest, the monastic scapular became the equivalent for those in the monastic life. It became a symbol of the confraternal way, combining in itself the principle of ora et labora (prayer and work); and so the form was later adopted by pious laity who wished to have an open sign of their devotion.

The small scapular for non-monastics affiliated with a religious order

In the Middle Ages it was common for Christian faithful to join religious orders in an auxiliary sense, sometimes called "Third Orders". Though they were permitted to wear the garb of the order (the "tertiary" habit), because they had not taken all the vows, they were not usually permitted to wear the full habit of the order including the veil, pectoral, and the scapular. To grant such to a member of a Third Order was considered a high honor and great privilege.
More commonly, a smaller form (but still larger than the small scapulae available today) of an order's scapular would be bestowed upon the non-monastic. Rather than a full length of cloth, it consisted of two rectangles (approximately 2" x 3") of cloth joined by bands in some fashion. These are still worn today by the third order members of the Franciscans, Carmelites, and Dominicans. In order to gain the benefits of the order, the members must wear these scapulae constantly. However, in 1883 Pope Leo XIII declared in Misericors Dei Filius that wearing either these medium-sized scapulae of the third order or the miniature forms entitled the wearer equally to gain the indulgences associated with the order.
Today seventeen small scapulae are currently recognized by the Church. Few are associated with confraternities or orders; most are devotional only, such as the Scapular of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The devotional scapular


Though they are descended from the part of the monastic habit bearing the same name, scapulae probably have more in common with the tefillin of Judaism. They are devotional objects designed to show the wearer's pledge to a confraternity, a saint, or a way of life, as well as reminding the wearer of that promise. Many scapulae bear verses from scripture as well. In addition, Maimonides' Mishneh Torah has much to say on the wearing of tefillin that would seem familiar to Catholics who wear scapulae.
Through the history of their use, scapulae have been variously labeled jugum Christi ("yoke of Christ") or scutum ("shield"), calling to mind various scripture passages. Many types of scapulae (see below) promise benefits or indulgences to those who wear them faithfully.

Rules for its use

Though each scapular has its own particular qualifications and usage, the Church has set down certain rules that pertain to all types. A scapular must be in good repair with both bands intact. Multiple scapulae may be worn on the same bands, but the bands must be the color of those prescribed by the scapular with the most preeminence, and that scapular must be foremost with the others behind in order of precedence.
A scapular associated with a confraternity must be invested by an ordained representative of that group. A scapular associated with a mystery or devotion may simply be blessed by a priest and given to the wearer.
To receive the benefits or indulgences granted the scapular generally must be worn constantly. It may be placed aside for a time but, during that period, the wearer does not receive the scapular's benefits. Should the wearer take up the wearing of it again, the benefits are again conferred.
If a scapular becomes damaged to the point where it cannot be in good repair, it must be replaced. However, it is not necessary for the wearer to be reinvested as it is the devotion of the wearer, not the object itself, that confers the benefit of the scapular.

Specific scapulae

Of all the types recognized by the Church the best-known, and perhaps the most popular, is the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, sometimes referred to as the "brown scapular" from the color of its bands. It is believed to have been originally given by the Blessed Mother to Saint Simon Stock when she appeared in England in 1251. The saint was apparently told by Mary that those who died "clothed in this habit [would] never suffer eternal fire". The brown scapular is also associated with the "Sabbatine Privilege", which states that Mary's motherly assistance for those who wear the scapular will continue after their death, especially on Saturdays - the day devoted to her honor. Some interpret the Sabbatine Privilege as a promise that those who wear the scapular will be freed from Purgatory on the first Saturday after their death; the Church has never confirmed this. The Sabbatine Privilege has two extra requirements - to observe chastity according to one's state in life, and to recite the Office every day.
The Scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has green bands and thus is known as the "green scapular". To receive the indulgence and benefit of the scapular, the wearer must daily pray "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." As with the brown scapular, the benefit is that the faithful wearer will not die without the opportunity to receive the Last Rites. The green "scapular" is traditionally worn by the terminally ill.
The Scapular of the Passion, called the "red scapular", is the only scapular for which the images are specifically prescribed. It also designates that the bands must be of red wool. It was revealed in 1846 to Sister Apollone Adreveau of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and approved by Pope Pius IX the following year.
Also of note is the Scapular of the Most Blessed Trinity, which may be granted under the Trinitarian Order, founded in 1198 by St. John de Matha. It represents the ideal of the Order, which is to liberate captives and thus bring all into the glory of the Trinity.
scapular in German: Skapulier
scapular in Spanish: Escapulario
scapular in French: Scapulaire (vêtement)
scapular in Korean: 스카풀라
scapular in Italian: Scapolare
scapular in Limburgan: Sjappeleer
scapular in Dutch: Scapulier
scapular in Polish: Szkaplerz
scapular in Russian: Бармы
scapular in Slovenian: Škapulir
scapular in Ukrainian: Параман
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