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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Brown Scapular & Confessions

by Catherine Frakas 27 Jul 2001

Brown Scapular & Confessions QUESTION from William Alexander on September 7, 2002 Hi! First of all, thanks a million for answering my previous question ( Annullment - Don't get the Concept )! However, I have a few more questions to ask, regarding the use and purpose of the brown scapular and also regarding confessions.
1. I recently received a pamphlet which contains information regarding the brown scapular. I have to admit that I was pretty disturbed by the contents it. In the pamphlet it claims that ' whoever dies clothed in the scapular shall not suffer eternal fire'. How is that possible ? After all, we only need to avoid sin and to accept Christ as our saviour right ? I asked a friend about this and he said that ' if we die wearing the scapular, we have Mary's promise that we will not suffer the fire of Hell, provided we have tried to live accordin to God's law'. What difference would the scapular make, if we kept His law ? If we kept God's law, we could die wearing a Swatch and still be guaranteed from the fire of hell, right ?
2. I am also disturbed by the importance we place on the scapular. It seems so.....strange to place such power,importance and veneration on an object, as if its a talisman. Can you please explain this act to me ?
3. How important is confession when it comes to being absolved from sin ? If we perform the act of perfect or imperfect contrition, but dies before we get to confession, will we be spared from hell ?
I hope that you can answer my questions...Thanks !
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on September 17, 2002 Dear Mr. Alexander:
Question 1:
I agree that many Catholics use the scapular to the point of supersitution. Although they may not realize it, many will treat the Scapular like a talismon. This is wrong and this is a violation of Church Teaching to do this.
The majority of people, however, understand the significance the the proper usage of sacramentals like the Scapular.
The Scapular, like all sacramentals, are a sign of our faith. The power derived from them is NOT in the item itself, but in our faith that the sacramental represents.
If we take the old language of the scapular too literally, not accounting for linguistic differences between when these things were originally written and today, and without the whole context of Church teaching, then we can come to wrong conclusions.
I have had people tell me that if they take the Scapular off to take a shower and then slip and fall and die in the shower that the promises of the Scapular are lost. This is pure nonsense.
I can assure you that the FULL ORIGINAL Scapulars that are worn by religious ARE removed when they take a shower. These scapulars are worn over the shoulders and extend down to the ankles. They are hardly worn in the shower.
Again, it is the Faith that brings us the promises, not a piece of cloth. The promises of the scapular can be yours WITHOUT wearing the scapular. By living a good Catholic life in devotion and in love and worship of God, participating in the Sacraments regularly will bring you to the very same place as the promises of the scapular.
The scapular is just another aid to help us reach that goal. But is not the only aid.
Question 2:
Sacramentals are blessed objects and thus have the mark of God upon them by virtue of the blessed. This the demons recognize. In that sense the sacramental may work like a no trespassing sign.
But just like a No Trespassing Sign we may put up on our property, some will obey it and others will not. Thus we must be willing and able to enforce the No Tresspassing.
Some demons may be swayed by the mere presence of the sign (the blessed object). Others will ignore it. Thus our FAITH is the enforcer. The ultimate power is in the FAITH, not in the sign.
Sacramentals are given to us by God through the Church to assist us in our daily life of faith and devotion, and in some cases to assist in our protection and even healing.
The Bible itself records the use of sacramentals that facilitated healing. 2 Kings 13:20-21 records that contact with Elijah's bones restored life. Acts 5:15-16 healings were seen as facilitated through Peter's shadow. Acts 19:11-12 face cloths touched to Paul's facilitated cures.
But in each of these cases, it was not the item itself that magically performed cures... It was the person's faith that lead God to perform the cure.
Sacramentals help us to focus our faith. Most of us know the effects of staring and focusing at a candle light. Hynotist use such methods. The intense focus assists in bringing the person into the altered state of conscienceness, in this case, known as a hyponotic trance.
In a similar way, a similar principle, sacraments help us to intensely focus our faith, something to such a degree, that healings occur.
But the sacramental item itself is not magic. It does nothing in an of itself.
Question 3:
Confession is REQUIRED to be absolved of any mortal sins. Venial Sins can be absolved though as act of contrition, receiving the Eucharist, and doing good works. But Mortal sin must be brought to the Sacrament of Confession.
It is also good to bring Venial Sins to confession too. The Sacrament is not only a sacrament of reconciliation but also of healing. Thus it can assist us in overcoming venial sins as well.
As to the issue of committing a mortal sin and then dying before one has a chance to get to confession, if one says a perfect act of contrition after committing the mortal sin (which is something we should ALWAYS do), and you genuinely and sincerely intend to confess this sin at the next opportunity to get to the Sacrament, but you die before you get to confession, YOU ARE COVERED.
You will reach heaven if all mortal sins are at least covered by a perfect act of confession AND you intended to go to confession but was prevented from doing so because you got run over by a bus first.
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