JARO, Iloilo, July 18, 2014—With many Filipino Catholics wearing scapulars and medals, not really knowing what they are for, a priest in Iloilo recently stressed their true purpose — and it has nothing to do with magic.
“One has to understand their use. Just getting hold of the promise without understanding its content and demands can easily lead them to be treated as amulets and bodily decorations,” Monsignor Alejandro P. Esperancilla, who serves as special assistant for liturgical affairs of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles in Jaro explained.
According to Esperancilla, the wearing of medals and scapulars should be an expression that the faithful want to “place themselves under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.
He pointed out, “This will necessarily include the desire to imitate her life of being totally in the service of God.”
Esperancilla shared that before it acquired its present miniature form, the original scapular—the “Brown Scapular”—evolved from the habit (religious vestment) of the Carmelite Order, whose members, beginning with St. Simon Stock, were largely responsible for popularizing the devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, their patroness, through this sacramental.
It means that it is a badge of affiliation with that religious community, and that its wearer “shares in the spirit of that community”.
More than promises
“It is a sign that includes not just privileges but also the obligation to live according to the rule and values of that community, namely, simplicity in dress, behavior and life, penance and mortification, prayer, hospitality and charity to the less fortunate,” Esperancilla said.
With the often unrealistic expectations many wearers have of these sacramentals, the shrine liturgist urged to “de-emphasize” the promises attached to them, emphasizing instead the spirit behind them, which is to become “imitators of our Blessed Mother in her life of service to her Son, Jesus Christ”.
“Only then can the promises be fulfilled,” Esperancilla noted.
He stressed that we must remember that scapulars and medals are sacramentals of the church and serious effort should be made to use them correctly.
“People need to be instructed in the wearing of medals and scapulars,” Esperancilla said. (Raymond A. Sebastián with reports from Fr. Mickey Cardenas)