Today marks the twelfth anniversary of what should be a pivotal moment in the lives of my wife and me. On the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in 1997, we completed the total consecrate to Jesus through Mary according to St. Louis Marie de Montfort and we were invested with the brown scapular.
De Montfort's method includes 33 days of prayer and preparation prior to the final consecration. The parish that we were in at the time, St. Lawrence the Martyr in Alexandria, Virginia, hosted a series of evenings for those interested in making the consecration, so there was a large group of us. I can still remember speaking with someone about the consecration. She was an unmarried middle-aged woman, very active as a volunteer in the parish. "I did that years ago," she said. Then she added jokingly, "You can't tell, can you?" I laughed with her, but I remember thinking, "Yes, I can." She was one of those good souls that we are fortunate to meet on our journey.
Life didn't change much for us after making the consecration. I separated from the Navy, and we moved back to Ohio and had three more children. Spiritually, I can hope that I've made improvements, but if so, they've been incremental. I still find that I have a need for sacramental confession. I still have trouble consistently saying my daily prayers. I still get extremely drowsy whenever I try to attend a holy hour. In short, I don't feel consecrated, but I am.
Also on that day twelve years ago, we received our brown scapulars. I look at my scapular as a sign of devotion to Our Lady. It's like a little piece of the carmelite habit that reminds me (and tells any who might catch a glimpse of it), that I love our Blessed Mother and want to better serve her Son. Scapulars are a common sight around town. Many children are enrolled after they make their First Communion. It's not unusual to see them with their scapulars double-looped around their necks, with both ends peeking over the tops of their shirt fronts.
Some people focus on the promises that were allegedly made regarding assurances to anyone who dies wearing a scapular. While I might hope that those promises are true if I'm lucky enough to be wearing mine when I die, I resist the temptation to think of the scapular in a superstitious manner, as though it were a straight-to-heaven talisman. I prefer to think that the promises might be true for anyone who is disposed to wear a scapular for the right reasons. In other words, it's not the patch of brown cloth that wins what is promised, rather it is the devotion and humility that leads one to wear the brown cloth with the proper intention.