Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 17, 2017 and has been revised.
Note: “If I take off my scapular prior to surgery and die on the operating table, will I still go to Heaven?” is this blog’s third most-viewed post, all-time, with 6556 hits to date. I’ll tell you the reason why that is the case at the end of the post.*
This morning I was listening to the 1/13/17 podcast of the “Calling All Catholics” talk radio show broadcast on the Station of the Cross, 101.7 FM, Buffalo, NY, with Catholic priest, Dave Baker, and moderator, Mike Denz, taking questions from listeners.
Towards the end of the show, Mike read a question sent in from “Kim” in Rochester, NY regarding the brown scapular. But first, a little background:
Catholic tradition posits that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Carmelite friar, Simon Stock, in Aylesford, England in 1251 and presented him and his religious order with a brown scapular (a ceremonial apron), proclaiming, “the one who dies in it will be saved.” A mini-version of the scapular, basically two strings with patches of wool on each end that is draped over the head and rests on the shoulders (see photo above), was created in the late-1500s so that lay people could also benefit from the scapular. A priest must first bless the scapular in order for it to transmit its advantages to the wearer. Untold millions of Catholics have worn the small, brown scapular over the last 430 years, believing that wearing the sacramental would earn or help earn their salvation as the Marian apparition had allegedly promised.
Okay, now let’s get back to Kim’s question. She asked, “If you have the brown scapular, but you are having surgery and aren’t allowed to wear it, do the protections and benefits that it provides still apply if something happens?”
Priest Dave and Mike discussed the question for several minutes and concluded that while it’s extremely important to wear the scapular in order to gain Mary’s promise of salvation, there are probably some circumstances when it’s permissible to remove it temporarily such as during surgery, taking a shower, or while swimming. However, they acknowledged that some priests would advise that the benefits of the scapular would only be in effect if it was being worn. Dave and Mike also made sure to add that the scapular wouldn’t do a person any good if they weren’t following the other teachings of the church. Dave also said that if a scapular becomes worn out, it can be replaced with a new one, which does not need to be blessed. Apparently, the blessing of the previous scapular is grandfathered to the new. But hold on! If the wearer of a brown Carmelite scapular switches to a different color scapular (red, black, blue, white, or green), Dave said they will need to have a priest bless the new one because each of the different colored scapulars has its own distinct protocols. Got that? Are you dizzy yet?
Can this ex-Catholic and born-again follower of Jesus Christ ask just a couple of questions?
1) Dave and Mike said a person needs to be following the prescribed teachings of the church for the scapular to be effective, but if a Catholic were already following the teachings of the church – receiving the sacraments and obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules – why would they need a scapular? Well, in works-righteous Catholicism where salvation is never assured, the thinking goes that every little bit helps.
2) Dave opines that an individual who dies without the scapular can still earn the promise of salvation if it was removed for a “legitimate” reason (surgery, swimming, showering, etc.), but other priests disagree and say the promise is null and void as soon as the scapular is removed. Who is right?
If you’re a blood-bought, born-again follower of Jesus Christ, you know all of the above is sheer anti-Scriptural superstition. But to a Roman Catholic trying to merit their way to Heaven, it all makes perfect sense.
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:6-8
Come out of religious legalism, ritualism, and superstition and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.
*The reason for this post’s high number of hits is because Catholics regularly query the internet, asking if they can remove their scapular for such occasions as surgery and still go to Heaven.