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In honor of the feast of Saint Augustine of Hippo, today, August 28th, I will highlight some fascinating stories about his journey to the Heart of God.
Bishop, Doctor of the Church and Patron Saint of Brewers, because of his conversion from his former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions.
His complete turnaround is an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.
Have you ever wondered why some Catholics wear a brown cord around their neck? Perhaps, you thought it to be a new type of rosary, a baptismal keepsake, or a “trendy” catholic sacramental. But no, all these assumptions are far from the truth. A scapular is more than that! and its evolution will surprise you.
Let us go back in time to discover what this ancient tradition is all about.
Around the ninth century, a monk received the scapular after the profession of vows, and it became known as "the yoke of Christ" (iugum Christi) and "the shield of Christ" (scutum Christi). Over centuries religious orders adapted the basic scapular as they considered appropriate for themselves, and as a result, we have a myriad of distinct designs, colors, shapes, and lengths.
Inspired by the original version, the scapular that the laity wears today is made out of two small pieces of wool, connected by a cord or ribbon, and hangs down one’s front and back. Some scapulars are made out of different materials ( precious metals) and represent devotions to The Virgin Mary, The Sacred Heart or St. Benedict. The most popular one is the brown scapular, known as the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Scapular. The brown scapular was revealed to a Carmelite priest, St. Simon Stock in the year 1251 AD.
Eventually, these smaller scapulars were marks of membership in confraternities, groups of the laity who joined together, attaching themselves to the apostolate of a religious community and accepting certain rules and regulations. However, popularly you do not need to belong to a confraternity to wear one.
One of the primary reasons Catholics wear a scapular today is the promises attached to it. They are guaranteed special protection, the loving intercession of Our Blessed Mother, and a special grace at the hour of death. Scapular wearers will not perish in Hell but would be taken up to Heaven by her on the first Saturday after their death.
You might have heard of the term “practicing Catholic”. In fact, being a “practicing Catholic” becomes a “requirement” in some circumstances. For example, if you want to apply for a teaching position in a Catholic institution, one of the qualifications for you to be hired is that you must be a “practicing Catholic”. Or if you are to be a godparent for a child of your close friend, then being a “practicing Catholic” is a must.
But what does being a “practicing Catholic” mean? Standards for Educators in Catholic Schools and Parishes by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference defines a “practicing Catholic” as “a Catholic in good standing who participates fully in the worship and life of the Church, and who understands and accepts the teachings of the Church and moral demands of the Gospel, as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”