The Blue Scapular

In the year 1583, the Venerable Ursula Benincasa (1547-1618), founded the Congregation of the Oblates of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. At this period, having created much popular excitement by her visions, her ecstasies, and the loftiness of her teaching, and having attracted enthusiastic admiration and envenomed calumny, she was accused of being possessed by a devil and was therefore summoned to Rome. By the Pope's authority she was placed under the spiritual direction of St. Philip Neri, who subjected her to the most severe trials; he was constantly astonished by her piety and humility. In 1583 the foundation proper took place, under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, St. Michael the Archangel, and St. Peter.

On February 2, 1617, in Naples, Italy, on the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady, Ursula, having received Holy Communion, had a vision of the Blessed Mother clothed in a white garment over which she wore another garment of azure blue. In her arms, Mary held the Infant Jesus. Our Lady was surrounded by many persons, all similarly attired. 

The Blessed Mother spoke to Ursula with these words: “Cease weeping, Ursula, and turn your sighs into heartfelt joy. Listen closely to what Jesus, whom I am holding in my lap, will say to you.”

Then Jesus revealed to Ursula that she would found a convent where thirty-three nuns, dressed in the same attire as the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of her vision, would live a life of solitude and seclusion. The Savior promised special graces and many spiritual gifts to those who would zealously follow this way of life. 


The Venerable Servant of God besought the Lord to extend these favors also to such people who, living in the world, would have a special devotion to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, observe chastity according to their station in life, and wear a small sky-blue Scapular. As a sign that her prayer had been heard, Jesus showed Ursula in a vision a multitude of angels distributing scapulars over the earth. He promised Mother Ursula the following for those who wear the scapular:

1. they will be covered by Our Lady’s Sacred Mantle
2. they will have Her defense against all the snares of the enemy that lead us to sin
3. plenary and partial indulgences, both in life and in death
4. cure of diseases
5. fortress of faith in the face of difficulties
6. a good death assisted by the Sacraments of Anointing and Reconciliation
7. light and wisdom of God in difficult times
8. the defense of Our Lady on the day of final judgment
9. a shield of graces against all the dangers
10. her eternal intercession before Jesus and many graces.

Overwhelmed with joy, Ursula personally made scapulars similar to the ones she saw in her vision, had them blessed, and distributed them among the faithful. The practice of wearing the Blue Scapular began to spread quickly already during Ursula's lifetime. She founded what was later called the Theatine Hermitesses(Romite Teatine) as prophesied. As Venerable Ursula wished to completely withdraw from the world she took thirty-three companions, in memory of the thirty-three years of Christ upon earth, and retired to a hermitage. The rules of the Hermitesses are much like those of the Oblates as regards works of piety; but the former religious follow the contemplative life of St. Magdalene. In addition to their solemn vows, their constitution imposes on them great austerities. They are bound to perpetual abstinence from flesh meat except in case of illness, to fast on the vigils of feasts of the Blessed Virgin and with still greater rigour on the vigils of the Immaculate Conception, the Ascension, and Corpus Christi. They also fast every Saturday and on the last two days of Carnival, besides the ordinary fasts of the church. The rules of the Hermitesses and those of the Oblates were approved by Gregory XVI in 1623.


Oblates and Hermitesses practiced fervent and incessant prayer to avert from mankind the terrible chastisements which Ven. Ursula by Divine Providence foresaw in her ecstasy. The life of the Oblates is active, that of the Hermitesses contemplative. After her death, her spiritual daughters undertook the promotion of this scapular as their Order's special mission. On August 7, 1793, Pope Pius VI recognized the heroic virtues of Ursula, and proclaimed her a Venerable Servant of God. 

In 1633, the Theatine Fathers founded by St. Cajetan, in their General Chapter, recognized the Oblates of the Immaculate Conception and the community of contemplative nuns whose inception was rooted in the vision of Venerable Ursula as branches of their order. From that time on, these two communities took on the title of Theatines Nuns of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM.

In January 1671, Pope Clement X approved the blessing and investing of this scapular. Several years later, Clement XI, endowed this scapular with more indulgences, which he mentioned in his apostolic letter dated May 12, 1710. The indulgences were confirmed and amplified by Pope Gregory XIV in 1845 and by Blessed Pius IX in 1850. These two Popes also declared that the indulgences of the Blue Scapular could be applied to the souls of the faithful departed. Those who are enrolled pray daily 6 Our Fathers, 6 Hail Marys, and 6 Glory Bes in honor of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Only the sky blue woolen cloth is essential and necessary in the scapular. The scapular usually bears on one portion a symbolization of the Immaculate Conception and on the other the name of Mary.



The Blue Scapular and the Holy Souls in Purgatory

The Old 433 Plenary Indulgences

“And let it be particularly made known that, besides many particular indulgences, there are annexed to the scapular of the Immaculate Conception, which is blessed by the Theatine Fathers, all the indulgences which are granted to any religious order, pious place, or person. And particularly by reciting "Our Father," "Hail Mary," and "Glory be to the Father," six times, in honor of the most holy Trinity, and of the immaculate Mary, are gained each time all the indulgences of Rome, Portiuncula, Jerusalem, Galicia, which reach the number of four hundred and thirty-three plenary indulgences, besides the temporal, which are innumerable.” 

~ St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, “The Glories of Mary” (Original Edition)

They who become invested with the blue scapular of the Immaculate Conception ought to have it in view to honour this glorious privilege of the Mother of God, and to apply themselves to pray for the reformation of those who are leading a sinful, disorderly life, and straying from the paths of salvation... Those invested with the blue scapular can gain all the [plenary and partial] indulgences attached to a visit paid to the seven Roman Basilicas, to the church of the Portiuncula at Assisi, of St. James, at Compostella, and of the holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, each time (toties quoties) they devoutly recite in any place whatever, six Paters, Aves, and Glorias, in honour of the Most Holy Trinity, and of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, praying for the exaltation of Holy Church, the extinction of heresies, and for peace and concord amongst Christian princes. To gain these indulgences, nothing more is necessary than simply to recite the six Paters, Aves, and Glorias. All the above-named indulgences are applicable to the souls in Purgatory.

~ From “The Book of Holy Indulgences compiled from the Decrees of The Sacred Congregation of Indulgences” by Rev. Michael Comerford

These old plenary indulgences is granted without the necessity of approaching the Sacraments, the only conditions are that one must be in the state of grace and free from all attachment to sin, even venial sin.

Although the Church's regulations on indulgences, which is publicly approved, have changed, we may still hope to obtain these old indulgences from God at least privately if we ask Him for them with confidence. As stated above, Our Lord promised privately to Ven. Ursula plenary and partial indulgences both in life and in death. This is also the case with the Rosary. Although the Church publicly granted specific indulgences to it, the Blessed Mother privately promised Blessed Alan de la Roche (1428-1475):

“I want you to know that, although there are numerous indulgences already attached to the recitation of my Rosary, I shall add many more to every five decades for those who, free from serious sin, say them with devotion, on their knees. And whosoever shall persevere in the devotion of the holy Rosary, with its prayers and meditations, shall be rewarded for it; I shall obtain for him full remission of the penalty and the guilt of all his sins at the end of his life. And let this not seem incredible to you; it is easy for me because I am the Mother of the King of heaven, and he calls me full of grace. And being filled with grace, I am able to dispense it freely to my dear children.”

~ From “The Secret of the Rosary,” 28th Rose, by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort

Saint John Massias (1585-1645), the Dominican lay brother, had a wonderful devotion to the Souls in Purgatory. He obtained by his prayers (chiefly by the recitation of three Rosaries on his knees every evening) the liberation of one million four hundred thousand souls!  In return, they obtained for him the most abundant and extraordinary graces and came at the hour of his death to help and console him and accompany him to Heaven.  This fact is so certain that it was inserted by the Church in the bull of his Beatification.

This is also similar to the plenary indulgence of Divine Mercy Sunday  promised by Jesus to St. Faustina Kowalska in a private revelation:

“On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.” (Diary of St. Faustina, 699)

The Feast of the Divine Mercy, as requested by Our Lord, was established in 2000 but it was only on June 29, 2002 that the Church publicly granted a plenary indulgence to be gained by the faithful on the Feast. That does not mean that all that time before 2002, no one received the plenary indulgence promised privately. So, while the promise seems easier to fulfill, the indulgence is more certain. By seeking to satisfy the stricter conditions of the indulgence, we would certainly satisfy the conditions of the promise, as well. Keep both intentions in mind, in other words, while doing what is required to gain the indulgence. What is most intrinsic to the promise is the generosity of the Lord in forgiving on this day, and so we may reasonably count on Him to provide the actual graces necessary to do what is required for the indulgence. 

It is also the same with other prayers offered for the deliverance of the souls in purgatory to which the Church did not grant any indulgence, plenary or partial. We cannot say that these cannot completely deliver the poor souls, as for example, the novenas for the dead. It is also said that St. Gertrude the Great's “Prayer for the Souls in Purgatory” deliver one thousand souls, but some aver that this promise only applies to the saint because of her disposition, Our Lord having said of her during her lifetime:

... there is no creature on earth so dear to Me as Gertrude, because there is no one at this present time amongst mankind who is closely united to Me by purity of intention and uprightness of will.

In the end, it is the Lord who decides and responds according to His will:

“... and I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please me.” 
~ Exodus 33:19b

“For he saith to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will shew mercy to whom I will shew mercy. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” 
~ Romans 9:15-16


Recommended Daily Blue Scapular Prayers

Pray the following once during the start of the day:

O Lord my God, Immaculate Virgin Mary, I offer the following prayers this day in honor of the Mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity and the Immaculate Conception; and (1) I beg of You the exaltation and restoration of the Holy Catholic Church and the defeat of all her enemies, visible and invisible, internal and external; (2) I beg for peace and concord among Christian leaders and in the whole world; (3) I beg for the destruction of all heresies and all errors against the Catholic Faith and the traditions of the Catholic Church that the whole world may be made one people and one Church in the One True Catholic Faith; (4) I beg for the propagation of the Holy Catholic Faith; (5) I beg for the conversion of all sinners especially those who are in the state of mortal sin and affect the majority of the people in our country and the world; (6) I beg for the complete deliverance of as may souls from purgatory as it used to be freed in plenary and partial indulgences granted by the Church in the old times, as attested by St. Alphonsus Liguori, for this devotion. 
(You can mention here specific names of the faithful departed whom you desire to be released)

Dear Holy Souls, which had passed from this world into purgatory and who are awaited eagerly in heaven, pray for me and ask for all the graces I need, and for which I beg the Divine Majesty. 

(Mention here your petitions to the souls in purgatory so that they can pray for it)

Pray the following as many times as you can during the day to pray for the above intentions and to gain as much the 433 plenary indulgences:

Blessed be the Holy and Undivided Trinity who created all things and governs them, now and always, forever and ever. I believe in the Threeness, I confess the Oneness, of the Creator of creation.

O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.

Blessed be the Holy and Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.

6 Our Fathers, 6 Hail Marys, 6 Glory Bes (The length of these is about two decades of the Rosary)

Blessing and Investiture of the Blue Scapular of The Immaculate Conception
From The Roman Ritual

This blessing was formerly reserved to the Theatines, Clerks Regular, and they gave the Marians of the Immaculate Conception authority to invest the Blue Scapular.

But the No. 77 of Instruction “Inter Oecumenici” (September 26, 1964)  of the Sacred Congregation of Rites now also says:

“77. The blessings in the Rituale Romanum tit. IX, cap. 9, 10, 11, hitherto reserved, may be given by any priest, except for: the blessing of a bell for the use of a blessed church or oratory (cap. 9, no. 11); the blessing of the cornerstone of a church (cap. 9, no. 16); the blessing of a new church or public oratory (cap. 9, no. 17); the blessing of an antemensium (cap. 9, no. 21); the blessing of a new cemetery (cap. 9, no. 22); papal blessings (cap. 10, nos. 1-3); the blessing and erection of the stations of the cross (cap. 11, no. 1). reserved to the bishop.”
~ o ~

The one who is to receive the scapular is kneeling. 

The priest, vested in surplice and white stole, says:

Priest: Our help is in the name of the Lord
All: Who made heaven and earth.
P: The Lord be with you.
All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, who condescended to clothe yourself in our mortal nature, we humbly beg you in your boundless goodness to bless † this garment, designed in honor and memory of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and as a reminder for those who wear it to pray for the conversion of sinners. May this servant of yours, who is to wear it, by the merits and prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, likewise put on you. We ask this of you who live and reign forever and ever.
All: Amen.

The priest sprinkles the scapular(s) with holy water, without saying anything; and then invests the person(s) with it, saying to each one:
Take, dear brother (sister), this scapular of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that by her intercession you may divest yourself of the old man, and be cleansed from every stain of sin. May you keep it spotless and thus attain everlasting life; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

The priest continues:
By the faculty granted me, I make you a partaker of all the spiritual benefits which the Congregation of Clerks Regular enjoys by God's grace and the privilege of the Holy See; in the name of the Father, † and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All: Amen.

Then he kneels, and together with the person(s) just enrolled he 
says the following prayers facing the altar:
Let praise and thanksgiving be offered at every moment to the Holy and Godly Sacrament. (3x)
Blessed be the Holy and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. (3x)

Nihil obstat for the Blessing: 
REV. HUGO C. KOEHLER 
Censor deputatus

Imprimatur for the Blessing: 
JOHN P. TREACY, S.T.D. 
Bishop of La Crosse
September 1, 1964


Sources:
1. Catholic Encyclopedia 1917, Topics: Theatines and Scapular
2. “Read Me or Rue It” by Fr. Paul O'Sullivan, O.P.
4. Saint Gertrude the Great: Herald of Divine Love, TAN Books
6. Other Internet Sources


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