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Tuesday, July 22, 2014
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Holy Spirit Interactive: Questions Christians Ask: Is wearing the scapular an assurance of salvation?

Is wearing the scapular an assurance of salvation?

I'm distressed by a pamphlet I've seen on the brown scapular of our Lady of Mt. Carmel. On the front panel it calls the scapular "the assurance of salvation."

You're right. It is distressing that people who should know better so grossly misrepresent the Catholic Church's teaching about salvation and about scapulars. Let's set the record straight. (Pay close attention, please.)

First, the Catholic Church teaches that there is only one person who can save us, and that person is Jesus Christ.

Second, the Church considers wearing the brown scapular, like praying the rosary, to be a good and helpful way of cultivating a devotion to our Lady. The scapular is like a wedding ring. Wearing a wedding ring doesn't make one married; rather, the ring is an external sign symbolizing the inward reality of the marriage covenant. The same is true of the scapular. Its purpose is to remind the wearer and others who see it that the wearer has a devotion to our Lady. There are absolutely no magical properties ascribed to scapulars. They are not good luck charms.

Third, Mary promised that, with certain conditions fulfilled, she would intercede with God in a special way on behalf of people who die wearing a scapular. But she never said (nor would she) that the scapular is an "assurance of salvation."

Repeat: The Catholic Church teaches that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ and, by his grace, in obedience to his commands ("For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. It is not from works, so no one may boast" [Eph. 2:8-9; see Phil. 2:13, Col. 1:29, Jas. 2:14-26]).

Furthermore, the Church does not teach that one must wear the scapular, pray the rosary, or cultivate a devotion to Mary. Although the Church recommends these things as ways of enhancing one's spiritual life and drawing closer to Christ by asking Mary's intercession and by imitating her way of life (see Heb. 13:7), one can be a good Catholic and go to heaven never having worn a scapular or having said a single Hail Mary.

Whoever produced that pamphlet should expurgate the offending statement from future printings. The pamphlet misrepresents Catholic teaching on salvation, distorts Mary's true role in God's plan of salvation, perpetuates the false idea that Catholic piety is superstitious, and is a serious source of scandal to those who are given the impression that Catholics believe in salvation by works.

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