A Channel of Grace and the Brown Scapular

David was 17 years old the summer he started working in the plastics factory, which was owned by his uncle. He took this job in between his junior and senior years of high school hoping to maximize earnings for college, which was just a year away. He also hoped that he would learn something about business. He did that, and more. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

While working that summer at the plastics factory, David slowly came to find out that many of his co-workers had police records. Some had been incarcerated for theft, forgery, even physical assault. He personally worked under the supervision of a young man 21 or 22 years old, who, like many of the others, had been in prison.

Days were long at the factory and tasks were mundane. Conversation was a way to keep everyone from becoming too bored. David and his young supervisor talked about everything from the weather to music to philosophies of life as they manned the grinder and cleaned up the waste. One day, the conversation took a surprising turn. David’s boss asked him if he would buy him a gun. Because the man had a record, he was unable to do so himself. David was stunned.

“A gun? What do you need a gun for, man?” he asked.

The young man replied directly, “To protect my family. I don’t live in the greatest part of town. There’s shootings…I got a daughter…”

Whether David believed him or not he couldn’t decide. But one thing was certain; he was not going to try to buy anybody a gun, even if he had been old enough. So he dodged the question, changed the subject, and buried the conversation in the back of his mind. A few weeks passed.

Part of David’s backbreaking and unglamorous job was moving remnant shavings from the plastic molds into the shredder. He frequently did shoveling outdoors. One day it was so hot that he removed his shirt to work- leaving on just a sleeveless white t-shirt.  His boss came up to help with the task and noticed David’s brown scapular hanging around his neck.

“What’s that?” the boss asked.

“It’s a scapular,” David replied.

“What’s it for?” the boss asked.

“Well…..” and David, to the best of his ability, explained the concept of the scapular associated with the Carmelite order. He suggested it for protection and told him to read the pamphlet to know more. And so, an ex-criminal learned, right there in the plastics scrap yard, the role of sacramentals and all about God’s love and protection.

The night before his last day of work, David asked his mother if he could have a few scapulars. She directed him to the top drawer in the dining room buffet where the extra, replacement scapulars were kept. He took out three. The next day he gave them to his young boss. The man was visibly touched.

“For me? You got these for me?”

“Yeah,” said David.

The man opened one of the plastic bags which held the scapular and looked at the written explanation, then put the scapular around his neck.

“Wow, thanks!”

He tucked the other two packages in his pocket to take home to his family. It was a grace-filled moment. There was no preaching, no lofty sermon or judgmental comments. David saw this man’s desire for protection and answered his request for a gun with three small brown scapulars. In his own way, without fanfare or preaching he was a channel of grace for someone else.

Did this young boss of David’s ever join the Catholic faith?  Start going to Church? Convert? Did he ever become officially “enrolled” in the brown scapular? I don’t know. But I do know that in that case, in that instance, one young man brought a message of God to another young man in a situation some may call random. Is it coincidence when we are placed in a particular situation in a particular time and an opportunity arises to minister to another? Or is it part of God’s design and plan from the start? You decide. I’m simply going to offer that it’s good to ponder the influence each of us may have unexpectedly, daily. In the strangest places, if we are open, we can be witnesses to our Faith.

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  1. Theresa,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful example with our readers. Your son handled this situation beautifully. I have had similar situations when praying a Rosary, reading the Magnificat over coffee in a restaurant or simply by making the Sign of the Cross and praying. Each time we live out our faith in the public square, we have a wonderful opportunity to witness to others. It may start out as mere curiosity from others, but the door is open to a broader conversation if we have the courage to engage.

    Lenten blessings to you and your family!


  2. The symbols of our faith and devotional sacramentals provide easy opportunities to share our faith. Many Catholics have much to learn from this teenager.

  3. Theresa,

    I absolutely love this story. What an example of living a humble, spirit-filled life and waiting for God to provide opportunities to evangelize.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. What a beautiful story! I love it when someone asks me about my brown scapular 🙂 An opportunity to share our amazing faith.

  5. Greetings.

    The five-fold scapular includes the brown scapular, but also has another four.

    Perhaps you would consider selling it.

    Description: The Five-fold scapular is a Redemptorist scapular. The original was a Four-fold scapular, which became five with the addition of the Passion scapular after St. Alphonsus’s time. These are the five most popular scapulars approved of in the Church, combined into a single scapular for practical wearing purposes. They are each approved separately, and are all approved when worn all together (the Five-fold). Included are the following scapulars, attached by the red cord of the Passion (and listed in order from the top layer):
    Red scapular of the Passion: This scapular has its origin in one of several appearances of Our Lord in 1846 to Sister Appoline Andriveau. In these appearances, He showed her the red scapular of the Passion, and promised that a great increase of faith, hope and charity would be reserved every Friday for those who wore the scapular. This vision was several times repeated; and the extraordinary thing about it is the rapidity with which it was approved in Rome.
    Blue scapular of the Immaculate Conception: This scapular has its origin in the 1605 appearance of Our Lord to Sr. Ursula Benincasa, foundress of the Theatines. He made great promises if she and her fellow nuns would adopt as their religious habit one of a light blue colour in honour of the Immaculate Conception of His Mother. Sister Ursula then asked Him if He would grant similar favours to those of the laity or of other religious orders who would wear, in honour of the Immaculate Conception, a small Blue scapular; and Our Lord did so promise. Enrollment in the confraternity of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception, and specific daily practices, are required in order to obtain the indulgences.
    The Brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel: This popular scapular has its origins in 1247, when Our Lady revealed it to St. Simon Stock, the Prior General of the Carmelite order. Requirements include wearing the scapular after enrollment, observing chastity according to one’s state in life, and reciting the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or reciting five decades of the Rosary daily. The Black scapular of the Mother of Sorrows: This scapular has its origins in the 1240 appearance of the Blessed Virgin to seven prominent citizens of Florence. They bound themselves by vows to honour the Mother of God in her sorrows. She handed them the Black habit of the Servites and said, “…these garments shall be to you a perpetual memory of the sufferings of my heart.”
    The White scapular of the Trinity: This scapular has its origin in 1190, when St. John of Matha, a Spaniard, was saying holy Mass. He saw over the altar the figure of an angel wearing a white robe, with a blue and red cross on the breast and the shoulder. This became the habit of the order of The Holy Trinity. The attached St. Benedict’s medal is blessed with the powerful exorcism prayers and is complimentary. In 1198, Pope Innocent III approved the Trinitarian order.
    The Black Scapular of the Passion is associated with the Passionists.[1] The tradition of the Passionists holds that before St. Paul of the Cross founded the Congregation of the Passionists he had a Marian apparition during which he received the black habit of the order with the badge on chest. Thereafter, the Passionist Fathers gave the faithful who wished to associate themselves more closely with their order a black scapular in honour
    of the Passion of Christ.
    We purchased our five-fold scapulars from Joanne at Rose Scapular Co. The normal price is $14. However, some of the scapulars are very small and plain. To get them the same size and with an image, the scapulars cost $20.48. website: http://www.rosescapular.net/ email: joanne@rosescapular.com

    I hope that this information is useful.




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