The necklace with a mind of its own

Twice in the past week, I lost my scapular at the gym.

I’m still straddling the fence a bit on the scapular thing.

Would you like to know the ridiculous reason why I started wearing a scapular? When my son was a baby, I wanted to be able to wear some sort of religious jewelry that would withstand his tugging on it.

There. I said it. I am a Clueless Catholic.

I stopped wearing it for a while, but then I read Matthew Lickona’s Swimming With Scapulars and decided to resume the devotion. Personally, I’d say I wear it to help myself grow in humility – as an acknowledgement that God may work in ways that I don’t understand. Because I don’t really understand why He would choose to work through this particular devotion.

(Yes, I am poorly informed).

So, last week, in my campaign of fitness, I went swimming at the gym. On Tuesday, as I was preparing to leave, I noticed my scapular lying on the floor. “Whew!” I thought. “Good thing I noticed THAT! Won’t let THAT happen again!”

On Thursday, when I came home from the gym, I realized…no scapular. I could clearly see it in the top shelf of the locker where I had stowed it so as to Not Forget.

What to do? Walk up to the lost and found counter at the YMCA? “Excuse me, did someone turn in a brown necklace sort of thing? It would have medals on it and some words about Whosoever dies wearing this scapular will not suffer eternal hellfire.”

The thought of walking up to the YMCA lady and asking to have my magic necklace back is not an appealing one.

On my way to work the next morning, I stopped to check the locker. The scapular was still there. I put it on, tucked it under my shirt, and went about my business. My weird, sacramental business.

But I wonder – am I being winked at by God? Is this a hint that perhaps I should not be so hesitant to accept this devotion – or at least, I should be able to explain it to someone else in better terms than “I wear it and pray that I may stop being so skeptical about wearing it?”

Or do I just have Mommy Amnesia?

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  1. Anonymous says

    Well, you’re two steps ahead of me:

    1) You wear a scapular
    2) You go to the gym

    Your adventures in Evangelicalville (not that that’s a bad thing) leave me feeling deficient …


  2. Dorian Speed says

    Well…I’m not sure we should extrapolate from this post a pattern of behavior. But I appreciate the sentiment.

  3. Matthew Lickona says

    Dear Anonymous Teacher Person,
    Found you via Amy at Open Book. Thanks for reading! Another Catholic in the southeast… is everybody going there? Do you guys know something I don’t?

  4. Plato's Stepchild says

    Plato’s Stepchild, thanks to Amy Welborn’s Open Book, and my shameless capacity for self promotion, is a fan.

  5. earthie says

    What fun! As an aspiring high school religion teacher (huh??) I know I’ll appreciate all the knowledge you get out here and probably copy some of your ideas. Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Sr. Lorraine says

    I’ve always had a brown scapular but a few years ago a man came up to me in a church and gave me several red scapulars. It turns out they’re passion scapulars. I gave them away except for one that I kept in my drawer. After seeing the Passion movie I started to wear it, if not every day, at least on Fridays. Sometimes I wear both the red and the brown, but they tend to get tangled. I hope I’m not being fanatical!

  7. Anonymous says

    I’m happy to know about your blog! As a small town DRE, I am already mulling over some of your ideas and wondering how I could “supercondense” them. Thanks for sharing!

    julie b

  8. Dev Thakur says

    I love your blog! I mentioned it over at mine.

    I only have one small suggestion: if you post an e-mail address, people could contact you privately. You could just get a random yahoo address for that, that wouldn’t be connected to your public life.

  9. Dorian Speed says

    Matthew – Everybody who’s anybody is in the Southeast!
    Except for all of the people who live elsewhere.

    Sr. Lorraine – I’ve never heard of the Passion scapular. I am so behind the times in scapular trends, it seems. I’ll have to check that out.

    Thanks to everyone for coming to say hello. :)

  10. bearing says

    Why do you take it off when you go to the gym?

    (dumb question — I’ve never worn one)

  11. Dorian Speed says

    Ironically, because I go swimming when I go to the gym. So I go Swimming Without Scapulars. Which probably proves I learned nothing from the book.

  12. Deep Furrows says

    More than you ever wanted to know about scapulars

    The original purpose of scapulars was to provide lay people living in the world a way of sharing the holy life of those in monasteries. Thus, the little scapulars are smaller approximations of a specific part of traditional monastic habit — which is also called a scapular.

    My previous pastor encouraged the brown scapular as a devotional object without any specific connection to the Carmelites. He is a member of another religious order and perhaps does not know the origins and purpose of the scapular.

    I tend to regard scapulars fairly seriously, as a participation in the charism of specific communities. Those who already wear the brown scapular could see it as an opportunity to learn more about Carmelite saints like Sts. Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Edith Stein; writers like Bernanos, who was greatly influenced by the Carmelites; and Elijah, who was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire from Mt. Carmel.

    Connection to a particular charism through a scapular can be a great gift for the church. But these practices should not be mere private devotions but a commitment to a particular lifestyle of fidelity and holiness.


  13. Dorian Speed says

    Fred, thank you for sharing your perspective and the background information about the scapular. It has given me much to think about. I certainly am humbled by the fact that my, “well, every piece of information I ever got about the scapular was very superficial and didn’t explain the links to monastic life” excuse falls a bit flat in light of the fact that your link is to…New Advent. Which should have been my first stop along the road to learning more about the scapular.

    I wrestle with many sacramentals, actually, but I try to dedicate myself to them in a spirit of, “Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief.”

  14. Deep Furrows says


    I don’t know. Scapulars seem to have taken on a life well beyond their origin.

    Have a great school year. I’m doing my student teaching this semester.

  15. julieatnu says

    asking to have my magic necklace back

    This made me laugh out loud. I’ve just come across your blog but I really love it. I’ve always thought that teaching religion to young people must be one of the hardest jobs out there.