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The Miraculous Medal (the silver necklace above on the chain) was engraved in the 19th century at the indication of St. Catherine of Laboure when the Mother of God asked these to be made. God promises actual graces through Mary’s hands to anyone who wears these. Because these are actual graces, these graces can be received by even non-baptized souls.
The Scapular is the brown necklace above. The Scapular was given from the Mother of God to St. Simon Stock as essentially a Carmelite habit to be worn by for Catholic lay folks, non-Carmelite religious (of both genders) and diocesan priests as both a protection and commitment reflecting their choice to live a good Catholic life. The Scapular is especially worn as a commitment to live prayer and chastity according to one’s state in life. There are many Scapulars, but the “beginner set” is the Brown Scapular which will be discussed here.
When working with new Catholics at a parish or doing street evangelization with non-Catholics, should one hand out scapulars or Miraculous Medals with chains? This question came to me on text recently: “Father, could you give me your thoughts on the difference between wearing a Miraculous Medal or wearing a blessed Scapular? Someone is asking about the difference and I really want a priest to answer, not me. It’s someone who works in a very spiritually dangerous area.” I replied on text: “Yes. Miraculous Medal is not a commitment but a Scapular is a commitment… So, probably more graces through Scapular but perhaps more risks. Where even actual (but smaller) graces come come through the Miraculous Medal to even an unbaptized wearing it. If person is living in grace, I suggest wearing both.”
I recently blogged here that it is best not to give out the Miraculous Medal to people who might sacrilege holy items. For that reason, my suggestion in evangelization is to start by handing out Miraculous Medals blessed by a priest, while simply refraining from giving it to people who are not interested. Most people are not malicious, even those who look like they have had hard lives. Of course, it is good to explain what you are doing. I usually just say two simple sentences as I offer them the medal with the chain on it: “Jesus promised a lot of graces through Mary’s hands to whoever wears this Miraculous Medal. Would you wear it if I gave it to you?” 95% of the people say “Yes” and most of those who would sacrilege a medal will actually say “No” when offered if they had ill-intentions.
When meeting “intermediate-level Catholics” we need to invite them to start wearing the Scapular in addition to the Miraculous Medal. The promises attached to the Brown Scapular are perhaps greater than the Miraculous Medal, but so also we find that the commitments to wearing the Brown Scapular are greater than those of donning the Miraculous Medal.
Here’s the requirements for wearing the Brown Scapular:
Here’s the enrollment ceremony of the Brown Scapular done by a priest and the person to wear the Scapular: