Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the message of Pellevoisin – and certainly the one which stuck in my mind when I first read the story of this shrine – was the invitation to wear a Scapular of the Sacred Heart because “nothing is more agreeable” to the Mother of God than to see this livery on each of her children. I am a very practical person and I like simple instructions: “Do this. Don’t do that.” The Lord’s command to “Do this in memory of me” led to my becoming a Catholic in 1990. A request from Our Lady to “wear this, for nothing is more pleasing to me” was therefore irresistable.
Yet these words must be taken for more than their face value. Christianity is not a religion in which we are saved by wearing talismans or amulets. In the light of what we read in the New Testament, can it possibly be true that “nothing pleases the Virgin Mary more” than believers wearing a patch of cloth on their breasts?
Any scapular represents an act of obedience; it is a sacramental making present the “yoke of Christ”. Many scapulars are associated with particular religious orders and are worn by their affiliate members; each religious order represents a particular path to holiness. Each order has its own spirituality, being one of many such paths within the One Way, who is Jesus Christ; the scapular is a yoke to the rule of that order.
Scapulars are not new in the history of the church, but the design of the one given at Pellevoisin is novel; and unlike the more ancient scapulars, for which boundaries between sure history and pious legends have become blurred, there is no doubt about its origin in a private revelation.
If you try to wear more than one scapular, they quickly become tangled. In the same way, taking on too many devotions, a scattergun approach to spirituality, can lead to confusion. No particular scapular, no one devotion, no prayer ascribed to a private revelation, is ever necessary for a person to live a life pleasing to God; each one represents a simple invitation from heaven to which some Christians are called to respond. It is more important to choose to do a few things well than to attempt to embrace everything.
Why, then, might a soul choose to take on the Scapular of Pellevoisin rather than any other yoke? Such a soul would be choosing to wear the image of the Heart of Jesus over their own heart, which surely represents the aspiration to love as Jesus loves.
- The Heart of Jesus sheds drops of blood, recalling the choice made by Christ in Gethsemane to accept the Father’s Will, no matter what sacrifice that might entail. The Heart is crowned with thorns, reminding us how Christ was mocked in the sight of jeering crowds. The Heart is surmounted by a Cross, the Cross which the Lord bore to Calvary with all His remaining strength. The Heart also blazes with love, represented by the fire which erupts from it to surround the base of the Cross. Those who wear such a scapular must choose to do the Father’s Will whatever the cost, accept mockery before an unbelieving world, and like all disciples, carry their Cross each day until they arrive at the glory of heaven.
When Our Lady says “I love this devotion”, surely she means not only the act of wearing such an image over one’s breast, but the daily devotion involved in living out these values which it represents. These values embody a way of living out the Great Commandments to love God and neighbour; and this being the case, then indeed, Our Lady can truly say that nothing could be more pleasing to her.