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An Explanation of the Sabbatine Privilege

by Rev. Eamon R. Carroll, O. Carm., S.T.D.

Our topic is the Sabbatine privilege, and we recall that it means prompt delivery from purgatory for wearers of the scapular who fulfill certain conditions, especially on the Saturday after death. We can summarize the Sabbatine privilege in two words: the first is 'devoutly,'

which goes back to the original scapular promise, that whoever wears the scapular devoutly will receive the gift of final perseverance. Notice that the key word is devoutly. The second word is Saturday; our English word 'Sabbatine' comes from the Latin word for Saturday 'Sabbatum,' like Sabbath, seventh day of the week. But it is not just plain Saturday, it is our Lady's Saturday.

We look more closely now at both aspects, first the devout wearing of the scapular, second, Saturday as Mary's day. The Church has always insisted on the full meaning of the scapular as a renewal of our baptismal promises, and thereby an assurance of salvation. To wear the scapular without a sincere Christian commitment would be presuming on God's mercy and an insult to the loving protection of the Mother of Jesus.

So it came about that certain conditions were stated in order to gain the Sabbatine privilege — these requirements are central aspects of a truly Christian life, the very conditions that make the original scapular promise of salvation realistically meaningful. The three requirements for the Sabbatine privilege are prayer, penance and the chastity of one's state of life. All three are ingredients of a sincere Christian life, and hence of authentic devotion to our Lady.

The prayer prescribed to gain the Sabbatine privilege is the Little Office of our Lady, which can be substituted for by other prayers. The form of penance originally stipulated was not to eat meat on Wednesday and Saturday as well as Friday. In our day any priest who can give the Scapular — and that is no longer limited to Carmelites — can substitute for abstinence from meat a certain number of prayers, most commonly the five decades of the Rosary every day.

Now a word about Saturday as our Lady's day. The Sabbatine privilege, as Carmelites have preached it for centuries, has helped greatly to popularize Saturday as our Blessed Mother's day, on which she shows special love to her children who have faithfully worn her scapular.

Through all her life, beginning with God's first gift of grace, her Immaculate Conception, and culminating in the glory of her Assumption, our Blessed Mother walked the road of faith. Her faith was tested at the Annunciation, in her Son's public life and in the agony of Calvary. From the early Middle Ages Saturday was dedicated to the Mother of Jesus, in remembrance of her steadfast faith, which still burned brightly even in the midst of sorrow as her Son's body lay in the tomb the first Holy Saturday.

The Sabbatine privilege is a strong reminder that Mary most faithful will keep her promises to us. Our Blessed Mother will stand by us when God calls us at our final hour, and her love will accompany us even beyond the gates of death. Thanks to the brown scapular of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel we pray with special confidence, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death."

Rev. Eamon R. Carroll, O. Carm., S.T.D. Professor of Theology Loyola University of Chicago and Associate Editor


provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org

As Carmelites We live our life of allegiance to Jesus Christ and to serve Him faithfully with a pure heart and a clear conscience through a commitment to seek the face of the living God (the contemplative dimension of life), through prayer, through fraternity, and through service (diakonia). These three fundamental elements of the charism are not distinct and unrelated values, but closely interwoven. 

All of these we live under the protection, inspiration and guidance of Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whom we honor as "our Mother and sister."