New Catholic Dictionary illustration of a monk with scapularDerivation

  • Latin: scapula, shoulder-blade


A sacramental worn as a badge of a religious confraternity. It consists of two pieces of cloth, one of which is worn on the breast and the other on the back, with bands or strings passing over the shoulders. A scapular gives its wearer a share in the merits and spiritual benefits of the association of which it is the badge. In certain religious orders an outer garment called, a scapular is worn; it consists of a long piece of cloth hanging from the shoulders before and behind, almost to the ground.

In the Middle Ages, lay persons were often permitted to become “oblates” of these orders, that is, they assisted frequently at the monastic services and had a share in the merits of the order; they were allowed to wear the scapular, which, after a time, was made smaller and was worn under the clothing. Certain associations of the laity are known as Third Orders, and the members wear the large scapular (about 5 by 2.5 inches); other societies wear the small scapular (about 2.25 by 2 inches).

Rules Concerning Scapulars

  • the investing must be done by an authorized person
  • the scapular may be given in any place, to any Catholic, even to an infant
  • it must be worn as described above
  • if replaced, no blessing is required
  • if it is laid aside for a considerable time, the benefits are forfeited during that time

Church Approved Scapulars

Associated in Art with

Additional Information


Christ is the way; Mary reflects the way; her scapular is our keepsake on the way. Pope Pius XII

MLA Citation

  • “scapular”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 9 September 2021. Web. 25 January 2022. <>