The scapular started out as and still is part of the habit of many religious orders. It is the long, narrow piece of cloth which hangs in front and back of its wearer. In the middle ages, lay people who wanted to imitate the lives of religious while living in the world, would sometimes wear these scapulars in order to signify their affiliation and determination to live as pseudo-religious. Over time, these large pieces of cloth diminished to more like what we have today: two small squares of cloth connected by string. The connection now to religious orders is all but gone, but the scapular still signifies an effort by its wearer to live a holy life and of a particular devotion which the wearer wants to cultivate.
There are many of these devotional scapulars which have been approved by the Catholic Church for use by the faithful. By the far the most popular of these is the Brown Scapular. Another popular one is the green scapular.
There are also many scapulars which do not have a particular history, but which depict some image of devotion. Examples of these are St. Michael, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Divino Nino. Although these scapulars don't necessarily have an exciting story behind them, they are still wonderful instruments of devotion, to remind the wearer of the protection of the depicted holy person and to constantly pray to them.
The Brown Scapular is associated with Our Lady of Mount Carmel. According to tradition, she appeared to St. Simon Stock, a Carmelite, in the 13th century. She asked him to promulgate this devotion and that she would especially protect anyone who wore it as a sign of their love for God and devotion to her. It has become one of the most popular signs of piety and devotion among Catholics. Although it does not guarantee salvation, it certainly is a great help, as it will remind the wearer to constantly have recourse to Mary, and Mary will look favorably and ask for many graces for those who so obviously have a devotion to her.
The Green Scapular was given by Mary to a sister in France in the 19th century. Mary appeared in a vision to this sister, showed her the Green Scapular, and asked her to have it spread. Just as with the Brown Scapular, this is a great sign of devotion to Mary, and she will no doubt be always ready to protect those who wear it in any time of danger.
Red Passion Scapular
The Red Passion Scapular was revealed in 1846 to a member of the Daughters of Charity. It is supposed to remind its wearer of the great suffering undergone by Jesus during His Passion and Death. It is made of red cloth. One side of the scapular depicts a crucifix, some instruments that were used to torture and kill Jesus, and the prayer “Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ Save Us”. The other side of the scapular has a small cross above the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, both of which are pierced with a sword. Surrounding these images is the prayer “Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Protect Us”. This is a great reminder of the Passion and Death of Jesus and to always keep it in mind and pray upon it.
Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception
This scapular dates to the 16th century. Ursula Benincasa was a hermit at that time who founded a congregation of nuns devoted to the Immaculate Conception. Jesus appeared to her and promised that those in her congregation would receive special blessings. Ursula asked Jesus if lay persons who wished to remain in the world but imitate their life would also receive these blessings. When he promised the spiritual gifts to them as well, she began to make and distribute this blue scapular as a sign of commitment to her way of life. On one side is an image of the Mary as the Immaculate Conception, and on the other side is the name of Mary.
Black Scapular of the Seven Sorrows of Mary
This scapular is associated with the Servite order. It is very similar to their habit, and is connected with those who laity who wish to follow closely that way of life. On the scapular it has an image of Our Lady of Sorrows, for the Servite order is particularly devoted to Mary and her seven sorrows.
White Scapular of the Most Holy Trinity
This scapular is associated the Trinitarian order. This order was founded in the 12th century, with a special dedication to the Holy Trinity, for the purpose of ransoming Christian captives and performing works of charity. The scapular is a miniature version of the habit, and is worn by members of the third order of the Trinitarians. It is also worn by those with a special devotion to the Holy Trinity. It is a very distinctive scapular, because it has the Trinitarian Order's cross, a blue and red cross. This unusually colored cross dates from the foundation of the order.
The Five-Fold scapular is a combination of five scapulars attached onto one string. The five scapulars are the Brown Scapular, the Red Passion Scapular, the Blue Scapular of the Immaculate Conception, the Black Scapular of the Seven Sorrows of Mary and the White Scapular of the Most Holy Trinity.
The crusader scapular is a smaller version of the brown scapular with a simple cross on it, instead of the picture of Mary and Jesus. It is probably called the crusader scapular because the cross looks like something the crusaders would have worn on their armor. This is a great reminder that you are a crusader for Christ, to bring others to Him through the witness of your life. This scapular is a little smaller than normal, so it is perfect if you want something smaller to wear or for a child. It is also called the athlete's scapular.
This children's scapular is small so that children can easily wear it. It has a stylized M on both sides of it. It is related to the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.