On Superstition

I apologize in advance because this post is probably going to come out a bit stream-of-conscious and I know that’s not easy to read.

So to give a brief background: overall I’ve always been a decently skeptical person and it’s only since mid-October I’m really reading anything theological so there are times when a part of me comes upon something and says, “Poppycock.” (Though that’s with things I don’t think we’re obligated to believe.) However that same skepticism does lead to still feeling that ‘poppycock’ tendency with things we are obligated to feel, though at least I have the rational argument of “If I believe the Church and the Church believes this, then it’s reasonable.” Anyways the reason I’m saying this is partially because that skepticism may also give me a skewed version of what superstition is and so you what might be obvious to you may not be quite so obvious to me. That said, time for my actual questions.

1: Prayers with promises attached

So I know prayers aren’t to be taken as a magical formula and that the power of prayer comes from truly asking God for help, not by saying some words. But then I’m having a difficult time understand then understanding why a prayer like the Chaplet of Divine Mercy isn’t a superstitious magic formula because a part of me is thinking, “Say these words. Get this promise. Pretty formulaic.” Or the same thing with the 15 Rosary Promises. Even though I know they’re not superstitious considering they’re Church-approved, how do I reconcile the formulaic-like nature? One thought I had was that perhaps that it’s not that those prayers specifically have those promises attached, but that they’re the most easily understood way of asking for that. But then I remembered the Eucharist and how the priest couldn’t have a valid Eucharist by saying, “Hey, God, do your thing.” because there are certain things the priest has to say. So even though I understand the Chaplet and the Rosary aren’t ‘magic formulas’ I’m wondering if there might be a good way of explaining the ‘why?’.

2: Scapulars

Again with this is tied in with promises and the thought of, “Wear this. Get this. Hmm.” Now I know it would be superstitious to think “I can do anything I want and this scapular will bring me to Heaven.” I also know it’s the prayers that are important. But then what’s the point of wearing the scapular in the first place? Considering they’re approved by the Church I know there’s something to it. Is the wearing of the scapular with the intent of growing closer to God’s will devotion in and of itself (basically a physical prayer) and that’s why those promises can be attached? (Odds are I’ll have to clarify that sentence because I realize it is not well-polished but I’m not sure how to at the moment.)

With regard to scapulars…I see them as physical reminders to keep focused on the Lord, and the particular spirituality of the scapular one may wear…same with medals.

We need to strive to be sincere and consistent in our devotion, and then the promises would apply. Perhaps some need the promises to make them more aware that God’s blessings will follow our devotion to Him.

Being flawed humans, we always need a “push”.

I think of these things as the “push” to keep praying, to never lose hope, and to have complete abandon to God’s will and trust Him.

There are many promises in Scripture.
There are promises that one could make that would come from the other perspective as well…for ex: people tell their children if they lose their faith, they will regret it one day, when they feel they need God. Things like that.

I find these things a bit comforting. I’ve never worn a scapular, but people with this devotion say it helps them tremendously. I like to think of these helps as “push”.
A nudge, if you will toward the arms of Christ.


I think with your first point, it depends on your definition of magick and I even dare say ‘spells’. As a quick note, what Christians call “prayers”, most earth-based beliefs call “spells” – essentially the same concept, different nomenclature. Both, without faith and conviction, are just words and, as you’ve noticed, many can tend to be very formulaic. Use these words in this set formula and hope to get result ‘x’.

I tend to think it’s just the nature of prayer and how they’re constructed from a socio-linguistic aspect. “It’s just the way it’s done” seems to be the rule. There may be some very ancient, deep rooted beliefs that praying using a specific formula in a specific way/manner will (hopefully) end in a specific result. It’s possible that perhaps some of these beliefs carried over into Christianity. I don’t think it’s a concept that is unique to any one particular religious path.

Scapulars seem to be the Christian concept/equivalent of a talisman or amulet. They all seem to be designed to keep the wearer focused on either a set goal or simply focused on the divine.

I stand behind both scapulars and the chaplet.

I was also recently told by an evangelical that Catholics practice white magic.

Scapular and prayers must be utilized with faith. The scapular comes with additional requirements such as prayer and chastity. They are not to be use as charms, etc. Consider both of them spiritual exercises that draw one closer to God.

Witchcraft is about supernatural manipulation to get what one wants. It does not involve God. One says: “my will be done” instead of “thy will be done”.

Even though we may ask for help in prayer, it’s mostly about worship and thanksgiving while submitting to God’s will. In other words, an answer of “no” is accepted as God’s will and likely what is best for us.

In summary, it’s not the physical elements or appearances that are important.

I see superstition in many places throughout religious or spiritual practices. I was given a small ornate envelope with some sort of small metal discs or coins within in it. The instructions with this envelope were to place it unopened in the southeast corner of my favorite room of the house.
I don’t have a favorite room so I placed it in a drawer of the nightstand in the bedroom. This nightstand happens to be in the southeast corner of the room. This is supposed to bring prosperity.
I forgot about the envelope until the other day while looking for something else in the drawer. I opened the envelope and found 3 u.s. dimes. Yea I’m prosperous. I put the coins in the change jar with others. This is a superstition plane and simple in my view.
I was also given a “gratitude stone” or “gratitude rock”. It was to be placed in a purse or carried in a pocket and each time one sees or feels we are supposed to think of three things we are grateful for at that moment.
I placed in on an end table in the living room and when I glance that way and see the stone I sometimes take the time to think of what I’m grateful for. Just a reminder to express gratitude. In my view this is different from a superstition. I could place a piece of yarn, a coin, or any other object on the table as a reminder.

I very much like that explanation…thanks!

So with the prayers, it seems like the reason is because they have to be said in faith and the answer of “no” is possible? So would that then mean that a magic formula on the other is defined as “Say this, even without any confidence, and always get this?” Followed by defining a prayer like the Chaplet as “Trust in God, say this, hope your prayer is answered but know it might not be if it isn’t in God’s will.”?

And with the scapular again with the devotion being necessary and I understand if it’s a physical reminder to pray. But that doesn’t seem to answer the “But why is the scapular needed to be worn?” part.

Indulgences are obtainable (Concession 14) by the devout use of a crucifix or cross, rosary, scapular, or metal, properly blessed. These may be partial or plenary (on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, and other dates approved by the Holy See).


1674 Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,180 etc.

*Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy

The Church blesses such objects of Marian devotion in the belief that “they help to remind the faithful of the love of God, and to increase trust in the Blessed Virgin Mary”(258). The Church also points out that devotion to the Mother of Christ also requires “a coherent witness of life”(259).

Like all medals and objects of cult, the Miraculous Medal is never to be regarded as a talisman or lead to any form of blind credulity(260). The promise of Our Lady that “those who were the medal will receive great graces”, requires a humble and tenacious commitment to the Christian message, faithful and persevering prayer, and a good Christian life.

The Brown Scapular and other Scapulars

The Scapular is imposed by a special rite of the Church which describes it as " a reminder that in Baptism we have been clothed in Christ, with the assistance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, solicitous for our conformation to the Word Incarnate, to the praise of the Trinity, we may come to our heavenly home wearing our nuptial garb"(256).

It’s only “needed” if you wish to participate in that devotion.
A scapular is not a requirement. Just like a owning a rosary is not, One can pray the rosary on their fingers, for example. One can pray the prayers with a scapular without wearing, them but those who favor this devotion wouldn’t dream of not wearing one, you know? They have this sign of their commitment

Likewise, one doesn’t HAVE to wear a wedding ring, but some wouldn’t consider being married and not wear one.

All are personal signs and testimony to commitment.
Commitment to praying in a particular way.


Also, the brown scapular was revealed to Saint Simon Stock. In the vision, Our Lady recommended the use of the scapular. If one wishes to fully participate, that’s how it’s done per Our Lady.

As previously indicated, it’s not a requirement.

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