Question on the black scapular of St. Benedict



I am discerning becoming a Benedictine Oblate, and I wanted to wear the black scapular. Is there an investment prayer attached to the black scapular? I dead invested with the brown scapular years ago, does that count? Any info is appreciated.


There is a ceremony of investiture. Normally, it would occur when you become an oblate novice; that is when oblates traditionally received the scapular. I believe Saint Meinrad Archabbey still observes that custom – I am not sure about the other abbeys of their congregation or the practice of the other congregations.

Apart from the oblates, the English Congregation have a confraternity of the Benedictine scapular. There are three abbeys of that congregation in the United States and you could contact them about the possibility of receiving the scapular in that fashion. Saint Anselm’s Abbey in Washington, DC; Saint Louis Abbey in Saint Louis, Missouri; and Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.

Each scapular has its own associated spirituality and its own investitute. Having been invested in the Carmelite scapular is a different thing than being invested in the Benedictine scapular.


So then… Is the investment process the oblate ceremony itself?


or is it a seperate ceremony?


I also wear the Carmelite scapular and just became a Benedictine Oblate Novice with St. Vincent’s Archabbey. I did not receive the black scapular. I am wondering the meaning behind wearing one. I know it cannot take the place of the brown scapular…at least to my understanding.


As I understand the American usage, the abbeys of the American-Cassinese Congregation do not use the scapular. The abbeys of the Swiss-American Congregation do.

In the Benedictine tradition, there is no supernatural event associated with the scapular as the pious traditions present with the Carmelite, Dominican, and Norbertine scapulars among others. It is also not a prominent aspect of the monastic habit. For the Dominicans, for example, it is the scapular that is blessed when a Religious receives the habit. The scapular is the part of the habit deemed “quod essentium” (or the essential part) for them.

Relative to Benedictines, the scapular is a more practical and utilitarian part of the habit, serving the function of an apron to protect the tunic. That is not, however, to say that it does not retain its symbolic meaning of representing the “yoke of Christ” from the Gospel.

For an oblate (or a member of the English confraternity), a small scapular can be a miniature form of the habit that reminds and evokes the full monastic habit but in a manner that is suited to the life of the laity…there is no way to have a miniature version of the tunic or the cuculla, for example, that could be discreet and suitable. It is a sign of an affiliation to the Benedictine family through a specific house (or, for the confraternity, the English Congregation).

For those houses which retain the scapular, the investiture as an oblate novice is normally the moment for the clothing with the scapular.

Here is a newsletter from Saint Meinrad that features an investiture of an oblate novice:

If you are interested in the confraternity, on the other hand, which is a different thing than being in oblate, you would need to contact one of the houses of the English Congregation for further information.

And, once again, an investiture in a scapular is to THAT scapular. Each scapular has a unique spirituality and expresses attachment to a unique family. The Carmelite scapular attaches you to Carmel and is an expression of Carmelite spirituality. Being invested with the Benedictine scapular has an entirely different purpose with an entirely different spirituality than the Carmelite scapular. A scapular is not an inter-changeable garment.

For the scapulars of the religious families (Carmelite, Dominican, Mercedarian, Norbertine, Servite, etc.), it is never a “stand alone” devotion like wearing a medal…it is indicative of a spirituality you are embracing and a relationship to the family of Religious, in some fashion, however attenuated. This is different from, for example, the scapular of Saint Joseph or the scapular of Saint Michael the Archangel.


Thank you for your time and explaining that so thouroughly. I appreciate the information too.

I would just add that there are many who wear the Carmelite scapular as a devotion to Mary and for her protection but are not particularly drawn to the charism or spirituality of Carmel.

God bess you.


Very true. :slight_smile:


I was just received as an Oblate of St. Vincent’s Archabbey and was given the black scapular. Just an interesting point from the Sisters of Carmel website

  1. May one wear a different color of the Scapular?

Different color Scapulars do exist as sacramentals in the Church for other devotions, such as the Red Scapular in honor of Our Lord’s Passion. However, the Brown Scapular that the lay faithful wear is a miniature of the Carmelite Religious Habit, and since that Habit is brown in color, it has always been regarded as the proper color for the Scapular. However, black wool is permissible.


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