We got into the habit of wearing a scapular under our shirts in grade school. It seemed fitting because most every class in school had a certain Catholic notion to it. From English where we read Catholic stories in our readers to history that always included a Catholic slant. Even handwriting, spelling, and math might have a little religion in them. We used to write on every paper “JMJ” for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. There was certainly no shame in being a Catholic although we did feel in some ways apart from our neighbors. Many of our Protestant neighbors went to church on Sunday, and they had Bible School and programs. But we often had at least a few hours every day of faith based education.  I think that was a help, but of course, having religious parents seemed to cement the lessons whether you were Catholic, Protestant, or something else.

For the most part, most of the Catholic kids that I grew up would hang onto the faith until at least high school. A few suprised me and said they were just going through the motions. At my high school the kids were pretty rough, but past the pimples, nasty language at times, and various tempations, most of them clung to the faith although it was not always obvious.  And cetainly, they had lapses that may have lasted years. But through it all, they wore their scapulars under their shirts.

We sang hymns hundreds of times in grade school. And while we may have gotten tired of them at the time, today sometimes a hymn can lead me to watery eyes as an older adult. The notion that wearing a scapular can help lead to salvation is a strong theme with me although I have had several people tell me about all the things that can keep salvation away even from those who are faithful wearers. As adults, life often gets very complicated and painful. Faith as we knew it as children can seem so uplifting and generous.

So I still wear my scapular under my shirt these days. There were years when it was worn out and tossed aside, but the practice made a comeback with me probably 20 years ago. In days gone by at the park when the boys played basketball in the summer you were generally on the skins team or the shirt team. If you were a skin, chances are when most of your teammates took their shirts off, a scapular could be seen. We are too old to play shirts and skins baseketball any more, but I wonder how many of my old friends still sports a scapular under their shirt.

I hope my grandsons will wear it, too.


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Sporting Chance Press’s lastest book is Tuition Rebate by Patrick McCaskey. If you like a little Cathlic fiction see The Brown and White.