Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mel Gibson and Me

TBM Topic 18: Scapulars

"Mel Gibson and Me" by Julie Robison
"I Feel Weird" by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
"Suspicious Superstitions?" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

We three are from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. We're here to dispel the myths and misconceptions- please join us for the discussion on Facebook and Twitter!

Mel Gibson, hot mess extraordinaire, wears a scapular.

Now, I'm not one to dig into celebrity gossip, but it's hard not to ignore the facts:

1. Mel Gibson is a Catholic.

"We've seen worse." --The Catholic Church
2. Mel Gibson has said and done some pretty dreadful things since producing The Passion, including divorce his wife.

3. Mel Gibson has [recently] been spotted wearing a scapular.

My personal pet theory is that we're all living within appalling strangeness of the mercy of God, and Mel Gibson is just another soul in need to redemption, sanctification and help against temptations from the Devil. Everyone Else on the other hand, has taken up drinking haterade around Gibson. Fortunately, Robert Downey Jr. has come to his defense of late, asking Hollywood to forgive Gibson's trespasses.

But back to scapulars.

I like that Mel Gibson wears a scapular. Correction: I like that the Mel Gibson who has royally messed up his public, private and career life still wears a scapular. If Mel Gibson was still married to his wife and making quality films, everyone would still be mumbling about what a religious fanatic he is. Instead, he's been labeled a twit.

Romans 4:16 says, "All depends on faith, everything is grace." That scapular, to me, is evidence of God's grace still working in Mel Gibson's life. Is that scapular a fact that grace is in Mel Gibson's life? No. But we cannot see God's ways. We can only see the scapular.

Scapulars are considered sacramentals in the Church, and are meant to enhance the faith. Sacramentals come from the Church; they "are indicated by the word Sacramentalia, the object of which is to manifest the respect due to the sacrament and to secure the sanctification of the faithful" (New Advent). Sacramentals are common things (i.e. relics, water, incense) that are another way to help people open up to receiving God's grace. The physical sacramental (in this discussion, for example, the scapular) does not possess any power. That being said, like all passing things in this world, sacramentals may be occasions for God's miracles.

There are a number of examples of sacramentals (specifically, relics) in Scripture: the hemorraging woman who touches Jesus' cloak (Matt. 9:20-22); the use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life (2 Kgs. 13:20-21); sick people cured when Peter’s shadow passed over them (Acts 5:14-16); and, of course: "And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them" (Acts 19:11-12).

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and sweet baby JC
That being said, sacramentals are easy targets for non-Catholics to "prove" Roman Catholics are heretics, which is why the scapular is such a hot topic. The brown scapular in particular, passed down from Our Lady of Carmel, bears these words: "Those who die wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire."

Wow. That's quite a promise. It's also, however, not an assurance of salvation. The only assurance anyone has of salvation comes in the personhood of Jesus Christ. Scapulars are devotions. Oftentimes, people feel so strongly about their faith that they argue the scapulars' salvation legitimacy through the Blessed Mother. That argument is a red herring. Even worse, it can distract a truth seeker from the road to Rome, and can distort another's understanding of Mary's role within God's plans for the Kingdom. She only and always points to her son, period.

FAQ: Whenever you (Julie) fly on an airplane, your father insists you wear a scapular. Why do you listen to him?

That's my discretion. The Church does not have any teachings on scapulars. I choose to respect my father's wishes.

So you wear a scapular?

Yes. I mean no. Not usually, but yes while traveling. I do carry it around with me too.


Good question. My answer is not impressive; I enjoy keeping the reminder of our faith close to me. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. It is not from works, so no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). With eyes so dimmed by sin, the scapular is a reminder to me. I see it and think, My God! Am I prepared to meet you now?

Which brings me full-circle back to Mel Gibson. It's easy to judge a man by his earthly actions, especially when they have been less than honorable.

But let the scapular be a lesson in humility to you: there are interior reasons why people wear scapulars.

Behind closed doors, people pray. Behind brave faces, people despair. In moments when life seems like too much, I find myself staring at the crucifix or even just holding a rosary. When I can barely find words, I take comfort in the material reminders of my faith as much as I do a hug from a friend.

My bestie boo's husband gives great hugs
The scapular is a gift and, aided by a genuine faith, the wearing of such a religious item may lead to a true change of heart for some people. Others may find it a distraction and that is okay; if this is the case, I imagine God would prefer the absence of scapulars rather than a fake piety or bitterness.

"But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him"... And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:9,13).

I'm pulling for you, Mel Gibson! Praying for you too.

A special guest post by B.! "Scapulars are Distractors from What’s Really Important"


  1. Great Post! Although, the picture of Mel...gives me the heebie jeebies. I really just want to fix his scapular string...and give him a shirt...and put on a sweater.


  2. Mel Gibson is a strange character. Especially his sedeprivationist...which makes no theological sense.

    Though I have to say that Mel wasn't divorced, his marriage was annulled...by his biological father...so, I guess it was actually a divorce. :)

  3. I'm glad you kind of "stood up" for Mel because we are all sinners! I don't approve of his actions, but hey, he doesn't need MY approval!

    Great post! I'm glad you mentioned that the "function" of scapulars are neither denied or supported by the Vatican.

  4. You say: "Others may find it a distraction, and that is ok..." I think I understand the sentiment, but I would say that it ISN'T OK.

    If a Sacramental is a distraction, I think there is something else behind that which is the true distraction and should be addressed. I don't think every devotion is FOR everyone, but to say one is a distraction is... well theologically odd. Especially in light of the fact that most Scapulars are larger and worn by sisters and nuns.

    I don't know... I need to think about that statement a little more, it leaves me wondering how it might distract...

    Other than that, I love the post. I think when we look at someone like Gibson it is important to look at the "work in progress" that we all are. It would be easy to cast him aside, but in reality, the same could be done to all of us... couldnt it?

  5. I agree that there might be something else that needs to be addressed- do let me know if you have any more thoughts on it!

  6. I, like the others who commented, appreciate that you stood up for Mel. If the world new almost every mistake I've made, then I would look like a pretty crappy example of the faith too. Thanks for this great post! I'm like you, I wear one when travelling but not all the time and don't really have that impressive of a reason either. :)

  7. It's an old video, by a band who pretty much had to break up b/c of label issues, but in this one, Vince, lead singer, is proudly wearing his scapular out over the tshirt (and a Miraculous Medal!) I just love that he did this for MTV, without any excuses.
    The new band is River James, for the music lovers out there... http://www.mtv.com/videos/army-of-me/162609/going-through-changes.jhtml#artist=1932669

  8. "I'm glad you mentioned that the "function" of scapulars are neither denied or supported by the Vatican."

    not supported?

    John Paul II was wearing brown scapular like this. It is a cloak of Virgin Mary given to Saint Simon Stock as a rescue to Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Carmelites were banished from their home monastery by muslim invasion. They arrived to England and there Simon Stock joined the order and rebuilt it.
    Brown Scapulars are still very popular here in Poland.
    I am wearing one like that.

  9. way to go mel I'm so proud of you I'm glad you wear the brown scapular it shows your persistent with god and that there is hope for you

  10. Mel you give me Hope! I have been attacked daily from the evil one. I went to confession... long story short. I had some Scapulars Blessed and stated wearing the Brown one and its only been a week and a half so far, Temptations have been greatly reduced. Thank be to God!