The Green Scapular or Scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is, like the Miraculous Medal, a gift of our Blessed Mother to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.
On November 27, 1839, Justine Bisqueyburu, destined by Providence to make known this devotion, entered the Novitiate of the Daughters of Charity, 140 Rue du Bac, Paris. On January 28,1840, during her first retreat, the young sister was favored with a celestial vision. Our Lady appeared to her clothed in a long white robe over which hung a bright blue mantle. In her hands she held her Heart, from the top of which issued brilliant rays. The same apparition was repeated four or five times during her novitiate. This favor seemed to have no other end than to increase in the Sister herself tender devotion to Mary Immaculate.
Clothed with the habit, on September 8, 1840, feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, Sister Bisqueyburu was favored during prayer with an apparition of the Mother of God, who held in her right hand her Heart surrounded by flames, and in her left a sort of scapular, consisting of a single piece of green cloth suspended from a cord of the same color. On one side was a picture of the Blessed Virgin as she had shown herself in the apparitions; on the other, a Heart all inflamed with rays more brilliant than the sun, and clearer than crystal. This heart pierced with a sword was surrounded by an oval inscription, surmounted by a cross. The inscription read: "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." At the same time an interior voice revealed to the Sister the meaning of this vision. She understood that this new Scapular, through the medium of the Sisters of Charity, would contribute to the conversion of those who have no faith, and above all, procure for them a happy death, and that it should be distributed with confidence. As the scapular was distributed, wonderful conversions and some bodily cures were produced.
The Scapular is not the badge of a confraternity but simply a double image attached to a single piece of cloth and suspended from a cord. The Blessed Virgin declared to her faithful servant that no special formula of blessing was necessary. It suffices that it be blessed by a priest and worn by the one for whom it is intended. It may be placed in the clothing, on the bed, or simply in the room. The only prayer to be recited is the inscription surrounding the heart on the reverse of the Scapular: "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death." This should be repeated daily, if not by the one wearing it, by the one giving it. The Scapular may be distributed everywhere. Although wonderful graces are attached to it, they are proportionate to the confidence with which it is given. The Green Scapular was twice approved by Pope Pius IX, in 1863, and again in 1870 when he said: "Write to these good Sisters that I authorize them to make and distribute it."
When I first came in contact with this devotion, I read an explanation which seemed to give the impression that it was intended only for lax Christians. I thought it might be useless for me since I had very little contact with Christians, be they good, bad or indifferent. My contacts were mostly with Buddhists and Shintoists whom I was trying to christianize. However I put a few scapulars in my pocket and decided to try one out. That very day I went to a nearby hospital where I discovered a non-Christian woman patient who had been unconscious for 10 days previously. The doctor explained to me that she would very probably die within three days without regaining consciousness. He and a nurse escorted me to the room. I addressed the sick woman but she gave no indication whatsoever that she understood a word I was saying. Thereupon I took a green scapular from my pocket, applied it to her forehead and repeated the invocation, "Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death."
And what happened? The woman immediately regained consciousness, joined her hands and very devoutly asked God to forgive her sins. I was amazed. The doctor and the nurse both non-Christians were also flabbergasted. I immediately instructed and baptized the dying patient that same day much to her joy. She remained perfectly conscious for three days more during which time she very devoutly received Holy Viaticum. She breathed her last while praying to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
News of this double miracle spread rapidly. People kept asking me for green scapulars and since I only had a couple dozen which I had received from an army chaplain and since I had no means of replenishing my supply, I started to lend my remaining scapulars with a proviso that they be returned after three days. I did this in order to help as many people as possible. Meanwhile a Catholic newspaper reporter helped me procure the necessary materials and we began making them. During the past 25 years we have made and distributed many tens of thousands to people living all over Japan. We have also sent quite a number to the United States, Brazil, Paraguay, Korea and Indonesia. A Catholic magazine here in Japan published an explanation of the green scapular about a year ago and we have been receiving requests daily ever since. On one single day we received 140 letters and we try to fulfill each request promptly. We never charge for them nor do we ask for postage. However we have never been in debt. Grateful people send us donations which cover the cost of materials and postage.
It is edifying to read the letters of gratitude. Many people report spiritual blessings and there have been miraculous cures too of almost every type of human ailment including blindness, deafness, cancer, tuberculosis, high blood pressure, rheumatism, arthritis etc. Luke-warm Catholics and non-Catholics seem to receive more favors than good practicing Catholics.
An 80-year-old non-Christian lady said she would like to visit the church in her vicinity but she was unable to walk because of arthritis. Every winter both her ankles and wrists were swollen and very painful. She was given a green scapular which she applied daily but since she could not remember the prayer she merely asked the Mother of Christ for help. Within a few days she was completely cured. After a brief instruction and Baptism, she attended mass daily and always received Holy Communion. She kept up this habit for two years until she was called to her reward. During this interval she converted her aged friend who lived just across the street from her home and she had the happiness of being her godmother. Her good husband, a staunch Shintoist, also treasured his green scapular but no one could induce him to become a Christian. However, just three days before he died, he had a change of heart. He died very happily after receiving the sacraments.
The owner of a fleet of 60 taxis in Kyoto asked his pastor to bless his vehicles on New Year's Day, whereupon he presented each of his drivers a new green scapular. He encouraged them, although they are non-Christians, to recite the prayer at least once a day. During the year there were just a few bent fenders but there were no accidents that caused a personal injury. The Blessed Mother is never invoked in vain. Her prayers are powerful. Japanese "kamikaze" drivers moving at a high speed in all kinds of weather, day and night, are very grateful to their Protectress.