The Scapular Story

During his years spent in the Mt. Carmel Preparatory Seminary in Niagara Falls, Ontario, studying for the priesthood, John developed a close relationship with a Carmelite brother whom he considered saintly. 

John and the Brother, who was well versed in dogmatic and moral theology, began what was to be a great apostolate to bring souls to Our Lady through the sacramental of the Scapular. It was Brother’s devotion to the Blessed Mother that inspired the two to collaborate on the scapular apostolate.

 The Brother

John attributes the success of the Scapular apostolate to Brother’s fervent prayers to Our Lady to whom he was so devoted. Before he left on a volunteer mission, Brother told John, “My vocation, frater, is to pray. Yours is to write and do the work.”

Taking to heart his good friend’s words, John collected, researched and studied any material he could find on the scapular over the next two years. Consequently, he became one of the foremost experts on the Brown Scapular in the United States.

John discovered his vocation was not the priesthood. He returned home and assumed a teaching position at the Carmelite monastery in Middletown, N.Y. There, with the excellent education afforded him by the Preparatory Seminary, he taught French as well as his own course on the Scapular Devotion.

The Brother and I, in 1945, just after Brother returned from ten years in Palestine.

The Brother and I, in 1945, just after Brother returned from ten years in Palestine.

Within the next three years, John began lecturing on the Brown Scapular. He wrote his first book, “Mary in Her Scapular Promise” (afterward entitled “Sign of Her Heart,”) which was published by the Scapular Press. Her Scapular Promise offered a much-needed education about the scapular devotion to Catholic readership. All proceeds from the book would be used to further his new apostolate.

The new apostolate, officially titled the “Scapular Apostolate” and sponsored by the New York Province of Carmelites, was established in New York in 1946. John’s new book, Sign of Her Heart, sold over 100,000 copies, and with the proceeds, they formed The Scapular Magazine, which quickly grew to a circulation of 163,000 copies.

That same year, John traveled to Fatima, Portugal, to interview Sr. Lucia, the remaining Fatima seer. During the interview he realized that the Brother’s inspiration was one and the same with the message of Fatima. 

The Brother and I in 1967, at the Motherhouse of the Brothers of the Holy Eucharist.

The Brother and I in 1967, at the Motherhouse of the Brothers of the Holy Eucharist.

With the purpose of spreading the Fatima message in America, John returned home in late 1947 with the Pilgrim Virgin Statue. He intended for the statue to visit any diocese to which she was invited.

However, in his fervor, John neglected to consult Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, before bringing the Pilgrim Virgin Statue into the United States. John learned the Cardinal was displeased with this oversight, so he offered the statue to Canadian Archbishop Alexandre Vachon who enthusiastically welcomed its pilgrimage in his archdiocese.

Amid a crowd of thousands, the Archbishop crowned Our Lady as Queen of the World and consecrated to her his archdiocese of Ottawa, and all of Canada.

 Arrival of the Pilgrim Statue

On December 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady reentered the United States. Her arrival sparked ecclesiastical interest, which eventually resulted in the message of Fatima spreading to all dioceses.

Unfortunately, soon after Our Lady’s reentry, the Carmelite Provincial received a letter from Cardinal Spellman. This letter removed John from his position at The Scapular Magazine and replaced him with a priest. This caused him great affliction.

John wrote to Brother of his dismissal. “This is only a time of trial.” The holy friar responded simply, “After a wait, your greatest work lies ahead.”