In the Catholic Church, there exists a very special privilege for those who wear the brown scapular, observe chastity according to their state in life and pray the Rosary everyday, meditating on the mysteries. This special privilege is known as ‘The Sabbatine’ (Saturday) Privilege. According to a proclamation said to have been issued on March 3rd, 1322, by Pope John XXII, the Blessed Virgin Mary in an apparition to the Pope said that those who wear the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and fulfill two other conditions will be freed from Purgatory on the first Saturday after death. The two other conditions which must be fulfilled to gain the Sabbatine Privilege are: observance of chastity according to one’s state in life and praying (daily) the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Rosary as substitute. For priests and religious, praying the Divine Office daily suffices for the requirement of praying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
What has the Church said officially about the Sabbatine Privilege? On several occasions the Church has said that those who fulfill the conditions of the Sabbatine Privilege will be released from Purgatory, through the intercession of Our Lady, “soon after death, and especially on Saturday”. The Sabbatine Privilege has been officially confirmed and ratified by several Popes including: John XXII, Alexander V, Nicholas, V, Sixtus IV, Clement VII, Paul III, Saint Pius V, Clement VIII, Leo XI, Paul V, Urban VIII, Alexander VII, Benedict XIV, Pius VI, Pius X, Benedict XV, and Pius XI, to name only a few. Of the nine Popes who have sanctioned the Sabbatine Privilege, note these words of St. Pius V (Superna dispositione… Feb. 18, 1566): “With apostolic authority and by tenor of the present, we approve each of the privileges [of the Carmelite Order] and also the Sabbatine”. In his letter of March 18th 1922, commemorating the sixth centenary of the Sabbatine Privilege, Pope Pius XI said: “It surely ought to be sufficient merely to exhort all the members of the Confraternity (of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel) to persevere in the holy exercises which have been prescribed for the gaining of the indulgences to which they are entitled and particularly for the gaining of that indulgence which is the principal and the greatest of them all, namely that called the Sabbatine”. Every Catholic who is enrolled in the brown scapular is a member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel.
At a time when both the origin and nature of the Sabbatine Privilege were under serious question, Pope Paul V who was Pope from 1605-1621 in an official statement said: “It is permitted to preach that the Blessed Virgin will aid the souls of the Brothers and Sisters of the Confraternity of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel after their death by Her suffrages and merits and by Her special protection, especially on the day of Saturday which is the day specially dedicated by the Church to the same Blessed Virgin Mary, if they have worn the habit (the Scapular) during life, observed chastity according to their state, and recited the little office of the Blessed Virgin Mary or, not knowing how to recite the office, will have observed the fast days of the Church and abstained from meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays (unless either of these days should coincide with the Feast of Christmas)”. In her autobiography, St. Teresa of Avila says that she saw the passage of many hundreds of souls into the other world, but only three went straight to heaven. Two became canonized Saints: St. John of the Cross, and St. Peter of Alcantara. But the third was a rather ordinary man. “And I knew him”, St. Teresa exclaimed. Suddenly God gave Teresa to understand that this man had obtained purity of soul, and had been taken straight to heaven, because of a Carmelite privilege.
• Prof. Michael Ogunu is a lay member of the Carmelite Order and Provincial President of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites in Nigeria and Ghana.