The Blue Scapular
The Blue Scapular originated in Italy and is connected with the person of the Venerable Servant of God, Ursula Benincasa (1547-1618), who, in the year 1583, founded the Congregation of the Oblates of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. She also founded the Hermitage of the Contemplative Nuns of the Immaculate Conception. The rule of both communities was approved by Pope Gregory XV on April 7, 1623.
In 1617, in Naples, Italy, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Ursula, having received Holy Communion, had a vision of the Blessed Mother clothed in a white garment over which she wore another garment of azure blue. In her arms, Mary held the Infant Jesus. Our Lady was surrounded by many persons, all similarly attired.
The Blessed Mother spoke to Ursula with these words: “Cease weeping, Ursula, and turn your sighs into heartfelt joy. Listen closely to what Jesus, whom I am holding in my lap, will say to you.”
Then Jesus revealed to Ursula that she would found a convent where 33 nuns, dressed in the same attire as the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of her vision, would live a life of solitude and seclusion. The Savior promised special graces and many spiritual gifts to those who would zealously follow this way of life.
The Venerable Servant of God besought the Lord to extend these favors also to such people who, living in the world, would have a special devotion to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, observe chastity according to their station in life, and wear a small blue scapular. As a sign that her prayer had been heard, Jesus showed Ursula in a vision a multitude of angels distributing scapulars over the earth. This scene is artistically captured in a fresco at the Theatine Sisters’ Convent in Naples.
Overwhelmed with joy, Ursula personally made scapulars similar to the ones she saw in her vision, had them blessed, and distributed them among the faithful. The practice of wearing the Blue Scapular began to spread quickly already during the Ursula’s lifetime. After her death, her spiritual daughters undertook the promotion of this scapular as their Order’s special mission. On August 7, 1793, Pope Pius VI recognized the heroic virtues of Ursula, and proclaimed her a Venerable Servant of God.
In 1633, the Theatine Fathers, in their General Chapter, recognized the Oblates of the Immaculate Conception and the community of contemplative nuns whose inception was rooted in the vision of Venerable Ursula as branches of their order. From that time on, these two communities took on the title of Theatines Nuns of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM. Thereupon, the Theatine Fathers also began to promote the devotion of the Scapular of the Immaculate Conception, a task assigned to them officially by Pope Clement X on January 30, 1671. At the Theatine Fathers’ request, he granted privileges and indulgences to the Blue Scapular in a special apostolic breve. These were similar in scope to the ones obtained by the Conceptionists in the 15th century. Another Pope, Clement XI, endowed this scapular with more indulgences, which he mentioned in his apostolic letter dated May 12, 1710. The indulgences were confirmed and amplified by Pope Gregory XIV in 1845 and by Blessed Pius IX in 1850. These two Popes also declared that the indulgences of the Blue Scapular could be applied to the souls of the faithful departed.