THE SCAPULAR & CORD

Induat te Dominus novum hominem, qui secundum Deum creatus est in justitia et sanctitate.  

Praecingat te Dominus cingulo puritatis, et extinguat in lumbis tuis humorem libidinis, ut maneat in te virtus continentiae et castitatis.  From the Ceremony of Clothing

Rule, Chapter I, Number 3: The members shall wear the small scapular and the cord as prescribed; if they do not, they deprive themselves of the rights and privileges of the Order.

Constitution, Article 16: Postulants are received into the novitiate by means of the clothing of the habit, which consists in receiving a blessed scapular and cord, according to the form prescribed by the Ceremonial of the Order. Moreover, if novices are to be admitted into a fraternity, it is required for validity that their names be recorded in the register of the fraternity (can. 694, §2), without prejudice to the regulation of Article 34 concerning isolated Tertiaries. For this ceremony it is praiseworthy to use a habit or scapular shaped like a garment.

 

Constitution, Article 17: In their daily lives the Tertiaries shall wear the small scapular under their outer clothing in any becoming manner; and also the cord, which is the badge of the Franciscan life, and an excellent reminder of penance and perseverance. For a reasonable cause, however, they may lay aside the cord and scapular for a short time. But in individual cases and for a just cause, the Director may dispense from wearing them; or he may allow to be used in their stead a metal medal bearing the image of our Lord Jesus Christ or of the Blessed Virgin Mary or of our holy Father Francis. In the case of individual fraternities, the major superiors of the Franciscan Order have the same faculty, provided that the reasons, submitted in writing by the Director and Council of the fraternity, are really sufficient. It is a praiseworthy tradition of the Order to wear the habit or large scapular during sacred functions.

Gummermann Handbook, Sections 78-80: The scapular and cord are now the customary Tertiary habit. This precept does not abolish the habits approved by the Apostolic See in former times. 

The scapular and cord must be worn regularly. For a just cause they may be taken off for a short time. The director has the power to dispense for a longer time, provided there is a just and grave cause. During the time one is lawfully freed from the obligation of wearing the scapular he need not wear the cord. Many authors hold that the scapular and cord must be worn day and night. This is the praiseworthy custom of most Tertiaries, but it can hardly be proved that those who do not wear them at night deprive themselves of the rights and privileges of the Order. The scapular is the original habit in reduced form.  What applies to the habit should also apply to the scapular. Therefore, as the habit, an outer garment, is worn regularly but taken off at night, the scapular must be worn regularly but may be taken off at night and with it the cord. 

The question arises whether it is still necessary to wear the scapular and cord habitually in order to enjoy the rights and privileges, or whether this provision of the Rule is abrogated by the code of canon law? Canon 692 states: "To enjoy the rights, privileges, indulgences, and other spiritual favors of the association, it is necessary and sufficient that one has been validly received into it according to the statutes proper to the association and not legitimately dismissed therefrom." The Tertiaries are especially interested in the indulgences granted to the Third Order.  Can they gain them if they do not wear the Tertiary habit without having a valid dispensation or commutation? No, they cannot. The reason is because the indulgences are granted on condition that the proper habit is worn. Indulgences are not gained unless all prescribed conditions are exactly fulfilled. 

Writers on the subject apply the prescriptions of the Holy See concerning scapulars in general also to the scapular of the Third Order. This is the safe doctrine. The pendicles must be of woven wool--not felted, knitted or crocheted wool. Small ornaments of another material may be added. To sew a picture of St. Francis on one woolen part and a Franciscan emblem on the other is permitted and commendable. The shape should be quadrangular. The color seems not to be essential; the Rule does not determine it.  There are in use brown, ash-grey, and black scapulars. The strings may be any material and color. 

The cord is an essential part of the Tertiary garb and must be worn as well as the scapular. It is made of wool, cotton, flax or hemp. Costly material, although not invalid, would not be in keeping with the Franciscan spirit. There are no prescriptions concerning its thickness but it must be a cord and not a mere string. It is customary to make three or five knots near the ends in memory of the Blessed Trinity or of the Five Wounds of Jesus. 

The scapular must be worn as a garment that falls from the shoulders to the chest and the back. For this reason it is called scapular, from the Latin scapulae, shoulders. The scapular and cords are usually worn over the underclothes.  

The cord must be worn around the waist.  It should be long enough so that it can be doubled and that both ends hang down on the right side.  

When the scapular and cord are no longer serviceable, they should be burned. The new ones need not be blessed. 

Essay on the Cord of the Seraphical Father St. Francis, Father Pacificus Baker, O.F.M:

As the design of this Confraternity is to refresh the minds of the devout Christians with a daily remembrance of the Passion of their dear Redeemer, that they may more effectually do this, the members of it wear a cord, wherein are made five knots in honor and remembrance of the five wounds of Our Blessed Savior.  This cord must first be blessed by a Superior of the Order of St. Francis, or some other priest to whom power is given to admit persons into the Confraternity, who, putting it about the waist of the person admitted, gives it to him as a symbol of penance, and chastity, and a perpetual memorial of Christ’s Passion; that with St. Paul we may learn to glory in the Cross of Christ.

 

It is a symbol of penance, to put us in mind that as sinners we ought daily to do penance for our sins, and to offer up to God, especially in the Holy Mass, the infinite merits of Christ’s sufferings in satisfaction for our sins. The life of a Christian ought to be a life of penance, as the holy Council of Trent observes. Penance is absolutely necessary for us, sinners as we are. Truth itself has said, “Unless you do penance, you shall all perish” (Lk. XIII).

 

The cord is also a symbol of chastity, to inform us that as Christians we are consecrated temples of the Holy Ghost by baptism, children of God, and heirs of heaven, into which no unclean thing shall enter.  Our great care then must be to preserve our bodies and souls chaste and undefiled, free from the least impurity either by thought, word or deed. 

 

The cord is further a symbol or perpetual memorial of Christ’s Passion, and of those rough cords with which he was cruelly bound by the Jews, tied to a pillar and dragged to His Crucifixion.

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