The Brown Scapular

A beautiful book entitled “Mary in her Scapular Promise” tells the following story. 

In the year 1845, “the King of the Ocean” ship left London Docks for Australia.  Amongst the Passengers were a devout English Protestant Clergyman, the Rev. James Fisher, and his wife and their two children. 

The weather was good until the ship arrived some five hundred miles west of Cape Agulhas, where there are fierce trade winds and under-currents in that part of the Indian Ocean.  The sun had scarcely sunk beneath the western waters when a wild tornado swept the ocean from the Northwest.  The waters were lashed into fury, the sails torn, and all the wooden structures on deck were only as reeds before the angry winds and waves on that memorable night.

The passengers were sent below, as the captain and crew were unable to act.  Moans of despair and cries of mercy were heard mingled with desperate prayers from both crew and passengers.  Wave upon wave assaulted the apparently doomed boat.   The Rev. Fisher, with his family and others struggled to deck and asked all to join in prayer for mercy and forgiveness, as their doom seemed inevitable.  

Among the crew was a young Irish sailor, a native of County Louth, named John McAuliffe, who opened his vest, and took from his neck a pair of brown scapulars.  He waved them in the form of a cross and then threw them into the ocean.   Incredibly, the waters abated their fury.  The howling storm calmed, and one final wave washed over the side of the boat.  It cast the Brown Scapular he had thrown into the sea some moments before to his feet. 

The captain then proceeded to sail the ship into Botany Harbour.  Young McAuliffe was soon approached with the greatest reverence by the Rev. Fisher and family, who were the only people to witness his action, and the return of the Scapulars near his feet.  They asked what the Scapular was, and on being told, they promised to join as soon as possible a religion that had such a powerful protectress as the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Then as soon as they landed in Sydney, Australia, they went to the little chapel of St Mary’s, and were received into the Catholic Church, by Fr Polding O.S.V., who afterward became the first bishop of Australia.