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The Scapular that Saved Two Lives

Gregory Johnson

The story below is true. It was originally published in a German periodical under the title of Seine Mutter Meine Mutter [His Mother and My Mother] by A.M. Weigl and translated by Anna C. Pertsch. It was selected from Garments of Grace (available at The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary).
My battalion was a member of the Irene Brigade. We were just about to advance. After we passed Eindhofen, our trucks and tanks went through Uden. In the evening we encamped on an old farm near Nijmegen. Behind the house there was an old wooden pump surrounded by bricks. This offered a fine opportunity for a soldier to wash away the sweat and dust of hours of fighting. You can well imagine that we made good use of this opportunity.

I was one of the group and so I tossed my jacket on the ground and hung my Scapular on the pump while I washed.

A disturbing loss

An hour later we received orders to proceed about a mile and a half further and to occupy a trench there. We were looking forward to being able to get a peaceful night's sleep in that trench. I was about to lie down and was unbuttoning my collar when to my horror I realized that I no longer had my Scapular.

Our Lady of Carmel, Cadiz, Spain

Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the brown scapular
It had been a gift from my mother. I had it with me all during the war and now that we were approaching the lion's den, was I to be deprived of it? To go fetch it was unthinkable, so I tried not to think about it any more and to go to sleep. I pitched and tossed from my left side to my right, but I could not get to sleep.

All around me, my fellow soldiers were sleeping like logs even though from time to time shells fell dangerously close. Finally I was overcome by the desire to get my Scapular back and I crept out among my sleeping companions.

It wasn't so easy to get past the sentry but I managed to do it and ran back the way we had come. It was pitch dark, but nevertheless I had good luck and in a short time I was back on the farm and at the pump. My hands glided searchingly all over the pump but the Scapular was gone.

I was just about to strike a match when there was the sound of a dreadful explosion. What was I to do? Was that the sign of an enemy attack? As fast as I could, I ran back to our trench. Maybe I could do something for my friends there.

Near the trench I saw the engineers busily at work hurriedly removing piles of dirt and barbed wire. At the very spot where my companions had been sleeping there yawned a gigantic shell-hole. Before they had vacated this trench the enemy had placed a time-bomb in it and it had exploded during my absence. Nobody survived the explosion. If I had not set out to fetch my Scapular, I would have been buried under that rubble too.

‘I thought you were there!’

On the following morning I went to the field kitchen and met a soldier friend there.

He looked at me with astonishment and said, “I thought you were in that trench!”

I replied, equally surprised, “And I thought YOU were buried there!”

My friend continued, “I was lying in the trench, but before I went to sleep, I went looking for you. But I couldn't find you. The corporal saw me hunting around and asked me what I wanted. When I told him what I was doing there he said, ‘Be sensible! Instead go to that inn nearby and get me a bottle of water:' And while I was on this errand, the explosion occurred.”

I replied, “Well, I escaped it by a hair’s breadth too. But why on earth were you looking for me so late at night?”

“To give you this,” he answered, and handed me my Scapular which he had taken from the old pump.


Blason de Charlemagne
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Selected from Garments of Grace,
Viena, OH: Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, pp. 27-31
Posted June 26, 2010

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