It is quite pertinent today that most Catholics are not so much ground in their faith. This is quite exemplified in the many aspects of the Church’s doctrine, especially in the use of the sacramentals. Often times, many are tempted to think of sacramentals merely as “things we have had blessed by a priest.”
Hence, these things are treated with care and remind us of God. Such things include: rosaries, crucifixes, blessed palms, medals etc., as such these are outward, visible signs of what we believe, so they serve to strengthen our faith.
This begs the question on what is more to sacramentals. Is it superstitious? A kind of magical thinking as some would claim? Leading so many to a doubt in the power and efficacy of the sacramentals. However, in order to curb this menace, the catechism of the Catholic Church explains that sacramentals are “sacred signs which bear resemblance of the sacraments.
They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are bound through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.” (ccc 1667).
Thus, the Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. Hence, sacraments are more efficacious than sacramentals. It is an error for one to value sacramentals above the sacraments.
FEATURES OF SACAMENTALS
Having known what sacramentals are, there is need to look at the characteristics of sacramentals. Sacramentals become “sacred signs” not because of any inherent worthiness of the object blessed, but because of the blessings conferred on them through the Church’s intercession. They symbolize holiness but are also holy. They symbolize our faith and also ignite it.
Sacramentals while physically visible, audible and tangible, are also spiritually dynamic. For prayers, blessings and objects help us to see and feel God’s work in our lives, not simply by reminding us of Him but by actually grazing us with his touch.
“sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and he use of many things useful to man.” (ccc.1668).
Sacramentals open a door a door and invites God’s grace to come in. Their powers make us able to receive the Holy Eucharist with profound reverence and fear and to confess our sins with greater contrition. Most importantly, we cannot effect these powers on our own, but we can participate in it.
They always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign such as the laying on of hands, sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of water. It is by the “Church’s prayer,” that sacramentals have spiritual power, and the Church, given authority by Christ, calls all the baptized people “to be a blessing and to bless.” Hence, at baptism we are all commissioned to sanctify, or to bless, certain things and situations. For instance, grace before and after meals, by asking to bless our food, thus, elevating mere food into something momentous: a meal becomes an opportunity to praise God, to ask for his grace and to thank him for his care.
However, when a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, it is solely reserved to the administration of the ordained ministers (bishops, priests and deacons). For instance, the consecration of an individual to God and the dedication of Churches etc.(ccc. 1667).
Sacramenals cannot confer the grace of the Holy Spirit the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer which prepares us to receive grace and to cooperate with it. It sanctifies every event of our lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal Mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. Both sacraments and sacramentals draw their powers through this source.
VARIOUS FORMS OF SACRAMENTALS
Most dramatically, the catechism speaks of a sacramental that, while foreign to most of us, is also quite real to others. Among other sacramentals, blessings of persons, objects and places come first. For every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father. This is why the Church imparts blessing in the name of Christ usually making the holy sign of the cross.(ccc. 1671).
Certain blessings have a lasting importance because they consecrate persons to God, or reserve objects and places for liturgical use. Some of them include the blessing of Abbots or Abbess of a monastery, the consecration of virgins and widows, the blessing of certain ministries of the Church (ie. readers, acolytes, catechists etc.), the rite of religious profession. The blessing of holy oils, vessels and vestments are examples of blessing concerning objects.
We also have the sacramental of exorcism. “When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcising.” (ccc.1673).
The one being exorcised may not be in the position to desire a greater disposition to grace, but he can be acted upon though he is helpless by an ordained minister of Christ with a sacramental. Though, mere symbolic reminders cannot draw “power” from the Paschal Mystery but sacramentals do.
They are strong medicines and God knows we need these medicines. We need symbols and he has provided them. It is vital to remember that the symbols he provides are not only reminders to cling to him; they provide occasions of grace to help us do so.
Thanks for reading through, hope to see you in our next write up and please ask questions and make contributions and it will be answered and may even form our next topic of discussion. Wishing all of you a blessed Sunday!
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