A Definition of Sacramentals
from a book by Father Arthur Tonne
"Waters are broken out in the Desert, and Streams in the Wilderness. And that which was Dry Land, shall become a
Pool, and the Thirsty Land springs of Water". Isaiah 35:6.
Some years ago, Two (2) Women were touring a Desert Region of our Southwest. They wandered-off
from their Party, and were Lost. For Two (2) Full Days, they
tramped-and-tramped in search-of a Road or Dwelling. They found none. Completely exhausted, aching with Thirst and
Hunger, they could not walk another step. One of them, in True Womanly Fashion, took out her Compact to Repair the Damage
done by Sun and Dust. The Sun flashed-off the Mirror. She got an idea. Someone might see the Reflected Light. They Flashed the Mirror in all Directions.
Rescuers saw the Flashes, hurried-to the Source, and Saved the Two (2) Ladies.
Who would have thought that such a Simple Thing as a Mirror, could Save Human Lives? This Essential Piece of Female Equipment, did not
Directly Save their Lives, but it was the 'Means', the 'Instrument' for Attracting Attention and Bringing Help.
The Sacramentals are something like that. Of themselves, they do not
Save Souls, but they are the 'Means' for securing Heavenly Help, for those who use
them Properly. A Sacramental is a Sacred Object or
Religious Action which the Catholic Church, in Imitation of the
Sacraments, uses for the purpose of obtaining Spiritual Favors,
especially through Her Prayer. A Sacramental is anything Set-apart
or Blessed by the Church, to excite
Good Thoughts and to help Devotion, and thus secure Grace
and take-away Venial Sin or the Temporal Punishment due to
Let us Compare and Contrast the Sacraments and the
The Sacraments were Instituted-by Christ Himself;
the Sacramentals were Founded-by Christ's Church.
The Sacraments are limited to the Seven (7) Instituted-by
Christ, namely, Baptism,
Confirmation, Confession, Holy Eucharist,
Extreme Unction, Holy Orders and
Matrimony; the Sacramentals are Numerous and
Varied, according to the Directions-of Mother Church.
The Sacraments produce Grace directly-in the
Soul, if there is no Obstacle on the part of the Recipient; the
Sacramentals do not Produce Grace directly-and-of
themselves -- they produce Grace indirectly, by Disposing and Preparing the
Soul for this Divine Gift.
The Words used in the Sacraments, except in Extreme Unction,
'Positively Declare' that God is Producing Certain Effects in the Soul;
the Prayers used in the Sacramentals, merely 'Ask'
God to Produce Certain Effects, and to Grant Certain Graces.
The Sacraments Give or Increase Sanctifying Grace; and the
Sacramentals are the Means to Actual Graces.
in the Soul
are Means to
Divine Gift of
We might Divide the Sacramentals into Prayers,
Pious Objects, Sacred Signs, and
Religious Ceremonies. Some Sacramentals are a Combination -- they fall into
Two (2) or more Classes. The Rosary, for example, is a
Pious Object and a Prayer. The Sign of the Cross
is a Prayer and a Sign. The
Crucifix, Pictures and Statues are
Pious Objects. The Ceremonies performed in the various
Sacraments are also Sacramentals, like the 'Extending of the
Hands' in Confirmation.
How can mere Material Things help us on the Way to Heaven? How can Water, Metal, or a Piece
of Cloth, help Save our Souls? You must ever remember that these
Objects, in-themselves, have no Power to Save or Help us.
It would be Superstitious to say they had any such Power. But things like a
Crucifix, a Holy Picture, a Statue, a
Candle, do Excite Spiritual Thoughts and
Feelings in those who use them Correctly. They Excite the Fear and
Love of God; they Arouse Trust and
Hope in His Mercy; they Awaken
Sorrow and Joy in the Lord. Their Value lies in the
fact that they have been set-aside by the Church for Sacred
Purposes, by the Power of the Church's Official Prayer, and by the Merits of
Christ, Preserved and Distributed by His Church.
That Church not only sets things aside for a Sacred
Use, She also 'Attaches' definite Benefits and
Blessings to certain Objects and Good Works. Many Sacramentals have Indulgences
'Attached'. An Indulgence is the taking-away, outside of Confession, in-Whole or in-Part, of the
Temporal Punishment due to Sin which is already
The Sacramentals also try to express the Supreme Beauty
and Goodness of Almighty God. The Words and Language of the
Blessings are Beautiful; the Form and Art of Statues and Pictures is of the Best, very often; the Ceremonies
of the Sacraments are adapted to Express the Graces given.
Do we have to use Sacramentals? Does a Catholic
have to wear a Scapular, or use Holy Water, or
Pray the Rosary? Strictly speaking, No. The
Sacraments are necessary for Salvation; the Sacramentals
are not Necessary. Nevertheless, the Prayers, Pious Objects,
Sacred Signs and Ceremonies of
Mother Church are means-to Salvation.
If you were Lost in a Desert, as were the Two (2) Women of our Story, you don't have to have a
Mirror to be Saved. But that Lifeless, Senseless Object was the means of Saving their Lives.
In a similar way the Sacramentals, Lifeless, Helpless in themselves, are Helps to Winning
Life-giving Graces. They must never take the place of the Sacraments.
You will find Catholics who place more Confidence and Trust in these Material Objects, than they do in the
Reality of the Sacraments.
For example, you may see a Catholic enter Church
and go directly to the Vigil Light Stand, without seeming to Pay any Attention to our
Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That Catholic does not
Appreciate the difference between a Sacrament and a Sacramental.
It is with a Desire and Holy Ambition to make you Appreciate these Aids to Spiritual Life,
the Sacramentals, that we propose to explain some of them on succeeding Sundays.
In the Desert of Daily Life, they are Mirrors that will lead us to the Fountains of Spiritual Help
and Spiritual Life.
Sacramentals of Protection
from various sources
Simply, Sacramentals are Devotional Actions and Objects,
Instituted by the Church, to assist us in Practicing the Acts of Virtue,
which obtain God's Graces. They are Very Numerous, and only a few will be treated herein. Unlike
Sacraments, which actually Deliver Grace,
Sacramentals Prepare us to Receive Grace.
Perhaps more than anything else, it is Sacramentals which make us 'Distinctively Catholic'.
Sacramentals are not the Whole of our Faith, by any means, they are not
Sacraments, they do not Redeem
Souls, they are 'Optional' Items. But Sacramentals Teach.
A Sign-of-the-Cross, a Crucifix in every Room, a Rosary in our Pocket, going to the Church for First Fridays,
or the Stations-of-the-Cross, Celebrating a Saint's Feast Day, these are the things that show us as Catholic to our Neighbor, and Teach our
Faith to our Children. They open our Hearts to God's
Graces, and they also open-us to the Scrutiny and Questions of those around us. A good thing.
The Sacramentals of Protection are those Actions and Objects
which turn our Hearts towards God, always remembering that
He is our Refuge and our
Hope. They acknowledge our Helplessness against the Snares of the
Devil and the Lures of the World, our Weakness
against Sin without God's Help. And as they need to be, these
Sacramentals are very Powerful.
The Sign of the Cross
In April of 1945, American Artillery in the Town of Siegburg, Germany, was shelling a nearby village, in which there were about 20
German Soldiers. The Natives were in constant Danger of being hit by Bullets from either side. Toward evening of April 12 the people persuaded the German
Soldiers to cease fire.
Next morning, the Village Priest carried a White Flag to the American Outpost, to inform the Commander that the German Soldiers
had gone, and the Civilian Population had no desire to resist further. Instructions were given to fly White Flags from all the Houses. The question uppermost
in the minds of the Towns-People was: How will the Americans treat us? They had heard Terrible Tales of Cruelty on the part of the Russians. How would
these conquerors act?
The Americans began a thorough search for Weapons and German Soldiers. Two American Soldiers armed with Pistols came to a certain
three-room home. They stopped short in the Living Room before a hand-carved Family Altar. Into the Bedroom they went, to find there a Beautiful Crucifix.
The Soldiers noticed the Cross. They stopped, took off their Steel Helmets, changed their Automatics from Right-hand to Left, and Respectfully made the
Sign of the Cross.
As a Member of the Family related, the Members of that Household Feared no-longer. Yes, the
Sign of the Cross is the Salute of the True Follower of Christ, whether
he is Conqueror or Conquered, whether he is German, Chinese, American or Australian. It is the Countersign of the
Christian. In particular, it is the Special Salute of the Catholic.
The Sign of the Cross is One of the most-Important and One of the most-Frequently used of the
Sacramentals. It is the Sacred Sign,
First Taught to the Feeble Fingers of the Child, at its Mother's Knee; it is the Sacred Sign
traced by the Faltering Fingers of the Dying Catholic. From
Birth-to-Death, it is the Holy Sign, the
Holy Ceremony that continually reminds the Catholic of the Source, from which all
Spiritual Blessings come -- the Cross.
The Two (2) most Common Forms of this Sacramental are, the
Large Sign of the Cross, made by Touching the Forehead, the Breast, and the Left and Right Shoulders. The
Cross thus covers the Body -- at least the most Important Members -- the Head and Heart. The Smaller
Sign of the Cross is traced-upon the Forehead, Lips, and Breast.
Saint Gaudentius: "Let the Sign of the Cross be continually made on the Heart, on the Mouth, on the Forehead, at Table, at the
Bath, in Bed, coming in and going out, in Joy and Sadness, Sitting, Standing, Speaking, Walking -- in short, in all our Actions. Let us make it on our
Breasts and all our Members, that we may be entirely covered with this Invincible Armor of Christians".
A Love and Devotion toward this
Sacred Sign, is the Mark of a True Follower of Christ. Just as it Identified those
Two (2) American Soldiers as Genuine Catholics, so the
Sign of the Cross will Identify you. Use it Frequently, use it Thoughtfully, use it Lovingly. It will bring you Countless
In Earlier Times, the Twelve Holy Nights, between Christmas
and Epiphany, were called "Smoke Nights" because the People went through their Houses and Barns, burning Incense,
Blessing their Homesteads.
In the Middle Ages, it was customary to Bless Homes with Newly Blessed
Epiphany Water. Holy Water was Sprinkled in each Room. The Father would
lead the Procession with a Shovel of Charcoal, on which he Burned Incense, the Oldest Son had a Bowl of Holy Water.
The rest of the Family followed along, saying the Rosary, and singing Hymns.
While the Father and Oldest Son were Incensing and Blessing the House, the Youngest Child carried a Plate of Chalk.
The Chalk had been Blessed with a Special Blessing after Morning
Mass. The Father took the Blessed Chalk and wrote over every
Door that led from the House into the Open: AD20+C+M+B+11 which stands for "Amno
Domini 2011 -- Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, and means "the Three Holy Kings, Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, in the Year of Our
Lord, 2011" or whatever the Year may be, are Protecting this House against all Evil Spirits.
This Tradition of Blessing the Doorways (with Blessed Chalk),
symbolizes the Family's commitment to welcome Christ into their Homes, on a Daily basis, throughout the Year.
Always used for the Seasoning of Food and for the Preservation-of things from Corruption, had from very early
days a Sacred and Religious Character. The Prophet Elisha employed it to make Palatable, the Waters of a Well (2Kings 2:19-22). The Orientals used it to
Cleanse and Harden the skin of a Newborn Child (Ezekiel 16:4); by strewing Salt on a Piece of Land they dedicated it to the gods; in the Jewish Law, it was
prescribed for the Sacrifices and the Loaves of Proposition (Leviticus 2:13). In Matthew 5:13, Salt symbolizes Wisdom,
though perhaps originally, it had an Exorcistic Signification.
Salt's use in the Church belongs exclusively to the Roman Rite. The Ritual
knows Two (2) Kinds of Salt for Liturgical Purposes: the
Baptismal Salt and the Blessed Salt. The former,
Cleansed and Sanctified by special Exorcisms and
Prayers, is given to the Catechumen before entering Church for Baptism.
According to the Fifth Canon of the Third Council of Carthage, it would seem that Salt was administered to the
Catechumens, several Times a Year. Both Baptismal Salt and Blessed Salt
may be used again, without a new Benediction. The Roman Pontifical orders Salt to be
Blessed and Mixed-in the Water (Mixed in turn with Ashes and Wine) for the Consecration of a Church. Again, Salt (not specially Blessed) may be used
for Purifying the Fingers after Sacred Unctions.
Thus, Blessed Salt is an Instrument of Grace to Preserve One
from the Corruption of Evil, occurring as Sin,
Sickness, Demonic Influence, etc.
As in the case of all Sacramentals, its Power comes not from the Sign itself, but by means of
the Church's Official (Liturgical, not private) Prayer of Blessing --
a Power the Church derives-from Christ Himself.
As the Vatican II Document on the Liturgy states, both Sacraments
and Sacramentals Sanctify us, not of themselves, but by
Power flowing from the Redemptive Act of Jesus, elicited by the
Church's Intercession, to be directed through those 'External' Signs and Elements. Hence
Sacramentals, like Blessed Salt, Holy Water,
Medals, etc., are not to be used Superstitiously as having
Self-contained Power, but as 'Focus Points', funneling One's Faith toward
Jesus, just as a Flag is used as a 'Focus Point' of Patriotism.
Thus, used non-Superstitiously, modest amounts of Blessed Salt may be sprinkled in one's Bedroom, or across
Thresholds to prevent Burglary, in Cars for Safety, etc. A few grains of Blessed Salt in Drinking Water, or used
in Cooking or as Food Seasoning, often bring Astonishing Spiritual and
Physical Benefits. As with the use of Sacraments, much depends on
the Faith and Devotion of the Person using Salt or any
Sacramental. This Faith must be
Jesus-centered, as was the Faith of the Blind Man in John 9; he had
Faith in Jesus, not in the Mud and Spittle used by
Jesus to Heal him.
Blessed Salt is not a New Sacramental, but the
Holy Spirit seems to be leading many to a New Interest in its Remarkable Power as an Instrument of
Grace and Healing. The following is the Official
Prayer from the Roman Ritual:
"Almighty God, we ask You to Bless this Salt, as once You Blessed the Salt scattered over the water by the Prophet Elisha.
Wherever this Salt (and water) is sprinkled, drive away the Power of Evil, and Protect us always by the Presence of Your Holy Spirit. Grant this through
Christ our Lord. Amen"
Holy Oils (Olea Sacra)
Holy Oil represents Strength,
Sweetness and Spiritual Activity. Christians are referred to as 'the
Athletes of Christ', and so are Anointed with Holy Oil to remain
The Church uses Three (3) Oils in its
the Oil of Catechumens at Baptism and Holy Orders,
the Holy Chrism at Baptism, Confirmation and
Episcopal Ordinations, and
the Oil of the Sick, used in the Anointing of the Sick.
None of these Oils are Appropriate, for use in the home.
There are other Oils available that are used as Sacramentals, to Anoint the
Sick or Family Members. This Oil is typically taken from Oil Lamps burning at a Shrine. Saint Joseph's Oil is obtained from Saint Joseph's
Oratory in Montreal; and Blessed Saint Philomena Oil is available for a donation from: The Universal Living
Rosary Association, P.O. Box 1303, Dickinson, TX 77539.
Again, the Oil itself has no Healing Properties, it is the
Faith of the User that is Powerful. The Oils may be used to rub Sore Muscles, or Anoint a Child who is Struggling with a Problem at School,
or with Friends.
Medals are also Effective Protection for our Home and Hamily, in situations where Salt or Water will be washed off (even nine year old boys bathe occasionally!).
The commonest of these Sacramental Protections are Saint Benedict Medals, which can be placed above the Doorways
of your Home for Safety and Protection. Blessed Saint Benedict Medals can be ordered for 15 cents each from: The Benedictine
Mission House, P.O. Box 528, Schuyler, NE 68661-0528.
Many People wear Medals on Chains around their Necks, such as the Miraculous Medal above. These are also Protective
This is a very Common and Well-known Sacramental, that should be in every Home. It can be kept in a Holy
Water Font, in a Prominent Place, so that Members of the Family can Bless themselves, upon Entering and Leaving
the House, and before Bedtime. It can be sprinkled-on Family Members during Blessings around the Home, while
invoking the Protection of the Saints and Angels.
Holy Water has no Secret Scientific or Medicinal Powers, but it does have
Spiritual Powers, so that God allows Healing,
through the use of these Healing Waters. Water cannot be "Holy"
unless it is Blessed, and must be Blessed by a Priest or higher.
He will add a Pinch of Blessed Salt, and mix it with the Water, saying more Prayers. The Water Represents,
Purity of the Soul; the Salt stands-for
Prudence. Together they are a Symbol of Purity and
Immortality. When we Bless ourselves with Holy Water,
we are invoking God's Blessings, and can gain a
100 Day Partial Indulgence, every time we Bless ourselves, with
the Right Intentions.
Holy Water is One of the Principal Sacramentals of the
Church. There are Four (4) Different Types of
Holy Water which, by their use, differentiate its importance:
First, we have the Ordinary Holy Water mentioned above, used
in Fonts and the Asperges Sprinkler for special Liturgical Functions, as well as small Vials or Bottles for Home use.
Then, there is the Water for the Baptismal Font, which includes the ingredients of a small amount of
Chrism (mixture of pure Olive Oil and Balm, Blessed by the Bishop on Holy Thursday) and the
Oil of Catechumens. This is used for Baptism, Holy
Orders and in Ordaining Bishops.
The Third is Water of Consecration consisting of Salt, Wine
and Ashes, mixed with the Water. This is also called Gregorian Water and used for
Consecrating a Church.
The Fourth is Easter Water which is
Blessed on Holy Saturday, and used in the Homes and to Bless Religious Items, during the
Every time we Bless Ourselves, Others or Something with Holy Water,
we help 'Drive' Evil Spirits away and 'Beckon' God's Angels
What is the Difference between Correct Use
of the Sacramental, and
It has to do with an 'Inner-Attitude', for Superstition is Second Cousin to
Magic. The Superstitious Person says, "If I sprinkle Holy Water
here, say these Prayers and Cross myself, I will make God or His Saints do this for me". Remember, God
and His Saints are not Puppets, and are not to be 'Tested' by us.
The Person, using a Sacramental properly, says. "I want to be closer to God - to be
Constantly and Effectively reminded of the Power of His Love and Glory, of His Protection, Forgiveness and Mercy. So I will Cross myself when I pass a Church,
to remind myself of His Passion. I will make a Novena to ask God's Saints for their Prayers. I will do these things, not because I am Strong and have the
Power to make God and His Saints do my Will, but because I am Weak, Distractable and Forgetful, and need to remind myself of True Reality".