Sacramentals

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The Sacramental Wine, at Cana, is a Sign of the New Wine to come.
The New Wine, of the Cross, is Infinitely better than the First Wine of Cana.

 

Sacraments, Instituted by Christ, have the Power within them to, as it were, Automatically give Grace, if only the One who Receives, does not place an Obstacle. Sacramentals, Instituted by the Church, do not do that. Yet they have Great Power, from a Twofold Source, from the Prayer of the Church, which is His Mystical Body, and from the Good Dispositions of the One who Receives. It is evident that we need to Work at Receiving the Sacramentals. We need also to Work to get the Best from the Sacraments.

 

A Definition of Sacramentals

from a book by Father Arthur Tonne

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"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 Sin.

Let us Compare and Contrast the Sacraments and the Sacramentals:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Sacraments were Instituted-by Christ Himself; the Sacramentals were Founded-by Christ's Church.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) 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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) 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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) 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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Sacraments Give or Increase Sanctifying Grace; and the Sacramentals are the Means to Actual Graces.

Sacraments
Seven(7)


give/increase

Sanctifying Grace
in the Soul
Sacramentals
Numerous


are Means to

Divine Gift of
Actual Grace

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 Forgiven.

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.

Amen.

 

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

Story

crucifix9.gif (2157 bytes) 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 Blessings.

Amen.

 

Blessed Chalk

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.

chalk.bmp (35934 bytes) 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.

 

Blessed Salt

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.bmp (27546 bytes) 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 Spiritually Strong.

oil361.gif (8522 bytes) The Church uses Three (3) Oils in its Liturgies:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) the Oil of Catechumens at Baptism and Holy Orders,

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) the Holy Chrism at Baptism, Confirmation and Episcopal Ordinations, and

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) 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

miraculous3.gif (11396 bytes) 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 Sacramentals.

 

Holy Water

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.

dhwb.jpg (2485 bytes) 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:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) 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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) 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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) 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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Fourth is Easter Water which is Blessed on Holy Saturday, and used in the Homes and to Bless Religious Items, during the Paschal Season.

Every time we Bless Ourselves, Others or Something with Holy Water, we help 'Drive' Evil Spirits away and 'Beckon' God's Angels to gather.

 

What is the Difference between Correct Use
of the
Sacramental, and Superstition?

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".