September 8, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

     For the last seven weeks we have been looking at the Seven Sacraments. Let’s shift things around a bit and focus on something that we call Sacramentals.

Sacraments are “outward signs instituted by Christ to give Grace.” Sacramentals are something else. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that Sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.”  The Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium states “Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments: they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained through the Church’s intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy. Thus, for well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ, the font from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.”

So, a good example of a Sacramental is a Blessing. When a priest invokes God’s Blessing on a person or an object, that action is a Sacramental. It moves us into a closer relationship with God. The Blessing of Throats on the Memorial of St. Blase is a good example. Blessing Catechists and other Ministers are included. Blessing of Rosaries and Blessing a Church building are also good examples. By these actions we are asking God for His Grace. Believe it or not, Exorcisms are another example of a Sacramental.

People think that praying the Rosary or praying the Stations of the Cross are Sacramentals. They are not. They are, what we call, Forms of Devotion and Popular Piety. They aid in living out our Christian lives, but they do not replace the official Liturgy of the Church. The Veneration of Relics, Lighting of candles, Pilgrimages to holy places, Processions, the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, Medals of the Saints, Scapulars – these are signs of Popular Devotion.

Please keep in mind that Sacramentals and Devotions are not, what we call, “Holy Magic.” They do not force God to do anything. They only help us in becoming closer to the Lord. So, for example, having your throat blessed is great, but it doesn’t automatically keep you safe. Praying the Novena to St. Jude is wonderful. But, thinking that if one places these prayers in seven different church buildings, in seven different pews, for seven weeks is Superstition. Remember, one cannot force God to do anything!





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