1667 "Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are 24 sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained 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.”
Ashes, holy water, palms. Crucifixes, rosaries, holy cards, lit candles, and all things and persons and places blessed to praise God and pray for His gifts are sacramentals.
It is important to know the difference between sacramentals and sacraments. Sacamentals prepare us to receive God’s grace and to cooperate with it. Sacraments confer grace.
Sacramentals always include a prayer, usually a sign or action such as laying on of hands or counting beads or making the sign of the cross or sprinkling with another sacramental, holy water or preparing the body, casket and grave with incense. Again, sacramentals prepare us as we hope to next receive God’s grace.
Sacramentals help us to call on God’s blessing. They help us to be a blessing in the service of the Lord.
They are small, often pocket sized, blessed objects that remind us what a mighty God we serve and prompt us to actually serve God almighty. Sacramentals give us words and deeds to actually do something in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
One might think there is nothing more powerful than a little old lady quietly sitting in church with her head bowed and her hands clutching rosary beads. Watch her more closely and you will see a strong sister in Christ Jesus, who just came to church to praise the Lord, serve the Lord, receive the Lord and then go and do the work of the Lord.
The sacramentals help her be in the right place at the right time. The sacraments empower her to do the right thing.
Christ instituted the sacraments of the new law. There are seven: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Penance, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The seven sacraments touch all the stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase, healing and mission to the Christian's life of faith. There is thus a certain resemblance between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life.
Sacraments are the real power of the Catholic Church. Jesus institutes, gives the church sacraments so we, the faithful believers and followers, can do what Jesus would do. So we can act in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Sacraments confer grace. Where mercy is God not punishing us even though we have sinned, grace is God blessing us even though we have sinned. Through the sacraments of the church we are abundantly blessed with grace by a God who looks beyond our fault and sees our need.
Sacraments strengthen us so that with the help of God we can do things that without God we would not be able to do, understand, imagine, nor overcome. Through the sacraments of the church, we are able to experience a foretaste of glory divine, a little bit of heaven on earth and a way out of no way.
In each of the seven sacraments, we stand in the need of prayer, stretch out our arms, lift up our heads and hands and surrender to God. We put it all in His hands and in the same ritual gesture we stand with our heart, mind, body and soul open to receive that mercy, that blessing.
Sacraments make the power of God real and available. It’s not magic, it is the Sacred being made present so that our living shall not be in vain, our troubles don’t last and our eyes see the Glory of God. What a witness!
Sacraments are the reason it makes sense to come to church and turn to God in the moment of sorrow and in the hour of joy. It is for the sacraments that we end each Mass prayer by saying “Thanks be to God!”
By the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, people are joined to the Roman Catholic Church. The rites celebrate our birth into God’s plan for the world by “putting on Christ,” claiming the strength of who we are as made in the divine image, and experiencing communion with Christ in the table fellowship of Eucharist, which both empowers us to imitate Christ and enables us to live in Christ.
The waters of Baptism are old. They roll all the way back to the Beginning when God stepped out on space and created water. The Catholic theology of Baptism takes one back to the place where I, my Fathers, Grand Fathers, Great, Great-Grandfathers, all those who have gone before us in faith, first believed. In church we call that the Economy of Salvation or Divine Economics.
We meet each Sunday and learn about the Mass, sacraments in general but especially the Eucharist, Church and what it means to belong to it, what the values of Jesus are and what it means to be a Catholic Christian.
Reconciliation celebrates the forgiveness that makes it possible to belong fully to the community again, and continue responding to God’s love by how we live. We admit without qualification specific ways we have made choices that take away quality of life for others and ourselves, and in the name of the community, the priest extends God’s forgiveness.
The Anointing of the Sick, celebrated with those chronically or acutely ill in mind or body, and those facing surgery or death, places us within the community of faith which supports us and acknowledges our need for each other and our primary connection to God. Not about curing, the sacrament celebrates the accompaniment of God in even difficult things, and ritualizes the care we need to offer each other.
Matrimony celebrates that belonging to one another in marriage reflects God’s Own love for God’s people. It puts marriage in the context of God’s Own faithfulness: a holy, committed covenant, which can draw upon God’s strength and generosity to help a man and woman lived married love.
Holy Orders designates (ordains) men to serve God’s people liturgically, sacramentally, pastorally as priests. A priest’s role puts him as leader of many things. Nevertheless, a priest shares the journey of all the people of God, to help bring about the Kingdom by how he lives his life.