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What are Sacramentals?

Preparing for God's grace

Father David Jones

Catholic Practices

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.

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.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

It is important to know the difference between sacramentals and sacraments. Sacramentals 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.

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