Some Sacramentals

"Pray without ceasing" (2 Thess. v. 17).

"Every creature is sanctified by the word of God and prayer" (1 Tim.

4, 5).

BY SACRAMENTALS we mean the various prayers, blessings, ceremonies and

pious practices of the Church. Here mention will be made of some of the

most common of the sacramentals that have not already been treated.

Sacramentals, like sacraments, have an outward sign; the latter,
however, were instituted by Christ, the former by the Church, and while

the latter always give grace if we place no obstacle in the way, the

former do not give grace, but excite good thoughts, increase devotion,

and raise the mind to God.

The chief sacramentals that have not been mentioned are the books used

by the priest in the performance of his sacred duties, the sign of the

cross, holy water, blessed candles, blessed palm and ashes, holy oils,

scapulars, medals, Agnus Dei, prayers, litanies, rosary, the Angelus,

stations, the funeral service, and various blessings.

The books used by the priest in the performance of his sacred duties are

the Missal, which contains the Masses for the various feasts of the

ecclesiastical year; the Breviary, in which is the office recited by

the priest every day; and the Ritual, where is to be found the form of

administering the different sacraments, the funeral service, and the

various benedictions.

The sacramental of most frequent use in the Church is the sign of the

cross. It is used to remind us of the Passion and Death of Our Lord and

Saviour Jesus Christ on the cross. The cross is the emblem of the

Christian, the "sign of the Son of Man." It is an act of faith in the

principal truths of Christianity. When we say the words, "In the name,"

we profess our faith in the unity of God, which means that there is but

one God; "of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," are a

profession of faith in the Trinity--i.e., that there are three divine

persons in one God. The form of the cross which we trace with our right

hand from our forehead to our breast, and then from the left to the

right shoulder, is a profession of faith in the Incarnation of the Son

of God, who became man and died on the cross for our redemption.

Tertullian and other writers of the early ages of the Church tell us

that before every action, before rising or retiring, before meals, at

every step, "we impress on our forehead the sign of the cross." The

Catholic Church of to-day, in accordance with the teachings of Christ,

His apostles, and their successors of all time, teaches her children to

put their trust in the merits of Jesus Christ's sufferings on the cross,

and to do everything "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of

the Holy Ghost."

Holy water is water blessed by a priest. During the blessing beautiful

prayers are recited. These prayers express the spiritual blessings the

Church wishes to follow all who use it. The Church uses holy water in

all the benedictions and some of her sacraments. It is placed at the

doors of her churches, that all who enter may use it and be reminded of

that purity of heart which it symbolizes. Holy water is also kept in the

houses of Catholics, to be used in times of trial and when the priest

comes to administer the sacraments.

The blessed candles used in the service of the Church receive their

special blessing on Candlemas Day. We use these lighted candles at

different times to remind us of Jesus, who is the "Light of the world."

Catholics always keep a blessed candle in the house. The Church puts a

lighted candle in our hand at our baptism, and wishes us to die with one

in our hand, to remind us to hope in Him who is our Light and the light

of the world.

On Ash Wednesday ashes are blessed and put on the forehead of the

faithful in the form of a cross, with the words, "Remember, man, that

thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return," to remind them that they

are only dust and ashes. These are the ashes of burnt palms blessed

the Palm Sunday of the previous year. These palms are blessed in memory

of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, when the people spread

palm branches along the way. This palm should remind us to perform

faithfully our duty if we wish to enjoy the palm of victory.

The holy oils are blessed by the bishop on Holy Thursday of each year.

They are of three kinds: oil of the sick, used in the sacrament of

Extreme Unction; oil of the Catechumens, used in blessing baptismal

water and in the sacrament of Baptism; and Holy Chrism, used in the

preparation of baptismal water in the ceremonies of Baptism,

Confirmation, and at the consecration of a bishop, of churches, altars,

bells and chalices. The olive oil used should remind us of Our Saviour's

passion in the Garden of Olives.

Agnus Deis (blessed by the Pope), scapulars, and medals are small

articles worn by Catholics to remind them of Our Lord (the Lamb of God),

of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints. They are emblems of the

Christian, as the starry banner is the emblem of the American; and as

the flag of our country shows that we are under the protection of the

Government of the United States, so the Agnus Dei, scapulars, and medals

show that we are under the protection of Jesus Christ, His Blessed

Mother, and His saints.

Prayer is the elevation of our mind and heart to God to ask Him for

all blessings, temporal and spiritual. Prayer is necessary to salvation.

We are taught in St. Luke (xviii.) to pray always and faint not. We

should pray with attention and devotion, with confidence and humility.

We are told in the Lord's Prayer to pray for others as well as for

ourselves, and God's choicest blessings will be granted us through Jesus

Christ Our Lord. The best of all prayers is the one God taught us--the

Lord's Prayer. Other prayers common in the Church are Litanies,

Rosaries, the Angelus, Stations, and the Funeral Service for the dead.

The Litanies most in use in the Church are the Litany of All Saints, of

the Blessed Virgin, of the Holy Name of Jesus. In these Litanies we ask

God to have mercy on us and the saints to pray for us; but we ask

everything through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Few practices of the Church

are more widespread than the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin. It consists

of the best of all prayers--the Apostles' Creed, the Our Father, three

Hail Marys, and the Glory be to the Father; then the Our Father and ten

Hail Marys repeated five times. This constitutes the beads, or one-third

part of the Rosary. During the recitation of these prayers the mind

should be occupied meditating on the principal mysteries of the life of

Our Lord. These mysteries are divided into the five joyful mysteries:

the Annunciation by the angel Gabriel, the Visitation of the Blessed

Virgin to St. Elizabeth, the Birth of Our Lord, the Presentation, and

the Finding in the Temple; the five sorrowful mysteries: the Agony in

the Garden, the Scourging, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the

Cross, and the Crucifixion; and the five glorious mysteries: the

Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Ghost, the

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the Crowning of the Blessed Virgin

in heaven. Any one of these mysteries furnishes sufficient material to

occupy the mind of man for hours. These mysteries contain the whole

history of the Redemption. The prayers and meditations of the Rosary

satisfy the minds of the humblest, while they are sufficient to occupy

the attention of the most exalted and most cultivated. The Angelus is

a beautiful prayer, said morning, noon, and night. In Catholic countries

the bell is rung, when all cease their occupations, kneel, and recite:

"The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy

Ghost"--a Hail Mary. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord--be it done unto

me according to Thy Word"--a Hail Mary. "And the Word was made flesh,

and dwelt amongst us"--a Hail Mary. The prayer: "Pour forth, we beseech

Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the

Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an

angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His

resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen." By this beautiful

practice we show in a special manner our faith in the Incarnation of Our

Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Stations of the Cross are fourteen paintings representing the

various stages of the passion and death of Our Redeemer. The faithful

pass from station to station and meditate upon that feature of the

passion represented by each station. Tradition tells us that from the

beginning pious pilgrims were accustomed to tread the path and bedew

with their tears the way sanctified by our Saviour on that sorrowful

journey from Pilate's tribunal to Calvary's heights. But Jerusalem

falling into the hands of infidels, and many being unable to visit those

holy places, permission was obtained to erect in churches fourteen

crosses and pictures commemorating these sorrowful acts. From these

stations all can meditate upon the sufferings of our Saviour, and learn

from Him submission to God's holy will, patience, charity, and

forgiveness of injuries.

The funeral service of the Catholic Church is beautiful, touching, and

instructive. After blessing, strengthening, and encouraging us through

life with her sacraments; after fortifying our souls for the last great

struggle, she follows us beyond the grave with her blessings, her

prayers, and her sacrifices. "Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord," she

prays; "and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in


There are various other prayers and blessings used by the Church on

special occasions. In fact, the Church blesses everything she uses. This

blessing of the priest is not such an absurd thing as some imagine it to

be; it is rather a most reasonable practice. It is simply a prayer said

by the priest, asking God to send His blessing upon the person or thing

indicated. People of all denominations say grace before meals, asking

God to bless the food they are about to use. This is precisely what the

priest does when blessing anything. He uses different forms of prayer

ordained by the Church to implore God's blessing upon the water,

candles, and other things before using them. This blessing of churches,

water, candles, and other things has its foundation on Scripture. We

read in the Old Testament of the solemn blessing of the Temple of

Solomon. St. Paul tells us that "every creature is sanctified by the

word of God and prayer." Churches, water, candles, bells, books,

persons, and other things blessed by the Church are creatures. Therefore

we are following St. Paul in blessing them, for every creature is

sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

We do not claim that those articles that are blessed have any efficacy

in themselves; but we hope and pray that God in His infinite goodness

and mercy may render those blessed articles beneficial to those using

them, may protect them and lead them to His blessed abode above, where

all is peace and light and love.