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Sacramentals : 

Sacramentals What is the difference between Sacraments and Sacramentals?

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A sacrament is a sign that we can see which was instituted by Christ to give grace. The sacramentals we instituted by the Church not Christ, and obtain graces for us by helping us to practice acts of virtue. Sacramentals don’t give sanctifying grace but do prepare us to receive whatever grace God wishes to give us. The word “Sacramental” means “something like a Sacrament.” There are three kinds of Sacramentals. In the Church blessings given by priests, bishops and deacons. Prayers against evil spirits called exorcisms; Blessed objects of devotion. There are over 200 blessings listed in the Book of Blessings and when performed by a priest, bishop or deacon they become ritual ceremonies.

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There are special blessings for fields, gardens, cattle, schools, cars, houses, wine, water, fire etc. The people and objects blessed seek God’s protection for themselves and are also reminded that they should be set apart for the glory of God. St. Blasé was beheaded in 317 and one of the miracles attributed to him was curing a boy from choking. On February 3 each year the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Blasé by “Blessing of Throats” of the parishioners with candles. Another popular blessing is the “Blessing of the Home.” The priest sprinkles the rooms with holy water and incenses them, while reciting special prayers for the occasion.

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Priests also perform exorcisms which commands the devil to leave a possessed person or forbids him from harming someone. We also have sacramental actions such as sacred actions, words, and objects. Sacred actions would be things like kneeling, making the sign of the cross and bowing. We usually begin and end prayer with the sign of the cross. When we say, “In the name (singular),” we mean that there is only one God, When we say, “of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” we express the truth that there are three persons in the one God.

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Some might not understand or disagree with the 3 in 1 God. The 3 in 1 concept can be found many times in nature. An egg has a yoke, white and a shell but all three segments make up one egg. Water is another example. Water is often seen as a liquid but it can be frozen into a solid or heated into a gas but it is still water, just in different forms. Another sacramental prayer would be “The Way of the Cross,” or “Stations of the Cross,” which recall Christ’s suffering, death and burial. Blessed objects are other sacramentals because the Church has performed a special blessing on them. Some objects are used for devotions such as, holy water, candles, ashes, palms, incenses, crucifixes, medals, rosaries, scapulars, images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints to mention just a few.

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Did you know there is an important difference between a cross and a crucifix? A cross is a symbol of Christianity but there are over 35,000 Christian denominations. Protestants use the cross but don’t have the Body of Christ on it, if asked why they will typically say, “We serve the Risen Lord.” A crucifix is a Catholic symbol which reminds us of the suffering of Christ and His willingness to give up His life for us out of love.

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Incense is an aromatic gum and when blessed and used by a priest, bishop or deacon it is a symbol of faithful enthusiasm, virtue, and our prayers rising up to God in heaven. Palms are blessed on “Palm or Passion Sunday” and those remaining are burned and used as ashes placed on the foreheads of believers on the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, they are a symbol of dying to sin and selfish pride. The last sacramental we shall speak about here is the Rosary. Some might say it has no value because it is just repetitious prayers. If that were true, why did the Blessed Mother who appeared, in a well documented historical vision, to Bernadette in 1858 say the Rosary with her?

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When someone says the Rosary they are not worshiping Mary, instead they are asking Mary to help or intercede for them with her only begotten Son Jesus Christ. When this statement is addressed to me, I often ask the person if they would include me in their prays that day. Typically they agree and then I point out that their prayer is a prayer of intercession on my behalf. When a person says a Rosary they too are seeking intercessory prayer, not from another human but from the Mother of God. Remember, sacramentals were instituted by the Church not Christ, and obtain graces for us by helping us to practice acts of virtue.

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