Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Crossroads Initiative

catechetical resourses for the Catholic ChurchMarcellino D'Ambrosio, Crossroads Initiative RCIA in

the Catholic ChurchMarcellino D'Ambrosio, Crossroads Initiative adult

education in the Catholic ChurchMarcellino D'Ambrosio, Crossroads Initiative

Exploring the Catholic ChurchMarcellino D'Ambrosio, Crossroads Initiative Early

Church Fathers
Crossroads Initiatitve, a ministry of Dr. Marcellino

   D'Ambrosio        
 
 
 

Sacramentals: their role in Catholic Sacramental Life

Sacramentals: Resources on Catholic Sacramental Life

 

Dr. D'Ambrosio - Holy Land Pilgrimage

 

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio - Free Lenten Resources!Sacramentals:

What Are They and Why do they Matter?

by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D.

 

Sacramentals

Sacramentals -- what precisely are they and what role do they play in Roman Catholic liturgical and sacramental life?  There really are many misconceptions about these issues.  Are they devotional articles or objects of popular devotion like scapulars, or are they blessings?  Can they be found in the Bible, either the Old or New Testament?  Were they instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ or by the Church?  This article answers these questions.

 

 

Rosaries.  Scapulars.  Miraculous medals that we wear, and crucifixes that we hang on the wall.  What do all these things have in common?  They are blessed objects that Catholics often call sacramentals.  But actually, it is the ceremony by which these objects are blessed that are the sacramentals.  Let’s look at a technical definition of the term “sacramentals”: Sacramentals are liturgical ceremonies instituted by the Catholic Church that bear some resem­­blance to the seven sac­ra­ments and dispose the Christian to receive and cooperate with grace.  Each includes a prayer of blessing accompanied by a sacred sign representing bene­fits obtained through the intercession of the Church.

 

Historical Background:   So where did this concept of “sacramentals” come from?  The rich liturgical life of the Catholic Church has always included a wide variety of ceremonies.  From the beginning it was recognized that some of these, such as Baptism and the Eucharist, were more important than others.  But it was not until the twelfth century that con­sensus was reached among Western theologians that seven of these ceremonies stood head and shoulders above the rest since they had been instituted by Christ himself.  From this time, it be­came customary to restrict the term “sacrament” to these seven.  The noun “sacra­men­tal” was  coined to designate all other liturgical cere­monies of blessing insti­tuted not by Christ, but by the Church.  Some examples of this would be the dedication of a church building, the consecra­tion of its altar, or the acceptance of a nun’s perpetual vows. 

 

While the terminology is medieval in origin, the practice of imparting blessings goes much further back, even to the Old Testament.  In Exodus 40:9-11, for example, all the fur­nish­ings of the sanctu­ary were con­se­crated through an anointing with sacred chrism.  In Gene­sis, on the other hand, we read of the great importance attached to the bles­­sings given by the pat­ri­archs to their children.  Such blessings were considered efficacious and even irrevocable (see Gen. 27:27).

 Jesus Blessing the Children sacramentals are blessings

There is no indi­ca­tion that Jesus or the apostles regarded this Old Testament tradi­tion of blessing as super­seded by the new dispen­sa­tion.  Indeed, Jesus himself blesses little children through the sign of the laying on of hands (Mark 10:16) and instructs the apostles to bless the homes that receive them  (Luke 10:5; Matthew 10:12f).  In the patristic era, formal blessings were part of the liturgy and interest in blessings was keen.  Two of the earliest Christian commentaries on Scripture, written by St. Hippolytus around the year 200, were On the Blessings of Jacob and On the Blessings of Joseph (ANF 5).  The same author also describes the liturgical blessing of such things as baptismal water, the oil used in baptism and confirmation, and even produce such as cheese, fruits and olives.  (Apostolic Tradition, 5-6, 21, 28).

 

Images and Religious Articles: Many, especially before the Second Vatican Council, were accus­­tomed to equating sacramentals with blessed objects used in private devotion such as rosary beads, scapulars, and religious images.  It would be more accurate, however, to call these “devo­tion­al articles,” if we wish to follow the language used in official documents of the Magisterium since 1962.  When such articles are blessed by an ordained minister according to the liturgy of the sacra­­mentals, they are closely linked to the Church’s public, official prayer, but are nonetheless  distinct from it.  Non-liturgical prayers like the rosary and stations of the cross are not called sac­ra­mentals, but rather “popular devotions” or “expressions of popular piety” (SC 13 and CCC 1674-6).  The term “sacramental” is applied to the rite of blessing itself, not the object blessed. 

 

The fact that the Church formally blesses such visible aids to devotion flows from her appreciation of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls “the Sacramental Econ­o­my.”  She under­stands that God, who created us body and soul, communicates his truth to us not only through ideas and words but through sensible signs as well.  Through his Incarna­tion, the Eternal Word has forever ennobled matter, endowing it with the potential to be an instrument of his life-changing power.  In commenting on the sacramental blessings of the Church, Vatican II says “There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God” (SC 79).  Therefore, even when a sacramental bles­sing does not consecrate a particular visible item for religious use, it still employs some visible sign such as outstretched hands, the sign of the cross, holy water, or incensation (Book of Blessings 26, abbr. BB).

 

Marriage Blessing one of the sacramentalsCeremonies and Ministers: Normally, an ordained minister (bishop, priest, or deacon) presides over the sacramental bles­sings of the Church. Since Vatican II, a lay person may preside over many of them, particularly those having to do with family life, such as the blessing of a newly engaged couple (CIC 1168-9).  The formula and visible sign of blessing is different, however, when a layperson presides.  Instead of imparting a blessing say­ing “I bless you”, etc. with out­stretched arms or making the sign of the cross, the layperson, with hands joined, says “may God bless us” thus preserving the distinction between ordained and non-ordained ministry.  The official blessings of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church can mostly be found in the Book of Blessings and the two volume work published in the U.S. as The Rites.  The various Eastern Catholic Churches have their own distinctive sacramentals such as those found in the Byzantine book of blessings, the Euchologion (Trebnik).

 

Structure, Purpose and Efficacy: The first purpose of the sacramentals is to prepare for and extend the grace of the sacraments.  In the sacraments, it is Christ himself who is acting and so grace is objectively conferred ex opere operato, that is, by virtue of the performing of the rite by  a valid minister acting as Christ’s instrument.  As acts of the Church, the sacramentals may also be occasions for grace ex opere operantis ecclesiae, that is, by virtue of the intercession of the Church.  They are not efficacious in the same way nor to the same degree as the sacraments, but are more powerful than the private intercession of Christians precisely because they represent and make present the intercession of the entire Church. 

 

Sprinkling of Holy Water, one of the sacramentalsThe direct relationship between some sacra­men­tals and a particular sacrament are easy to see: the blessing of meals is connected to the Euch­arist, the blessing of homes relates to Matrimony, while the sprinkling of Holy Water recalls  bap­tism.  The second purpose of sacramentals is the sanctification of every occasion of life.  Hence the Book of Blessings contains blessings of work places, tools, schools, athletic events, etc.  There are generally two parts to any liturgy of sacramental blessing: 1) proclamation of the Word of God through Scripture readings and an optional homily and 2) praise of God’s goodness followed by petition for his help and protection (BB 20).  Since it is in Christ and especially through his death and resurrection that God pours out his blessings upon us, virtually all the sac­ra­mentals contain the name of Jesus and the sign of the cross (Eph 1:3; SC 61, CCC 1671).  In requiring that proclamation of God’s Word never be omitted from the celebration of the sacra­men­tals, the Church wishes to make clear that these rites depend on and are intended to strengthen faith.  Superstition, the idea that certain rituals properly performed automatically obtain certain benefits from God (BB 10, 18, 23, 27) is alien to this perspective of faith and must never be confused with the truly Catholic use of the sacramentals.  The Church’s intercession, made present by the sacra­mentals, can bear fruit only in the lives of those who are properly disposed (SC 11 cited in BB 15; SC 61).

 

Follow Us -

Join us on FacebookJoin us on Facebook

 

 

Join us on TwitterJoin us on Twitter

 

 

 

Be a part of the “new springtime” of evangelization!  Your tax-deductible gift helps us use TV, radio, and the web to proclaim the message without compromise but in language even the young can understand.  Click here to donate now.

 

Download, print and share!

Click here to download, print and share! 

Love that Lasts: A Vision for Christian Marriage - 3 CD
 Love that Lasts: A Vision for Christian Marriage - 3 CD “Love that Lasts: A Vision for Christian Marriage” is the fruit of years of both study and experience. Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio is an internationally known Catholic speaker, author, and media personality. But he is also a husband and father of five children who illustrates his teaching with an abundance of practical tips and humorous examples from his own family life. This trilogy of talks, originally given as a marriage retreat at the world famous Cooper Clinic in Dallas, is a perfect gift for engaged couples and newlyweds seeking to lay a solid foundation for the the sacrament of marriage and family life. But it is also a superb tool to help refresh and renew married couples who have been together for many years.

 


 

God's Seven Gifts: The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church - 6 CD Set
 God's 7 Gifts |The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church | 6 CD set on liturgy and sacraments The Catholic Church has always emphasized how important the seven sacraments and the sacramentals are for our lives. Yet many take these 7 sacraments and the entire liturgical life of the Church for granted. With little understanding of the sacraments, many are simply going through the motions. This CD will give you new insight into the meaning of these seven unique embraces of divine love that will unlock the power of the sacraments in your life!  It will also give you into the sacramentals and every aspect of Catholic liturgical life.

 


 

I Believe - The Heart of Catholic Faith

First given as a Lenten retreat, this is an awesome 4 session program to revitalize your faith and prepare you for the joy of Easter. Great for individuals or families or small groups. The workbook is a treasure of discussion questions, devotions and spiritual exercises that can serve as an easy-to-follow roadmap through the Lent or Holy Week that will break you out of stale patterns and enrich both your prayer and your understanding of the central truths of the Catholic faith, empowering you to share that faith with others.



 

Come to the Table - Meredith Gould
 Come to the Table: A Catholic Passover Seder for Holy Week Come to the Table is for anyone seeking to integrate the traditions of Judaism and Christianity. Interfaith families will find it an especially useful companion during Passover and Holy Week. An amazing book that invites Christians to more fully appreciate Last Seder where Jesus established the Eucharist as a sacrament.

 


 

Feast of Faith - 2 DVD set 
 Feast of Faith, Eucharist, Communion, Sacrament, Catholic Church In this enlightening, four-part adult faith formation series developed for the Eucharist, Dr. D’Ambrosio offers profound reflections on the nature of the Holy Eucharist – the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith.

 


 

Praying Scripture for a Change - Dr. Tim Gray (Book and Workbook)
 Praying Scripture for a Change - Dr. Tim Gray (Book and Workbook) In this succinct book, Catholic theologian and biblical scholar Dr. Tim Gray walks the reader through the Bible and the wisdom of the saints to reveal the practical steps of this great treasure of our Tradition. Learning the simple steps of lectio divina will provide a practical and effective way for you to enhance your prayer life through the power of God’s Word.

 


 

How Mary and the Rosary Can Change Your Life -CD Set
 Blessed Virgin Mary, Rosary, Catholic Church,Devotion to Mary, Mother of God, Praying the Rosary Two talk set by Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio that explains the Virgin Mary as the model of faith, the true meaning of the Rosary and how both can change your life! Wonderful for anyone who has questions about the Catholic belief with regards to Mary and the Rosary!

 


 

BioLean® of the BioLean® Weight Management System - free-shipping

 BioLean of the Bio-Lean weight management & fat-loss system Ephedra-free BioLean®, of the BioLean® Weight Management System, is an excellent natural choice to help jump-start your healthy lifestyle.  The great thing about BioLean® is that is can help reduce body fat even while promoting the development of lean muscle mass --the only path to long-term, healthy weight loss. 

 

 

 

 

 


Home | Site Map | Links | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Free Newsletter | Win a CD | Calender | Donate Now!
A ministry of Crossroads Productions, Inc. + PO Box 271227 + Flower Mound, TX 75027 + 1.800.803.0118 + a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.