The Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ and they give us grace. Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church which help prepare us to receive the fruits of the sacraments. Some examples of sacramentals are blessings, making the sign of the cross, holy water, the veneration of relics, medals, statues, the scapular, the rosary, prayerful reading of scripture, the rites of administering the sacraments, votive candles, incense, pilgrimages, alms-giving, the blessing given by a (bishop, priest or deacon), blessings with chrism (oil), and crucifixes. All these things are sacred insofar as they represent or symbolize sacred realities. For instance, much the same way a wedding ring symbolizes the reality of marriage.
The main sacramental used in the Church is making the Sign of the Cross. We make the Sign of the Cross in order to profess our Christianity. It expresses the mysteries of the Unity and Trinity of God and of the Incarnation and death of Our Lord. It reminds us of our baptism and also Christ’s love for us.
Another sacramental that is very frequently used is Holy Water. Holy water is water blessed by the priest. He says a solemn prayer to beg God´s blessing on those who use it, and protection from the power of darkness. The priest prays that those who use this water may not fall into sin; may be free from the power of the devil and from diseases, etc. So, when someone does use the water, they get the benefit of all these prayers, because the priest says: “If they use it, God grant them all these things.”
What is the nature and purpose of the tradition of sacramentals?:
“Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man. In accordance with bishops’ pastoral decisions, they can also respond to the needs, culture, and special history of the Christian people of a particular region or time. They always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water (which recalls Baptism)”…Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church’s prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it… (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1688, 1690).”
Instituted by the Church, sacramentals “are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments: they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained through the Church’s intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy (Sacrosanctum Concilium 60).”
Until next time, God bless.