Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sacramentals.... More Stuff of Earth

For Christmas, one of my gifts was a book called The How-To Book of Sacramentals by Ann Ball. I have enjoyed it so much I wanted to blog a bit about sacramentals again. Ann says: "In God's redemptive hands, created realities once more serve as instruments of grace."
By God taking on human flesh , he showed us that material things, the stuff of earth, created by Him, is to be used for His glory and for a blessing to us as well. Bodily and material reality can mediate the divine. This fact that God can use the stuff of earth to convey/transmit His grace is the explanation behind the Sacraments (as I have posted about often). For example, baptism washing away sin through the application of Christ's death through the waters.
Sacramentals are based on the Sacraments but in and of themselves don't convey God's grace and therein lies the distinction. They are not amulets, magic charms, incantations, nor should they ever be used in a superstitious manner. The accusations against Catholics for being superstitious and idolatrous may stem from a misunderstanding of sacramentals. The inappropriate use of them by Catholics may also contribute to the misunderstandings as well. Sadly, the reformation lead to the truncation of the Sacraments and complete loss of Sacramentals . Certainly, the brisk and sinful trade in relics at the time did not help the situation!

So what are Sacramentals? "They are things (sacramentalia) set apart or blessed by the Catholic Church to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments, and so to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion." They can be rites, prayers or objects. The main difference between Sacraments and Sacramentals are:

  • The Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ; most, but not all, of the sacramentals were instituted by the Church. Examples of Sacraments are: The Eucharist, Baptism, Holy Orders, Confession, Matrimony etc.
  • The Sacraments give grace of themselves and are always fruitful when the faithful place no obstacle in the way; the sacramentals excite pious dispositions, by means of which the faithful may obtain grace. It is not the sacramental itself that gives grace, but the devotion, the love of God or sorrow for sin that it inspires, and the prayers of the Church that render sacramentals efficacious against evil.
So they are things that excite good thoughts and increase devotion to God. The beauty of this is that non-Catholic Christians can take part in and benefit from sacramentals too! As an evangelical we used candles, oil for anointing, washing feet, palms, and genuflection. We definitely didn't use crucifixes, incense or blessed medals or ashes.
Here is a list of some of these Sacramentals:
As a Catholic Christian, I have been blessed and definitely drawn closer to Jesus through some of these sacramentals. Praying the rosary, the sign of the cross, and placing statues of the holy family as well as favorite saints around my house has become a regular part of my devotional life. I now realize how much I sorely missed using the things of earth to draw me closer to God.

As I walk into my house, the statue of St Francis of Assisi on my front yard reminds me of humilty and love for Christ. The beautiful crucifix above our bed (rescued from my parents' home when my Mom died) reminds of what He went through for my salvation and who the center of our life is and what our marriage is based on. My wedding ring serves as a constant reminder of the Sacrament of marriage and the vows taken before God. The smell of incense that I waft as I walk into Mass now creates a sense of reverence for me and reminds me that I am in a holy place where prayers will be offered up to our Lord and Savior. As a matter of fact, when I first returned to the Church almost three years ago now, that initial smell of the incense gave me a sense that I had returned home due to resurrected memories that I didn't realize were still there. God uses our all of our senses through the sacramentals to excite our hearts towards Him and Catholics take advantage of them to grow in grace. But they are designed for anyone to use!


Anonymous Nancy said...

I have two rosaries and a big icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa on my night table. I love 'em, indeed.

January 09, 2007 6:50 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Nancy!
My first pilgrimage as a new Catholic was to the national shrine of Our Lady of Czestchowa in Doylestown PA. We heard Fr. Corapi speak! What a great day, the outside little chapel where the candel were you could light for prayer, the statues, the art inside! It was a great intro to Catholic devotional life and sacrametals.
I have actually started collecting rosaries. Would that I prayed them more than collected them!

January 09, 2007 7:35 PM  
Blogger TheGodFearinFiddler said...

I used to think Roman Catholics were superstitious... but it was really I who superstitiously avoided the sacramentals and rites. Great post Tiber

January 09, 2007 10:14 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks GFF!

January 09, 2007 10:33 PM  
Blogger NotMyOpinion30 said...

I used to think that Catholics were idolators and superstitious. Now I have a few icons scattered throughout my home, a crucifix in every room, and a Holy Water font near my front door where I bless myself every time I leave the house.

Because of my wife, who is Irish Catholic, I also sign myself with the cross every time I pass a Catholic Church or a cemetery.

January 10, 2007 12:04 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I try to say a rosary at least once a week, though I probably should do more.

I do pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily though. It has been very helpful in the development of my spiritual life.

January 10, 2007 6:52 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I heard the liturgy of the hours is very cool, the Prayer of the Church, prayed by all religious (sisters, friars) as well as priests. But aren't they real expensive? I heard they were .

January 10, 2007 7:40 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

My wife has wanted a font for holy water at the door and I have resisted thinking it would freak people out, but the more I think about it, why not?

January 10, 2007 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Katy said...

If you get the shorter version of the Liturgy of the Hours, called "Christian Prayer," it is not that expensive (but definately worth the price!). I really enjoy doing morning and evening prayer. It is a wonderful way to start and end every day. Christian Prayer also includes daytime prayer, night prayer, and the office of readings.

January 10, 2007 11:52 AM  
Blogger NotMyOpinion30 said...

I was real paranoid about that at one time. My cousin is a really humble Christian of the Protestant persuasion. She and her son often come over to our home. I used to refrain from placing any "Catholic" items in public view for fear of what they might think. But these are holy things and I am Catholic. They benefit us at home if we constantly have something that turns our minds to Heaven, God knows we need it. For those reasons we started filling our home with these holy things. My wife, coming from a Catholic country, couldn't understand why it was such a big deal here.

I sincerely hope that it doesn't offend anyone, but I'm sure that the worst thing that can happen is they'll think that we are idol worshippers. I don't mind that so much. As long as they don't unintentionally blaspheme the images of Our Lord and the Mother of God. I wouldn't want to be the cause of that. The best thing that can happen is they'll ask us about them and we can tell them that we don't worship them and explain their purpose.

January 10, 2007 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Like Katy said, you can get the one-volume Christian Prayer which has the complete Morning, Evening and Night prayers, plus a selection from the Office of Readings and Daytime Prayer. And that would certainly do you just fine.

I decided to get the complete set, with the whole Office of Readings etc because it's an investment for a lifetime. I couldn't afford to buy the whole set at once, so when I've had some birthday and Christmas money I've purchased a volume here and there when I can. I should have the whole set soon.

Nothing like morning prayer to wake me up in the morning, and evening prayer to pick me up after a long day at the office.

January 10, 2007 6:30 PM  
Blogger Potamiaena said...

Thank you for this long and insightful post. I just completed "The Privledge of Being Catholic" by Fr. Oscar Lukefahr. Your post summed up our year long class!

Thanks for a great blog. I am directing my classmates here.

January 11, 2007 8:06 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Your'e welcome, I hope and pray it can help you and others to grow in His grace.

January 11, 2007 8:35 AM  

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