Sacraments and Sacramentals – How are they related?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sacramentals are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effects of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy (1067). Can you make this confusing definition more understandable to me? How are the sacramentals related to the sacraments? P Evans
The seven sacraments of the Church are liturgical celebrations. They are visible signs and instruments instituted by Christ to spread his saving grace throughout the Church, which is his body.
For instance, in baptism the visible sign of washing with water is also the instrument of the spiritual cleansing from sin. Because only God can forgive sin, it is clear that baptism is the work of Christ himself through the mediation of human agents.
Another example would be the sacrament of ordination to the priesthood. The visible sign is the imposition of the ordaining bishop’s hands on the head of the ordinand, designating this person as a sharer in Christ’s eternal priesthood. Only Christ can do this, so it is he who effects the sacrament through the ministry of the bishop.
Unlike the sacraments, sacramentals do not have a divine origin, nor are they effected by Christ’s direct action. They were instituted by the Church in the course of time, and include blessings of persons, meals, objects and places in Christ’s name, accompanied by the sign of the cross.
When sacred vestments or vessels are blessed for their function in the liturgy or when a sacred image or statue is blessed to be given a place of honour in the church or home, a prayer is included asking God for that blessing. This prayer is the Church’s prayer and so we can have confidence that God hears it.
For example, when a priest blesses a motor car he will pray in the Church’s name, asking God to protect from danger all who travel in it, and to bring them safely to the joyful end of their life’s journey.
Sacramentals are related to the sacraments because they contain a spiritual benefit that is due to the Church’s prayer of intercession. They dispose those who use them to be more sensitive to the awesomeness of the sacred, and so approach the sacraments with more reverence.
The blessing by which men and women are consecrated to the religious life is an example of rendering persons holy in the service of the Church.