Friday, October 19, 2018

Reason no. 18 why I remain Catholic: Sacramentals

The Catholic faith is a very tangible faith. Where ever you turn there is something to touch, hear, smell, taste or see in our faith. 

I can touch the ground upon which Jesus walked on in Jerusalem. I can touch the ground upon which the Saints tread in Rome and elsewhere. 

I can see the first-century streets in Rome where Peter and Paul walked to their deaths. 

I can see the place where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

I can hear the bells toll during the consecration of the Eucharist. 

I can hear the bells toll when it is time for Mass. 

I can hear the words of absolution when the priest, acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi) says "...through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

I can smell the perfume of incense when the priest incenses the altar before the Liturgy of the Word.

I can smell the scent of fresh flowers as they are offered before a statue of Our Lady.

I can taste the bread that now through the words of Consecration has turned into the body of Christ. 

I can taste the wine that now, through the words of consecration, has turned into the blood of Christ.

Our faith is concrete!

The Lord God has regard for our sensitivities. He knew as he created us, that we perceive the world through our sense of touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell. He knew that in order to get to our hearts he had to go through our hands, our mouth, our ears, our eyes, and our nose. And so he has and he continues to do so through the Sacraments. 

But we also have what the Church refers to as sacramentals. 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 effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1667).

Once a priest or bishop blesses a certain object: such as a rosary or statute, it becomes a sacramental. But the first of all sacramentals are blessings. Blessings of peoples, food or things are the most important type of sacramentals. 

And why do we need sacramentals? Because we are people of flesh who function through our senses and things, material things can help us come into contact with spiritual things. 

For instance, we may carry a picture of our late grandmother that we often look at or share with others when we speak of her. Of course, this picture does not bring her back to life and it is not a replacement of our deceased grandmother, but it helps to remind us of her when she was alive and all the memories we shared with her.  This is a concrete object (the picture) that allows us to connect with something spiritual,  (our deceased grandmother.) This is not a sacramental but it explains the way sacramentals work. 

The sacramental should lead us to the sacraments that in turn reveal to us, Christ. 

Probably the most well known sacramental is the rosary. The rosary is a concrete object we use in order to pray and reflect on the mysteries of Christ's life and ministry. The rosary then helps us to reflect on all that the Lord did for us and hence it spurs in us a deep desire to unite ourselves to Christ in the Eucharist. 

These are beautiful instruments of faith. God is so practical! 

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