Sacramentals are a deeply-rooted presence in the lives of Catholics – rosaries, holy water, scapulars, medals, devotions. Yet many people do not understand this aspect of the Catholic Faith. To some, sacramentals seem like an array of meaningless trinkets and gestures; to others, they seem like talismans and superstitions. Of course sacramentals are neither of these things, but are in fact “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments” (Catechism, 1667). This guide will help you to understand the types, significance, and theological basis of sacramentals.
What is a Sacramental?
Sacramentals are associated with or imitate the Church’s official rituals. They are sacred signs which remind us of the sacraments. Sacramentals can include physical objects such as rosary beads, chaplets, scapulars, devotional medals, statues, and other objects. They can also be non-physical, including music, gestures such as genuflecting and making the sign of the cross, and novenas and other devotional prayers. Some sacramentals are exclusively part of official Church rituals – such as sacred oils – while others are commonly (but not necessarily exclusively) used in parishioners’ private lives – such as candles and rosaries.