Baltimore Catechism 3

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The Sacramentals


 * Q. 469. What are sacramentals?
A. Sacramentals are holy things or actions of which the Church makes use to obtain spiritual and temporal favors for us from God, through the Church's' intercession.


 * These holy things and actions are called sacramentals because they resemble the sacraments in some ways. Only Christ could institute the sacraments; the Church has instituted most of the sacramentals.

 * The sacraments are signs which contain the sanctifying and sacramental grace they signify; the sacramentals are signs but do not contain the graces they signify. The sacraments have within themselves the power to give grace to those who receive them with the right dispositions; the sacramentals do not have within themselves this power.

 * > "And they marched from mount Hor, by the way that leadeth to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom. And the people began to be weary of their journey and labor:

 * > "And speaking against God and Moses, they said: Why didst thou bring us out of Egypt, to die in the wilderness? There is no bread, nor have we any waters: our soul now loatheth this very light food.

 * > "Wherefore the Lord sent among the people fiery serpents, which bit them and killed many of them.

 * > "Upon which they came to Moses, and said: We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and thee. Pray that he may take away these serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.

 * > And the Lord said to him: Make a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign. Whosoever being struck shall look on it shall live.

 * > "Moses therefore made a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign: which when they that were bitten looked upon, they were healed" (Numbers 21:4-9). "

 * > And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting" (John 3:14-15).

 * > See Numbers 19:1-22. In this passage God directed the Israelites to use material objects, i.e., ashes, and water of purification in the worship of the Old Law.


 * Q. 470. How do the sacramentals obtain favors from God?
A. The sacramentals obtain favors from God through the prayers of the Church offered for those who make use of them, and through the devotion they inspire.


 * See Scripture, question 469. Numbers 21:4-9.


 * Q. 471. What are the chief benefits obtained by the use of the sacramentals?
A. The chief benefits obtained by the use of the sacramentals are: first, actual graces; second, the forgiveness of venial sins; third, the remission of temporal punishment; fourth, health of body and material blessings; fifth, protection from evil spirits.


 * Q. 472. Which are the chief kinds of sacramentals?
A. The chief kinds of sacramentals are: first, blessings given by priests and bishops; second, exorcisms against evil spirits; third, blessed objects of devotion.


 * Some of the blessings given by priests and bishops are: the blessings of churches, of the sacred vessels and vestments, of the sick, of houses, of crops, of palms, of ashes, and of holy water.

 * Christ Himself cast out many evil spirits. He also gave His apostles power and authority over all the devils (Luke 9:1) and declared that "... in my name they shall cast out devils" (Mark 16:17).

 * > "And they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes; and as soon as he stepped out of the boat, there met him from the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. This man lived in the tombs and no one could any longer bind him, even with chains; for often he had been bound with fetters and chains, and he had rent the chains asunder and broken the fetters into pieces. And no one was able to control him. And constantly, night and day, he was in the tombs and on the mountains, howling and gashing himself with stones.

 * > "And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshipped him, and crying out with a loud voice, he said, 'What have I to do with thee, Jesus, Son of the highest God? I adjure thee by God, do not torment me!' For he was saying to him, 'Go out of the man, thou unclean spirit.'

 * > "And he asked him, 'What is thy name?' And he said to him, 'My name is Legion, for we are many!' And he entreated him earnestly not to drive them out of the country.

 * > "Now a great herd of swine was there on the mountainside, feeding. And the spirits kept entreating him, saying, 'Send us into the swine that we may enter into them!' And Jesus immediately gave them leave. And the unclean spirits came out and entered into the swine; and the herd, in number about two thousand, rushed down with great violence into the sea, and were drowned in the sea" (Mark 5:1-3).


 * Q. 473. Which are the blessed objects of devotion most used by Catholics?
A. The blessed objects of devotion most used by Catholics are: holy water, candles, ashes, palms, crucifixes, medals, rosaries, scapulars, and images of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints.


 * > "Whosoever of you is wise, let him come, and make that which the Lord hath commanded... .The candlestick to bear up the lights, the vessels thereof and the lamps, and the oil for the nourishing of fires: the altar of incense, and the bars, and the oil of unction and the incense of spices: the hanging at the door of the tabernacle" (Exodus 35:10, 14-15).

 * > "And they kept eight days with joy, after the manner of the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long before they had kept the feast of the tabernacles when they were in the mountains and in dens, like wild beasts. Therefore they now carried boughs and green branches and palms for Him that had given them good success in cleansing his place" (2 Machabees 10:6-7)

 * > "Little children were brought to him then that he might lay his hands on them and pray; but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said to them, 'Let the little children be, and do not hinder them from coming to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.' And when he had laid his hands on them, he departed from that place" (Matthew 19:13-15).

 * > "And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense" (Luke 1:10).

 * > "Then having summoned the twelve apostles, he gave them power and authority over all the devils, and to cure diseases" (Luke 9:1).

 * > "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' And if a son of peace be there, your peace will rest upon him" (Luke 10:5-6).

 * > "Now the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the devils are subject to us in thy name' " (Luke 10:17).

 * > "Now he led them out towards Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them" (Luke 24:50).

 * > "Now the next day, the great crowd which had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of palms and went forth to meet him" (John 12:12-13).


 * Q. 474. How should we make use of the sacramentals?
A. We should make use of the sacramentals with faith and devotion, and never make them objects of superstition.


 * Sacramentals become objects of superstition when they are considered good luck charms or when they are thought to produce effects apart from the prayers of the Church and from the devotion they inspire.

 * See Scripture, question 469, Numbers 21:4-9.




 * The word "sacramental" means something connected with a sacrament. When this word was first used it meant the ceremonies that the Church uses in connection with the administration of the sacraments, such as the anointing with oil in Baptism. Later it acquired the meaning of objects blessed by the Church or blessings or exorcisms against the evil spirits, and this is the meaning it has today. The Church is authorized to institute sacramentals because they are useful means toward bringing men to eternal life. We are creatures largely dependent on the use of our senses. Our Blessed Lord established the sacraments as signs appealing to the senses; in establishing the sacramentals, the Church is imitating Him. Of course, there is a vast difference between the sacraments and the sacramentals, inasmuch as the sacraments are instruments of divine power, able of themselves to give grace; whereas the sacramentals inspire to pious sentiments those who use them properly. By means of these pious sentiments they receive grace; the sacramentals also bring to their users the benefit of the Church's prayers. Every day throughout the world millions of Catholics, both the clergy and the laity, unite in prayer to the Almighty. The benefit of these prayers is given to those who devoutly use the sacramentals.

 * There are many sacramentals. Especially numerous are the blessings given by the clergy of the Church. There are two kinds of blessings, known respectively as constitutive and invocative blessings. The former render a person or object sacred. Such, for example, is the solemn blessing given to a priest when he is made an abbot; also the blessing of a church or a chalice. An invocative blessing is rather a prayer for a person, which is capable of procuring for him spiritual and temporal favors. It may be pronounced directly over the person, like the blessing of the throat on St. Blaise's Day, or it may be pronounced over a thing with the intention of bringing down God's blessings on those who will use it. Such are the blessings of a house or of a ship, or of an automobile. The Ritual, the book used by priests in giving blessings, contains many beautiful prayers composed by the Church to call down divine benediction on her children in the various phases and activities of life. It is well to note that the Church does not hesitate to confer some of her blessings on non-Catholics as well as on Catholics.

 * Since the evil spirits sometimes obsess or possess a person, the Church has formulated certain solemn exorcisms to be used on such occasions in order to drive the devils away. The law of the Church commands that no one shall perform the solemn ceremony of exorcism except a priest who has been authorized to do so by the bishop. Moreover, the priest is not allowed to use these exorcisms until he has made a diligent examination of the case to discover if the person is really being tormented by the devil. For sometimes people are afflicted with nervous troubles which bear a resemblance to diabolical possession.

 * In the use of sacramentals Catholics must avoid two extremes. On the one hand, they must not regard them as intended only for children or uneducated persons. They are for all the members of the Church, and no one should consider himself so wise or so cultured as to be above the use of medals and rosaries and scapulars, and the other inspiring sacramentals of the Church. On the other hand, Catholics must not look on sacramentals as charms to bring good luck. They are intended principally for spiritual benefits, and when they do obtain material favors, it is always in conjunction with benefits of soul. There is no infallible assurance that one who wears a scapular will not be drowned, or that one who has a medal of St. Christopher in his automobile will not have an accident. Above all, it would be utterly foolish and contrary to the doctrine of the Catholic Church to imagine that one may lead a bad life, yet because of wearing a medal or a scapular, be assured of the opportunity of conversion when death strikes. Such an attitude toward the sacramentals would be a form of superstition.




 * Resolve to show the sacramentals of the Church the reverence that is due to them.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 36





 * (Check each of the statements given below as either true or false. The correct answers will be found in the preceding portions of the lesson).


 * The sacramentals contain the graces they signify.

 * Christ instituted the sacramentals.

 * Our Lord gave His apostle's power over the devils.

 * The word "sacramental" originally meant the ceremonies used in connection with the administrations of the sacraments.

 * An invocative blessing renders a person or object sacred.

 * A priest may not exorcise a possessed person solemnly unless he has received permission from the bishop.

 * The Church bestows some of her sacramentals on non-Catholics.

 * The sacramentals are intended principally to give us material blessings.

 * One who wears a scapular can be certain that he will not be drowned.

 * The blessing of a chalice is a constitutive blessing.



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct):


 * In the earliest use of the word "sacramental," what meaning did the Church attach to the word?

 * On the afternoon of her First Holy Communion, Loretta was enrolled in the five scapulars. What benefit will she derive from them?

 * Edwin has his throat blessed on February 3rd, the feast of St. Blaise. A week later he is absent from school with a very sore throat. Did the blessing fail to work?

 * Domitilla wants to know will it be all right to bring her cousin Prisca, a Protestant child, to the blessing of children ceremony at St. Cecilia's. Domitilla, of course, is a Catholic. St. Cecilia's is her parish church. Let her know if she may take Prisca to receive the blessing.

 * Dionysia, a Catholic girl in the senior class at an exclusive secular college, goes to Communion once each season of the year. The only ornaments in her room are a dressed doll, and an autographed photograph of her favorite author. In her handbag are the usual feminine requirements, vanity case, etc., but no rosary or crucifix. She never dips her finger in the holy water font, entering or leaving the church. "That's for the common people," is her comment on the practice. Drop Dionysia a courteous note of 50 to 75 words pointing out her error, and suggesting that she make better use of religious and devotional articles.

 * Anselm, a basketball player at St. Jerome's, fears he is going to be too late for the contest. He "steps on the gas," goes through a couple of red lights, passes the car ahead, as both are traveling up hill, and finally comes to grief in a serious smash-up, gravely injuring himself, and killing a man, his wife, and two children in the other car. Later, in the hospital, he remarks to his sister Eleanora. "I'm awfully sorry about what happened, but I counted on better luck because I had a swell medal of St. Christopher in the old car!" Did St. Christopher neglect Anselm? What is the reason for your answer?

 * Simon, and three of his companions, go to the lake for a swim. On arriving at the lake, Simon discovers that he left his scapulars at home. The other boys have theirs, and wear them in the water. Martin, one of the boys, knows that Simon will not go into the water unless he has his scapulars with him. The distance back to Simon's house is several miles. Martin calls to Simon: "C'mon in, 'Si' and don't worry about your scapulars! The water's fine!" Should "Si" take Martin's advice? Why?

 * Have scapulars, medals, badges and other articles of devotion any spiritual power in themselves? What gives them spiritual value? Spiritually, is there any difference between a bronze medal of the Immaculate Conception, a silver one, and a gold one? Explain your answer.

 * On what day of the year are candles solemnly blessed? May they be blessed on other days of the year?

 * Emma, the oldest lady in the parish, is about to be prepared for death by the pastor. What sacramentals will he ordinarily need in the administration of the last rites? Is it advisable to keep these articles in a box or a drawer in your home in case they are needed at any time?

 * Leonie, in the seventh grade, has never missed a First Friday Communion. She is convalescing at home from a serious illness. Arrangements have been made with Father Genesius who will take Holy Communion to her. At the foot of her bed, where she can see everything easily, is a table, covered with a clean linen cloth. On it are the following articles: a crucifix, two blessed, lighted candles, a glass of fresh water, a small bottle of holy water, two small statues, one of the Sacred Heart, the other, the Immaculate Conception, two small vases of red roses, freshly cut from Leonie's garden, a spoon, rosary beads, and a clean napkin. Which of these articles are not sacramentals?

 * Enumerate the fifteen mysteries of the rosary, grouping them in the order in which one follows the other. Name each group of mysteries.

 * Strange incidents began to happen in the Preston home. There were unusual noises, voices were heard, and articles were thrown about the room, without any visible cause. Apparently it is a case of diabolical obsession. To whom should the family have recourse? What can the priest do about the matter?

 * Denis has not been to the sacraments for many years, and when the priest urges him to receive them, he says: "I will receive the sacraments when I am in danger of death. I know I'll have the opportunity of doing so, because I wear a scapular and carry a rosary." Do you think that the attitude of Denis is praiseworthy? What would you tell him about his assurance of receiving the sacraments in the hour of death?

 * The chain of Mr. Madigan's rosary frequently breaks, some of the beads are lost, and of the remaining beads some are badly cracked. Mrs. Madigan wants to buy him a new rosary but he prefers his old one for sentimental reasons. Would it be better if he got a new rosary with all the beads intact? In that event, what should he do with the old rosary?

 * Mary's mother keeps two blessed candles in the house. Recently Mary had a party; she wanted to have lighted candles on the dining-room table, but her devout mother refused her the use of the blessed candles for this purpose. Mary, wondering if the blessing had made the two candles holy, talked to the pastor about her problem. He told her that the candles had received a constitutive blessing. Explain this term to Mary. Was her mother's refusal right?


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