Sunday, February 26

Sacramentals

I've been reading and learning a lot lately about sacramentals. I think that many of them have spiritual use and meaning, and I can see how each could evolve into such a powerful devotional.

I had two objects blessed this weekend so that they could be considered sacramentals. First, I've been wanting a crucifix to display by my bedside for a while, and I found a small one I really liked, that was a Benedictine Crucifix. It looks like this:

Benedictine Crucifix


The crucifix includes a St. Benedict medal, so it has to be blessed with a particular blessing. The lady at the store gave me a copy of the blessing.

The second sacramental I had blessed this weekend was a green scapular. My sponsor gave it to my husband and me for a convalidation present. I thought it was kind of cool.

There seems so many different things that a Catholic can display or carry with them to show devotion to Christ, either through different types of devotions such as Sacred Heart or Divine Mercy, or devotion through Mary or the Saints. There's medals and scapulars and pictures and crucifixes and statues. There's a huge amount of devotions that can be done to Christ, and to Mary, and there's lots of information about the saints.

The only thing that kind of bothers me about the sacramentals is that the letters about them almost seem like bad chain letters. "I carried this scapular/medal/picture with me and I was healed/my children were healed/entire towns were converted, etc."

I can understand how faith in a particular sacramental can be beneficial. But how does one choose between what is authentic, and what is hooey? If it's been blessed by a Pope (like the Green Scapular, and the medal of St. Benedict), is it hooey? Or is it because the church has been around 2000 years that there are so darn many of them? How does one choose?

I've been wanting to get a necklace to wear, so that I feel ... I don't know, just a little more "Catholic." But which do I get? Should I go with a classic, and get a Crucifix? Or should I get a Miraculous Medal? I kind of think Four Way crosses are kind of cool. I like how they say on the back, "I am Catholic, please call a priest." They are apparently traditional gifts for people receiving sacraments. Then again, they're awfully busy looking. I could get a medal of one of my patron saints, St. Jude or St. Mary Magdalene.

I don't know. I suppose I could build up a collection of different necklaces and wear them as the mood strikes me. I'm not really sure how loyal I should be to any particular devotional, if that makes sense. I mean, there are nuns out there whose whole contemplative life revolves around the rosary, for example. I know some things, like the Brown Scapular and other specific type scapulars, you have to make some sort of pledge to that specific devotion. Other things, like the Miraculous Medal, apparently you only need to have them blessed by a priest.

Maybe I should just keep it simple and get a crucifix. The only problem is that teeny tiny Jesus sculptures always look a little odd. I thought about a Divine Mercy necklace, but they're not very pretty, at least compared to the pictures that I see of the Divine Mercy. They have a lot of Sacred Heart devotional medals, but I haven't found a lot of information on them enough to decide to get one.

At any rate, today I'll stick with my Benedictine Cross and my Green Scapular next to my bed. I hope that they protect me as the blessings say they will. And I'll keep praying to God the Father and God the Son to continue to draw closer to them, through prayer and devotionals.

3 Comments:

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous John said...

I can tell you for certain some claims of sacramentals are hooey. Indeed, things can get that way when we are talking about the miraculous. I would say, just allow history to be your guide. I apply the same to apparitions. For instance, any study will show that the Marion apparitions of Guadalupe, Lourdes, and Fatima are truly noteworthy. Medjugorje, on the other hand, is very controversial. So I don’t waste much time with it. There is so much else out there worth my time to spend any devotion on an apparition this is dividing the Church. That’s not to mention the over-the-top shenanigans going on in Bayside, NY.

I apply the same standard to sacramentals. Actual claims may be real or imagined. But if the Church, through the Holy Father and Magisterium, indorse a sacramental, then it is good and it will provide graces. Your green scapular and Benedictine Cross are time-tested and worthy of your veneration. So are crucifixes and official saint medallions.

As far as what to wear, you can’t go wrong with a crucifix. I am partial to miraculous medals, particularly on ladies. It is an unmistakable sign of devotion to Our Lady, something badly needed today, and it warms my heart to spot one at work or in public. I think you should choose something that particularly professes your devotion. I am consecrated to the Immaculate Heart. I wear a brown scapular, with a crucifix, a miraculous medal, and a St. Benedict’s Cross medal affixed to the scapular. I also always have a rosary. None of these are for public view, so I also wear the scapular medal out in the open.

I didn’t choose to be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart. I was led there. It seems to me that you are being led to St. Jude and the Madeleine. My recommendation is to look at these particular medals and see if you are drawn to a particular one. If not, just wait. The sacramental that you wear will eventually find you.

 
At 9:25 PM, Anonymous anne said...

I am no expert on sacramentals, but I like wearing my miraculous medal on the same chain as my crucifix. I noticed that several of my women friends from my parish do the same. It seems right to have Mary so close to her Son at all times. I joined the Militia Immaculata (St. Maximillian Kolbe's) and recite the daily consecration prayer as part of my wearing of the miraculous medal. I also wear the brown scapular. No spectacular miracles, but definite graces and protections in my life and the life of my family.

 
At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Cradle Catholic said...

I have never heard a Catholic refer to a medal or a crucifix on a chain to be worn about the neck as a "necklace." But I admire any convert enormously for becoming Catholic, so please take that as a helpful hint, not criticism.

As to choosing one, all medals, scapulars, and even the crucifix, can signify a particular devotion. The idea is not to have a collection, but to have real devotion to Jesus, Mary or one of the saints. I suggest you google "Brown scapular" for an introduction to that. The scapulars were originally small versions of the shoulder aprons (scapula means shoulder in Latin) wore my various religious orders and were given to laymen to show some affiliation with the order.

Many medals, such as the miraculous medal, have a particular history and cult. Others, with the image of a saint, are simply worn to honor and show devotion to that saint.

So, choose one, but not as jewelry, or as a pretty necklace, but because you have first chosen the devotion that it represents. Honoring that devotion will involve more than wearing the scapular or medal, and that is what counts.

 

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