Each morning as I wake, my brown scapular is either outside of my shirt or loosely hanging around my neck. This morning it happened to be outside of my shirt and as I rose out of bed, I could see the front piece of cloth along with the Benedictine medal and crucifix very distinctly.
Although I have written before on this particular sacramental in the blog post, Catholic Dog Tags, I realized as I washed my face that I have never written on sacramentals in general. Knowing full well that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a section explaining these objects, I thought it would be good a quick lesson from the Catechism for today.
Before I provide you with the quick lesson, I would like to say that as important as sacramentals are in the life of the Church, they do not dispense the grace of the Holy Spirit as the seven sacraments do. They assist us in receiving the grace and how we should cooperate with them.
Substituting a sacramental for the sacraments must be avoided completely. You should not wear a scapular, a medal, carry a rosary or a hang a crucifix in your home, and then not receive the sacraments or attend Holy Mass. Frequent reception of the sacraments, particularly, Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist is fundamental for our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Sacramentals should help us in building that friendship with Our Lord and Savior.
The Catechism teaches that…
CCC 1677: Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.
CCC 1678: Among the sacramentals blessings occupy an important place. They include both praise of God for his works and gifts, and the Church’s intercession for men that they may be able to use God’s gifts according to the spirit of the Gospel.
CCC 1679: In addition to the liturgy, Christian life is nourished by various forms of popular piety, rooted in the different cultures. While carefully clarifying them in the light of faith, the Church fosters the forms of popular piety that express an evangelical instinct and a human wisdom and that enrich Christian life.
If you would like a more extensive explanation and understanding of Sacramentals, I would encourage you to read CCC 1667-1676. I would also encourage you to read, Sacramentals: What Are They? on the EWTN website.