People have always carried or kept items that have meaning to them either on them or around their house. There are Christmas decorations handed down from great-grandma’s house, Mom’s wedding ring, or a holy statue that came from when Dad was Confirmed. There are also those items we got when we were in High School; lucky rabbits foot, those lucky socks you work during every varsity game, or that pencil that seems to always give you that A+ score. But what is just superstition and what is truly a sacramental? Shaun McAfee sets out to give us a guide us in Compendium of Sacramentals: An Encyclopedia of the Church’s Blessings, Signs, and Devotions. Let’s see if we can tell what is lucky and what is Holy.
Sacramental: Obviously, this one was easy. A sacramental is a “sacred sign” that is related to the seven sacraments of the Church, but are not sacraments themselves.
4 Leaf Clover
Good luck charm: Yep, doesn’t do any good other than something to brag about that was found.
Pseudoscience: Does nothing but can be a worship of false gods, therefore stay away from any zodiac or horoscopes.
Double sacramental: You get two points for this one, as the rosary itself is a holy object that is used with the rosary prayer, which is one of the oldest sacramental devotions. The name comes from the Latin, meaning “a garden of roses,” as each Hail Mary is like giving a rose to Mary and glory to Jesus.
Depends: While oil, salt, and chalk are ordinary items, they can be blessed and made a sacramental that can be used in one’s house along with prayer to bless the family and home. I have even used salt in my home when my kids told me they were hearing scary noises. After salting, they stopped complaining.
Knock on wood
Good luck ritual: Nope, this does nothing for you but make your knuckles sore if you do it enough.
Sign of the Cross
Sacramental: This one is a sacramental gesture, crossing ourselves is a visual sign of the Incarnation, a priestly blessing, and a key in exorcisms as it calls upon the Holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
While many people outside of the Catholic Church may feel like these holy objects and devotions are superstitious, and when used incorrectly, they can be. But when we understand the history and proper way to keep our focus upon God alone by using the sacramental, we know it is not from any power the object has. Compendium of Sacramentals: An Encyclopedia of the Church’s Blessings, Signs, and Devotions by Shaun McAfee clearly explains many sacramental types, the history of the many devotions and how to properly used it to bless us and draw us closer to God. It is a beautiful, hard cover book that has several images of the sacramental, clear explanations and how we can use it. While we don’t need to use any sacramental or all of them, if we choose to use any of them, they will lead us to the sacraments given to us by Jesus.