Within the Catholic Church, there are many external items of devotion and piety that are used to draw us closer to the Lord. Rosaries, sacred images, saint medals, and candles are ‘sacramentals’ that are common items in many Catholic homes and parishes; and it is a common practice for these items to receive the blessing of a priest before they are used. But why do we do this? What is the benefit?
Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show a listener called to ask whether one can receive extra graces by having a sacramental, such as a Miraculous Medal, blessed by a priest. Patrick’s response is below:
What grace is…
Not exactly, at least not if what you mean is the way we receive grace in the sacraments. In the sacraments, to use them as a counterpoint, we receive sanctifying grace, and sanctifying grace is in us; it adheres to the soul. St. Paul says that God ‘pours out’ His grace into our hearts.
So you want to think about sanctifying grace as the grace that’s in you, and it can intensify and increase. Sanctifying grace is what we receive in the sacraments, and in other ways.
Sacramentals are different. Sacramentals are what you might think of as external graces. They might prepare us, or dispose us, to have an increase of sanctifying grace in our life.
The tugboat analogy…
One analogy that I have found helpful is that of a tug boat. If you can imagine in a busy shipping harbor, and the tugboats that nudge the big oil tankers and ocean liners where they need to go. Well, these graces that come to us from wearing sacramentals, praying the rosary, and so forth – they’re kind of like that. They’re external to us, they’re not sanctifying grace, but they help us to be able to grow in God’s grace.
In praying the rosary, for example, the rosary beads are a sacramental. So in themselves they don’t impart grace, but they facilitate our ability to grow in sanctifying grace through prayer. So that’s their connection with grace and us.
Then why get your sacramental blessed?
Having sacramentals blessed gives due honor to them, and it also attaches to it a sacredness that it wouldn’t have if it was unblessed. Now, some people might be superstitious and think that their rosary is worthless unless they have it blessed by a priest, or that something doesn’t have value unless it is blessed. That’s not true.
Whenever possible, have your sacramentals blessed by a priest, that’s always a good thing to do. But don’t think of it in terms like somehow it has a magical power it didn’t used to have. Rather, it’s that this article (whether a rosary, or a blessed candle, or an image of our Lord) now has been set apart for a sacred use. It doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been used that way before, but it is in a more formal way now, because it has this blessing
Blessed articles are very much a part of the piety of the Church, so it’s a good thing to do that, and that’s why we do it – to remind us and to really intensify the benefit of using sacramentals.
Listen to the full conversation below:
The Patrick Madrid Show airs weekdays from 9-noon Eastern/6-9 a.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.