BRILL: Sacramentals - A symphony of faith and everyday life

January 23, 2024

Pope Francis blesses rosaries held by a newlywed couple at the end of his weekly general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Audience Hall Jan. 17, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

In a world where the sacred and secular seem at odds, sacramentals emerge as a harmonious symphony, blending faith with the rhythm of everyday life.

The Church’s rich tradition, epitomized in the use of sacramentals, transcends mere rituals, inviting believers into a sacred dance with the divine. From liturgical vestments to blessed items like holy water, each sacramental weaves a narrative of grace, reminding us that the ordinary is, indeed, extraordinary when touched by the sacred. As we embrace sacramentals, the mundane becomes a canvas for divine encounters, and the sacred permeates the fabric of our daily lives.

Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church to sanctify different circumstances of life. They are tangible expressions of our faith, serving as reminders of God’s presence and grace in our lives. Drawing from the graces of the seven Sacraments, the Church intercedes for God’s direct intervention throughout our lives.

But why do we bless objects? Why do we invest them with a sacred character?

The catechism teaches us that sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries, states of life, and a great variety of circumstances in Christian life. They are meant to be responsive to the needs, culture and special history of the Christian people in a particular region or time. In essence, the blessing of objects is a way for us to seek His grace in our daily lives.

When we bless an object, we are not merely performing a ritual; we are inviting God’s presence and power to be manifest with the support of that object. We aren’t seeking to create talismans that have magical powers but rather visible signs of our faith, acting as reminders of God’s love and protection. Just as the sign of the cross is a powerful symbol of our redemption, so too does the blessing of objects infuse them with a sacred purpose and meaning.

The act of blessing objects is deeply rooted in Scripture and tradition, where we are taught the importance of recognizing the sacredness of the material world and consecrating it for divine purposes. Since the early Church, the practice of blessing objects has been widespread.

The faithful sought the intercession of the Church to bless their homes, their fields and even their tools. This tradition continues to this day, as we bring objects such as rosaries, crucifixes and holy water into our homes. In the recently concluded seasons of Advent and Christmas, you may have witnessed the blessing of Advent wreaths, nativity scenes and Epiphany chalk. These blessed objects serve as reminders of our faith and as conduits of God’s grace.

The practice of blessing objects is a beautiful and meaningful tradition within the Catholic Church. Through the intercession of the Church, we seek God’s blessings upon ourselves our whole life. These blessed objects serve as tangible reminders of God’s presence and grace in our lives.

Let us embrace the sacredness of sacramentals and continue to seek God’s blessings in all aspects of our journey of faith.

Adam Brill is the director of the Office of Worship.