Understanding Sacramentals

Outside Catholic circles, the concept of sacramentals is not something widely understood. Sacramentals are not sacraments, like baptism or marriage. Nor are they “good luck charms” or symbols of superstition. They can, however, bring us graces, and they remind us of our closeness with God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sacramentals as “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy” (paragraph 1667). Sacramentals can take the form of blessings, a statue of a saint, a rosary, holy water, relics, and more. They are tangible signs of God’s grace and a constant reminder of what our faith means.

The use of sacramentals does not attempt to force God to do anything. If you carry a St. Christopher medal in your car, for example, you are not automatically protected from all harm while traveling. However, that medal can be an occasion for the working of God’s grace. The important thing is that the medal brings you to prayer.

One of the most popular sacramentals in the Church is the Blessing of the Throats. This blessing asks for the intercession of St. Blaise in protection against ailments of the throat and body. St. Blaise was an early bishop and martyr of the Church, and this blessing is given on his feast day of February 3. During the blessing, the priest touches two candles that have been blessed to the recipient’s head or throat while speaking the words of the blessing.

We pray today for the intercession of St. Blaise, not only in protecting our bodies from physical illness, but also in helping us to use sacramentals in a way that brings us ever closer to God.

If you were not able to receive the Blessing of the Throats today, Bishop Reed offers it here:


Understanding Sacramentals