Sacramentals

By

Anthony Gonzales

Everyone knowsaboutthedestruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the nuclear weapons that ultimately ended World War II.However, very few people realize that in allof Japan therewere only two large Catholic communitiesandbothofthese were in the cities thatwe destroyed.Even fewer people had heardaboutthe amazing miracle that took place in Nagasaki when it was leveled by the atomic blast.Just 100 yards from “Ground Zero” was a Jesuit mission with a church, school and rectory.The 7 priestswerevery ferventinspreading the gospeland had made many converts. This wasduring the time when the Church was still healthy and the people practiced manydevotionsthat strengthenedtheir faith.The Jesuit priests had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and promoted with great zeal the daily recitationofthe Rosary andthedevout wearingofthe Brown Scapular.When the nuclear blast hit, everything was leveled around this mission but it was left unharmed.The 7 priests, who were also unharmed, never suffered from radiationsickness†† northe aftereffects of radiation such as leukemia, etc.They have all since died of natural causes, but were studied by over 200 scientistsforover30 years.These scientists wanted to know “the secret” of their apparentimmunityfrom theeffects of a nuclear blast.Their answer wasalwaysthe same. They were protected, they said, because they prayed the rosary every day and devoutly wore the Brown Scapular as Our Lady requested at Fatima.The scientistsfailed to come up with any other logical explanation.

 

Now,one of the manyaspects of Catholicism that confuses our non-Catholic brethren is our use of sacramentals”; such as holy water, medals, scapulars, statuesand the like.Because we live in a culture that was originally Protestant in nature, many of our own Catholic people have lost sight of the reasons for the use ofthesesigns and symbols whichreflectindividual faith, and,sadly,many of them have adopted the Protestant attitude that these things are superstitious. Recently a controversy was generated by “The View from the Pew” a local lay Catholic underground newsletter in the diocese of San Jose, California. In the April 1995 issue there was an article on the promises that Our Lady gave to Blessed Alan to those who faithfully pray the Rosary. Some Catholics who have beeninfluenced to one degree or another by Protestant misconceptions were “scandalized” by what was supposedly said by Our Lady; in addition the language used in these promises tends towardexaggeration. Becauseof this I have decided to write this article as an explanation in order to set the record straight and correct any errors or misconceptions these kind of Catholic “things” may generate.

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Thefollowingprinciplesmust be remembered when discussing or describing the “promises” or “graces” attached to various Catholic devotions.

1.†† The Churchmay say thata par-ticular devotion is worthy of prac††††††††† ticeandmayevengive permission ††††††††† forthepublicationof"promises" that may have been received withina "privaterevelationbutit has never saidthatthose promises are guaranteed.

2.†† For†† apersontoreceivethegraces promised by the practice ofa particular devotion it is absolutelynecessarythat they be in the state ofsanctifying grace.Thisisaccomplished by making a sincere and good confession of any mortalsinsonemay have committedand by the worthy reception of Holy Communion.††

3.†† Nodevotion, nomatter how laudatoryorworthy,can, in and of itself, besufficientto save someone from eternaldamnation no matter howfaithfullythey may practice it. Thisisespecially true ifthatpersonislivingasinful and unrepentant life.

4. Noprivate revelationisevergiventhesameauthorityor necessityas the public revelation of Jesus Christ preserved for us throughholyTradition and Sacred Scripture. Therefore, theChurchhasnevercommanded anyone topracticea private devotion.In fact, ifanyone claimsthata particular devotionis necessary for salvation (by the authority ofa"private revelation")thisindicatesto the Church that thisparticular revelation is not fromGod and theChurchwill automatically†† condemnitas being contrary to the ChristianFaithandto be rejected.

 

Now,takingintoconsideration these 4 principles, let us analyze a particulardevotionandanypromises giventoitbya “private revelation.”A very common andlaudatory devotion, practiced by many Catholics throughout the world, is the wearing oftheBrownScapularofOur Lady of Mt. Carmel.It has been recommendedandwornnotonly by countless saints and ecclesiasticsthroughoutthecenturies,butevenby many Popes.In fact, thisis one ofonly 3privatedevotionsthathavespecialritual blessingsattachedtoitinthe Ritualae Romanum, which is the official book of rituals used by the Church.Wearing the Brown Scapularsignifiestwo things; firstitisa visible sign of our belief in the maternal protection and love of the Blessed Virgin Mary and secondly, wearingitisasignofone’s loveforand devotiontoherastheMother of our Lord Jesus Christ and consequently our Mother.By wearing it devoutly it should strengthen our faith and be a means toward greater virtue. It becomes a constant reminder to us of our Catholic Faith and the commands of Christ. It must be remembered, especially by us sinners, that we gleefully and humblyacceptany help offered to us.Our perseverence in devotion is pleasing to Godevenwhenwefallshortof our resolutions. God does not expect perfection overnight but He does expect progress and persistence.The devout wearing of the Scapular should be signof our desire toprogressindoingHis will above our own.

 

Thepromisesattachedtothedevoutwearingof the Brown Scapular were givento St. Simon Stock around the 13th century.According to St. Simon, the Blessed Mother appeared to him in a vision in which she presented to him the Scapular that was to be worn by all Carmelites and she said, “Anyone who dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.”Now that’s a pretty strong promise.Inprivaterevelationstoothersaints†† (the mostrecent example of which was at Fatima) Our Lady has†† also said that those who devoutly wear her scapular will be protected from harm.There are some very spectacular miracles associated with the Brown Scapular, one ofwhichyoureadaboutatthe beginning of this article.Nonetheless, even with such wonderful proof of the Blessed Mother’spromise,the Scapularisnotsome kind ofmagictalismanthat has the powertoprotectandsaveinand of itself. If a personis living a life contrary to the gospelitdoesn’tmatterhowmanyrosariesandnovenasapersonmay prayorhow manyscapularsandmedalsa personmaywear; these thingswill notprotectsomeonefrom eternaldamnation ifthatiswhat that person deservesdue totheir sins. God willnotbe mocked norwillHeallow those things He gives us to assist us in our pilgrimage toward Him be used to subvert His justice.

 

One last comment:All the devotions and sacramentals of the Church are designedtoenhanceour love for God and neighbor and to give us both the strength and discipline tolive outthelaw of God and cooperate with His grace. Even thoughtheyare notessentialtotheFaith they are still very important.We aretangible beingsand we need tangiblesigns and symbols to assist our intangible faith.The Church recommends these signsand practicesfor this very reason. Not, as some Protestants may claim, asa kindof promotion of idolatryorsuperstitionbut rather as an assistance and a means toward living the way God wishes us to live. Becauseof our fallen nature obedienceis noteasy;therefore, we needall the help we can get. To deny the efficacy of these means of grace is to deny the very humanity that God has createdtheway Hecreated it.We are notPuritansorQuakerswhodenythe realityandgoodnessof human nature.The religionofJesus Christ isa tangible,sacramentalreligion that uses the reality of our tangibility to bring us to spiritual union with God.