Note: Whenever I use bold type or underline, the emphasis is mine and not the emphasis of the source that I am quoting unless indicated otherwise.



My question is as follows: Why do Catholics have things such as holy medals blessed by a priest? What is a blessing? (No name with question)



“Bless: to hallow or consecrate by religious rite; to invoke divine care for; to protect, preserve.”

Blessing means placing a thing or person under the care of God. A liturgical blessing is one that uses a prescribed formula or ceremony, and is given by a (Catholic) priest. The simplest blessings are made with the Sign of the Cross, and sometimes are accompanied by the sprinkling of holy water. By the visible signs and formula of words of blessings, God’s benediction is invoked on persons, places, or things.”

“Benediction: From the Latin word benedicere, benediction is the general term for any kind of blessing.”


“The Lord said to Abraham: I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.”

“But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them.

“Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing, because to this you were called, that you might inherit a blessing.”


“Whether God blessed the people himself or through the ministry of those who acted in His name, His blessing was always a promise of divine help, a proclamation of His favor, a reassurance of His faithfulness to the covenant He had made with His people. When, in turn, others uttered blessings, they were offering praise to the one whose goodness and mercy they were proclaiming. Whoever blesses others in God’s name invokes the divine help upon individuals or upon an assembled people. Blessings therefore refer first and foremost to God, whose majesty and goodness they extol, and since they indicate the communication of God’s favor, they also involve human beings, whom He governs and in His providence protects. Further, blessings apply to other created things through which, in their abundance and variety, God blesses human beings.”


“Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a blessing, and to bless‘. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).” “Every blessing praises God and prays for His gifts.”


So, Catholics have things such as religious medals blessed to invoke God’s protection on the person who uses the medal and to praise God


This report prepared on January 22, 2005 by Ronald Smith, 11701 Maplewood Road, Chardon, Ohio 44024-8482, E-mail: Readers may copy and distribute this report as desired, without restrictions in number, as long as the content is not altered and is copied in its entirety.





Conference transcription from a retreat that Father Hardon gave to the Handmaids of the Precious Blood

By Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., 1998 EXTRACT

Finally, beyond the ordained ministerial priesthood, which is unique and possessed only by those who receive the sacrament of orders, there is a true although subordinate sense in which all the baptized faithful belong to the priesthood of Christ. We begin to share in the priesthood of the Savior when we are baptized into the priesthood of Christ. This sacramental character which we receive at Baptism is deepened by the sacrament of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. It is because of this sharing in Christ’s priesthood that the faithful are able to receive any of the other sacraments; without this one no other sacrament can be received. It is because of this share in Christ’s priesthood that they are enabled to offer with the priest at the altar the body and blood of the Son of God to His heavenly Father, which is why it is said, “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”



Scott Hahn EXTRACT

If this comes as news today, it’s only because so many of us have unwittingly become religious empiricists. Since a sacramental character is invisible, we may be tempted think of it as less real, less permanent, merely propositional. But because it is sacramental, it is more real, more permanent, and much more than propositional.
This demands of us a deep faith, an act of faith sustained over a lifetime. St. Thomas Aquinas said: “We do not believe in formulas, but in those realities they express, which faith allows us to touch. The believer’s act of faith does not terminate in the propositions, but in the realities which they express” (Catechism, no. 170). We do not put our faith in theories or abstractions, but in realities.


Monsignor Nwachukwu’s Address on Priestly Life – “A Sad Celibate Is a Bad Celibate”

By Monsignor Fortunatus Nwachukwu, head of protocol for the Holy See’s Secretariat of State


For the Christian, birth is not just physical. The more important birth is not necessarily the physical one, but also the sacramental birth or rebirth in Christ, through the Holy Spirit…
In fact, the notion of rebirth is so fundamental that the New Testaments tends to view the entire life of a Christian in two parts, before and after the encounter with Christ (1 Pet. 1,23; Titus 3, ; 2 Cor 5,17; Eph 2,1-2; 1 Cor 2,14; Rev. 1,8; Rom 8,9b). In the life of the Church, this rebirth is realized through the sacraments, which are “efficacious signs of grace … by which divine life is dispensed to us” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1131). Renewal of the rebirth is also realized through the sacramentals, instituted by the Church “for the sanctification of certain ministries…, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1668).

Both in sacraments and in sacramentals, the principle of rebirth is the Holy Spirit. For the Christian, the Mystery of the Incarnation divides human history into two, before and after Christ. In the same way, the encounter with Jesus Christ, the “Alpha and Omega” (Rev 1,8), divides the life of the Christian into a “before and after”, respectively beginning with a physical birth and a spiritual rebirth in Christ.

Blessing or Consecrating Third Class Relics

Note: In this report I may occasionally use bold print, Italics, or word underlining for emphasis. This will be my personal emphasis and not that of the source that I am quoting.



Dear Ron: Are third class relics treated as if they were consecrated such that if they were exposed to certain kinds of sacrilege they would need to be re-consecrated by a priest? Rick Harrison



No. I read what the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 has to say regarding relics. It does not mention the need for relics to be either consecrated or blessed. It says that relics have historically been venerated (not worshipped) because of what they are in their own right.

“Blessing: Ritual in which the right hand is raised and usually the Sign of the Cross is made over the person or thing, invoking God’s favor or intervention upon the one blessed.”1

“Consecration: The setting aside of a person or an object exclusively for God and His service. Many such prayers over people or objects that were called ‘consecrations’ formerly are now called blessings (e.g., altars and churches), although virgins are still consecrated.”2


“Consecration: In general, an act by which a thing is separated from a common and profane to a sacred use or by which a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies.”3

Whether God blessed the people Himself or through the ministry of those who acted in His name, His blessing was always a promise of divine help, a proclamation of His favor, a reassurance of His faithfulness to the covenant He had made with His people.”4
“Blessings refer first and foremost to God, whose majesty and goodness they extol, and, since they indicate the communication of God’s favor, they also involve human beings, whom He governs and in His providence protects. Further, blessings apply to other created things through which, in their abundance and variety, God blesses human beings.”5

Blessings are signs that have God’s word as their basis and that are celebrated from motives of faith. Blessings are signs above all of spiritual effects that are achieved through the Church’s intercession. Blessing formularies have, from age-old tradition, centered above all on glorifying God for His gifts, on imploring favors from Him, and on restraining the power of evil in this world.”6

“At times the Church also invokes blessings on objects and places connected with human occupations or activities and those related to the liturgy or to piety and popular devotions. But such blessings are invoked always with a view to the people who use the objects to be blessed and frequent the places to be blessed.”7

The celebration of a blessing, then, prepares us to receive the chief effect of the sacraments and makes holy the various situations of human life.”8

Primarily the two books used by the clergy to give official blessings of the Church are the Book of Blessings frequently quoted within this report and The Sacramentary.9

Neither of these books mentions anything specifically regarding blessing relics of any class.

Since I could not find a specific Church teaching or reference to the blessings of relics of any class, I contacted out diocesan Chancellor. She replied, “The third class relic may be blessed for the solace of the user. Its merit is that of a representation of the saint. I know of no other reference to verify my opinion.”10

“The Church distinguishes consecration from blessing, both in regards to persons and to things. Hence the Roman Pontifical treats of the consecration of a bishop and of the blessing of an abbot, of the blessing of a corner-stone and the consecration of a church or altar. In both, the persons or things pass from a common, or profane, order to a new state, and become the subjects or the instruments of Divine protection. At a consecration the ceremonies are more solemn and elaborate than a blessing. The ordinary minister of a consecration is a bishop, whilst the ordinary minister of a blessing is a priest. At every consecration the holy oils are used; at a blessing customarily only holy water. The new state to which consecration elevates persons or things is permanent, and the rite can never be repeated, which is not the case at a blessing; the grace attached to consecration are more numerous and efficacious than those attached to a blessing; the profanation of a consecrated person or thing carries with it a new species of sin, namely sacrilege, which the profanation of a blessed person or thing does not always do.”11

Blessings are sacramentals and, as such, produce the following specific effects: (2) freedom from power of evil spirits.”12

So, in answer to the original question, there is no doctrine that says a relic needs to be blessed under any circumstance. However, if a relic has a sacrilege committed against it, I would recommend that you take it to a priest, explain what happened and ask him to bless the relic. I say this because of the power of a blessing against evil spirits explained above. When I was actively involved in deliverance ministry and teaching about the occult, I learned that through evil acts evil spirits could attach themselves to objects and unknowingly be brought into homes or other places. “Sacrilege: Violent, disrespectful treatment of persons, places, and objects dedicated to God.”13

If you need further information, please contact me.

This report prepared on November 15, 2010 by Ronald Smith, 11701 Maplewood Road, Chardon, Ohio 44024-8482, E-mail:



1 Catholic Dictionary, ISBN. 978-0-87973-390-2, (1993, 2002), Editor – Rev. Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph. D, S.T.D., Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN., P. 139

2 Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia – Revised Edition, ISBN. 0-87973-669-0, (1998), Rev. Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D., – Editor, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN. P. 270

3 The Catholic Encyclopedia – Vol. IV, (1908), Robert Appleton Co., New York, NY., P. 276

4 Book of Blessings – Abridged Edition, ISBN. 0-8146-2089-2, (1992), approved by the Vatican, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., Paragraph 6, P. XXII

5 Book of Blessings – Abridged Edition, ISBN. 0-8146-2089-2, (1992), approved by the Vatican, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., Paragraph 7, P. XXIII


6 Book of Blessings – Abridged Edition, ISBN. 0-8146-2089-2, (1992), approved by the Vatican, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., Paragraphs 10-11, P. XXIV

7 Book of Blessings – Abridged Edition, ISBN. 0-8146-2089-2, (1992), approved by the Vatican, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., Paragraph 12, P. XXV

8 Book of Blessings – Abridged Edition, ISBN. 0-8146-2089-2, (1992), approved by the Vatican, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., Paragraph 14, P. XXVI

9 The Sacramentary, (1985), Catholic Book Publishing Co., New York, NY.

10 E-mail from Cleveland, Ohio Diocese Chancellor, (10/22/2010), Chancellor – Sr. Therese Guerin Sullivan, SP, JCL, 1 page

11 The Catholic Encyclopedia – Vol. IV, (1908), Robert Appleton Co., New York, NY., P. 277

12 The Catholic Encyclopedia – Vol. II, (1907), Robert Appleton Co., New York, NY., P. 601

13 Catholic Dictionary, ISBN. 978-0-87973-390-2, (1993, 2002), Editor – Rev. Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Ph. D, S.T.D., Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN., P. 675


Praying for Healing – The Challenge

By Benedict Heron OSB EXTRACT


At the end of this chapter on the sacraments it seems appropriate to write briefly on sacramentals, especially one of them. It is in the Catholic tradition to use sacramentals such as holy water, holy medals, holy statues, holy pictures, icons, beads, scapulars, blessed salt, and blessed oil. It can be good to make use of sacramentals for healing and protection insofar as they are found helpful. However, it is important to remember that it is Jesus who heals and protects, not the holy water, the medals, or other sacramentals. It is also important to avoid any suggestion of magic or superstition: people are healed because Jesus wants to heal them, not because they possess a particular statue or a holy medal.

There is one sacramental which I want particularly to mention, since many Catholics are finding it helpful in connection with healing. There is in the Roman Ritual a blessing for olive oil (or other vegetable oil) which lay people can use for healing or other suitable purposes. The oil has to be blessed by a priest, but lay people can apply it to themselves or others. It can be good to anoint the sick part of the body with this oil as far as that is possible. And the anointing can be repeated as often as seems appropriate, for example, daily. I know of one case in which a man was healed of terminal cancer after being extensively anointed with this blessed oil. I know of another case in which an elderly woman regularly received relief from pain after the anointing.

Yesterday a man told me that when he cannot sleep, he anoints himself with oil and sleep invariably follows quickly. Indeed, not infrequently we receive reports of good things happening after people have been anointed with this oil.
This blessed oil is sometimes referred to as the Oil of Gladness, to distinguish it from that used in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Members of healing teams and others anointing people with this oil should, when necessary, clearly explain that it is not the Sacrament of the Sick.

Needless to say, the use of the blessed oil, like everything else in the healing ministry of prayer, is subject to any diocesan or other regulations which may have been made by the competent authority in the Church.
Since very few priests possess a copy of the complete Roman Ritual, it will be useful to give here the text of this ancient blessing of oil:


Blessing of Oil, for use by Laity
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Response: Who made heaven and earth.
God’s creature, oil, I cast out the demon from you by God the Father Almighty, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that they contain.
Let the adversary’s power, the devil’s legions, and all Satan’s attacks and machinations be dispelled and driven afar from this creature oil.
Let it bring health in body and mind to all who use it, in the name of God + the Father Almighty, and our Lord Jesus Christ + his Son, and the Holy Spirit + the Advocate, as well as in the love of the same Jesus Christ
our Lord, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire. Response: Amen.
Lord, heed my prayer, Response: And let my cry be heard by you.
The Lord be with you. Response: And also with you.
Let us pray. Lord God Almighty, before whom the hosts of angels stand in awe and whose heavenly service we acknowledge, may it please you to regard favourably and bless and hallow this creature oil, which by your power has been pressed from the juice of olives. You have ordained it for anointing the sick, so that, when they are made well, they may give thanks to you, the living and true God. 4.

Grant we pray, that those who use this oil, which we are blessing + in your name, may be delivered from all suffering, all infirmity, and all wiles of the enemy Let it be a means of averting any kind of adversity from man, made in your image and redeemed by the precious blood of your Son, so that he may never again suffer the sting of the ancient serpent, through Christ our Lord. Response: Amen.
(The oil is sprinkled with holy water)

This Blessing is taken from the Roman Ritual, translated by Philip Weller (Milwaukee, Bruce, 1964, page 573).



Mixing Blessed and Unblessed Oils

ROME, January 30, 2007. By Fr. Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

If a priest is running out of the holy oil for anointing the sick blessed by the bishop at the Holy Thursday Chrism Mass, may he mix other unblessed oil with the remaining oil? C.B., Detroit, Michigan
A: The proper matter for this sacrament is olive oil or, if olive oil is unavailable, some other oil made from plants.
The general norm is that the holy oils to be used should those blessed by the bishop. This oil is blessed for the whole year at the Chrism Mass. The Roman ritual of anointing (no. 22) encourages the minister of anointing to “make sure that the oil remains fit for use and should replenish it from time to time, either yearly when the bishop blesses the oil on Holy Thursday or more frequently if necessary.”
Canon 847 of the Code of Canon Law further enjoins priests to obtain recently consecrated or blessed oils from his own bishop and not to use old oils except in case of necessity.
If a parish is running short, then the priest could inquire at the cathedral, as many dioceses keep a reserve supply during the year. One may also ask at another parish, especially one that has no hospitals, if it can spare some oil. When a priest has no blessed oil and a grave need occurs, Canon 999 provides him with a solution so that nobody might be deprived of the grace of this sacrament. It states that any priest may bless the oil in a case of necessity but only in the actual celebration of the sacrament. Although the canon restricts the priest’s blessing of the oil to cases of necessity it does not determine the degree of the necessity and the priest may judge it in each case. If this is done, the ritual explains that any oil blessed by the priest and left over after the celebration of the sacrament, should be absorbed in cotton or cotton wool and burned. Because of the priest’s faculty of blessing the holy oils in case of need, the questions about using or mixing in unblessed oils should no longer be an issue. Previously, the general opinion was that the use of unblessed oil or oil blessed by an unauthorized priest was of doubtful validity. The Holy See had responded negatively to propositions favoring these opinions, but it did so in terms that did not entirely settle the question from the dogmatic point of view. The debate remained open among theologians regarding the possibility of using a different holy oil blessed by the bishop (either the chrism or the oil of catechumens) for the sacrament of the sick. Also unsettled was the question of whether mixing blessed and unblessed oil invalidated the sacramental matter. Many theologians approved of the first opinion: that different holy oils could be used. Fewer theologians, however, proposed the possibility of mixing blessed and unblessed oils. The questions were never definitively resolved and, as we mentioned, have been superseded by the new discipline allowing the priest to bless the oils. No matter what the theological opinions might have been, all were in agreement that priests administrating this sacrament should follow exactly the Church’s liturgical norms and not risk any danger of invalidity. This advice remains valid today.




The Brown Scapular: a “Silent Devotion”

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 16, 2008 ( By Discalced Carmelite Father Kieran Kavanaugh EXTRACT

Devotion to Mary expressed by wearing the brown scapular seems to be resilient and resists the attempts made in various periods of history to diminish its value. The faithful keep coming back to it. From the official teaching of the Church, we can gather that the scapular of Carmel is one of the most highly recommended Marian devotions. This is true through the centuries, and into our own times with popes Paul VI and John Paul II.
One of the early Carmelites in his enthusiasm went so far as to call the scapular a “sacrament.” Actually the category into which the scapular fits is that of a sacramental.
Sacramentals are sacred signs. The scapular is not a natural sign in the sense that smoke is the sign of fire. Smoke is intrinsically connected with fire. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, the saying goes.
The scapular is what is called a conventional sign. In the case of a conventional sign, the meaning is assigned to the object from outside. Thus a wedding ring is a sign or pledge of mutual love and enduring fidelity between two spouses. In this kind of sign, which is a conventional sign, there has to be an intervention from outside that establishes the connection between the object and what it represents. 5.

In the case of sacramentals, it is the Church that determines the connection.
Sacramentals also signify effects obtained through the intercession of the Church, especially spiritual graces. The sacramentals — as holy pictures or icons, statues, medals, holy water, blessed palm and the scapular — are means that dispose one to receive the chief effect of the sacraments themselves, and this is closer union with Jesus.
St. Teresa of Avila for example speaks in her life about holy water and the power she experienced that this sacramental has against the devil. She mentions as well how this power comes not through the object in itself but through the prayer through the prayer of the Church.
Along with the sacraments, sacramentals sanctify almost every aspect of human life with divine grace. The passion, death, and resurrection of Christ is the source of the power of the sacramentals as it is
of the sacraments themselves.
Such everyday things as water and words, oil and anointing, cloth and beeswax, paintings and songs are ingredients of the sacraments and sacramentals. The Son of God became the Son of Mary. What could be more down-to-earth, more human, indeed more unpretentious, plain, and simple?

Church position
With regard to the scapular as a conventional and sacred sign, the Church has intervened at various times in history to clarify its meaning, defend it, and confirm the privileges.

From these Church documents there emerges with sufficient clarity the nature and meaning of the Carmelite scapular.
1. The scapular is a Marian habit or garment. It is both a sign and pledge. A sign of belonging to Mary; a pledge of her motherly protection, not only in this life but after death.
2. As a sign, it is a conventional sign signifying three elements strictly joined: first, belonging to a religious family particularly devoted to Mary, especially dear to Mary, the Carmelite Order; second, consecration to Mary, devotion to and trust in her Immaculate Heart; third an incitement to become like Mary by imitating her virtues, above all her humility, chastity, and spirit of prayer.
This is the Church’s officially established connection between the sign and that which is signified by the sign.
No mention is made of the vision of St. Simon Stock or of that of Pope John XXII in relation to the Sabbatine privilege, which promises that one will be released from Purgatory on the first Saturday after death.
Nonetheless, the Carmelites have also been authorized to freely preach to the faithful that they can piously believe in the powerful intercession, merits, and suffrages of the Blessed Virgin, that she will help them even after their death, especially on Saturday, which is the day of the week particularly dedicated to Mary, if they have died in the grace of God and devoutly worn the scapular. But no mention is made of the “first” Saturday after their death.
Even the Sabbatine privilege, then, is not so unconnected with the rest of our Catholic faith and practice. The Second Vatican Council has also insisted on Mary’s solicitude toward those who seek her protection. “From the earliest times the Blessed Virgin is honored under the title of Mother of God, under whose protection the faithful take refuge together in prayer in all their perils and needs (“Lumen Gentium,” No. 66).
If some day an historian were to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that there are no grounds to the Marian apparition to St. Simon Stock or the scapular promise, the scapular devotion would still maintain its value. The Church’s esteem of it as a sacramental, her appreciation of its meaning and of the good that has come about through its pious use on the part of the faithful is all that is needed.

See also


SIGN OF GRACE, SIGN OF GLORYSix reasons why we make the Sign of the Cross

By Bert Ghezzi, author of books including “The Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer”

Catholics often make the Sign of the Cross casually, just as a nice gesture for beginning and ending their prayers. But when we learn to take this act seriously, signing ourselves frequently with faith and reverence, remarkable results can take place. We find ourselves doing measurably better in our Christian life: praying with more passion, resisting our bad inclinations more effectively, and relating to others more kindly.
The Sign of the Cross, after all, is not merely a pious gesture. It is a powerful prayer, a sacramental of the Church.
Scripture, the Church Fathers and saints, and Catholic teaching offer six perspectives on the Sign of the Cross that reveal why making it opens us to life-transforming graces. Once we grasp them, we can make the gesture with more faith and experience its great blessings.

Six Reasons to Make the Sign

1. A MINI-CREED. The Sign of the Cross is a profession of faith in God as He has revealed himself. It serves as an abbreviated form of the Apostles’ Creed.
Touching our forehead, breast and shoulders (and in some cultures, our lips as well), we declare our belief in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are announcing our faith in what God has done — the creation of all things, the redemption of humanity from sin and death, and the establishment of the Church, which offers new life to all. 6. When we sign ourselves we are making ourselves aware of God’s presence and opening ourselves to His action in our lives. That much alone would be enough to transform us spiritually, wouldn’t it? But there is much, much more.
2. A RENEWAL OF BAPTISM. First-century Christians began making the Sign of the Cross as a reminder and renewal of what happened to them when they were baptized. It still works the same way for us. When we sign ourselves we are declaring that in baptism we died sacramentally with Christ on the cross and rose to a new life with Him (see Rom 6:3-4 and Gal 2:20). We are asking the Lord to renew in us those baptismal graces.
We are also acknowledging that baptism joined us to the Body of Christ and equipped us for our role of collaborating with the Lord in His work of rescuing all people from sin and death.
3. A MARK OF DISCIPLESHIP. At baptism the Lord claimed us as His own by marking us with the Sign of the Cross. Now, when we sign ourselves, we are affirming our loyalty to Him. By tracing the cross on our bodies, we are denying that we belong to ourselves and declaring that we belong to Him alone (see Lk 9:23).
The Church Fathers used the same word for the Sign of the Cross that the ancient world employed to indicate ownership. The same word named a shepherd’s brand on his sheep, a general’s tattoo on his soldiers, a householder’s mark on his servants, and the Lord’s mark on His disciples.
Signing ourselves recognizes that we are Christ’s sheep and can count on His care; His soldiers, commissioned to work with Him in advancing His kingdom on earth; and His servants, dedicated to doing whatever He tells us.
4. AN ACCEPTANCE OF SUFFERING. Jesus promised us that suffering would be a normal part of a disciple’s life (see Lk 9:23-24). So when we mark our bodies with the sign, we are embracing whatever pain comes as a consequence of our faith in Christ. Making the sign is our taking up the cross and following Him (Lk 9:23).
At the same time, however, it comforts us with the realization that Jesus, who endured the Crucifixion for us, now joins us in our suffering and supports us. Signing ourselves also announces another significant truth: with St. Paul, we are celebrating that our afflictions as members of the body of Christ contribute to the Lord’s saving work of perfecting the Church in holiness (see Col 1:24).
5. A TWO-EDGED MOVE AGAINST THE DEVIL. When the devil watched Jesus die on the cross, he mistakenly believed he had won a great victory. Instead, the Lord surprised him with an ignominious defeat (see 1 Cor 2:8). From the first Easter morning through the present, the Sign of the Cross makes the devil cower and flee.
On one level, then, making the sign is a defensive move, declaring our inviolability to the devil’s influence. But, more importantly, the sign is also an offensive weapon, helping us reclaim with Christ all that Satan lost at the cross. It announces our cooperation with Jesus in the indomitable advance of the kingdom of God against the kingdom of darkness.
6. A VICTORY OVER THE FLESH. In the New Testament, the word flesh sums up all the evil inclinations of our old nature that persist in us even after we die with Christ in baptism (see Gal 5:16-22). Making the Sign of the Cross expresses our decision to crucify these desires of the flesh and to live by the Spirit.
Like tossing off a dirty shirt or blouse, making the sign indicates our stripping ourselves of our evil inclinations and clothing ourselves with the behaviors of Christ (see Col 3:5-15).
The Church Fathers taught that the Sign of the Cross diffused the force of powerful temptations such as anger and lust. So, no matter how strongly we are tempted, we can use the Sign of the Cross to activate our freedom in Christ and conquer even our besetting sins.
Apply These Truths Now. Right now, you can imprint in your heart these six truths about the Sign of the Cross by making it six times, each time applying one of the perspectives.
First, sign yourself professing your faith in God.
Second, mark yourself remembering that you died with Christ in baptism.
Third, make the sign to declare that you belong to Christ as His disciple and will obey Him.
Fourth, sign yourself to embrace whatever suffering comes and to celebrate your suffering with Christ for the Church.
Fifth, make the Sign of the Cross as a defense against the devil and as an offensive advance of God’s kingdom against him.
Finally, make the sign to crucify your flesh and to put on Christ and His behaviors.
Go through these six signings often in your morning prayer — and watch the grace flow through this ancient sacramental in the days to come.



A Church is an assembly of the faithful, hierarchically ordered, both in the entire world – the Catholic Church, or in a certain territory – a particular Church. To be a sacrament (a sign) of the Mystical Body of Christ in the world, a Church must have both a head and members (Col. 1:18). The sacramental sign of Christ the Head is the sacred hierarchy – the bishops, priests and deacons (Eph. 2:19-22). More specifically, it is the local bishop, with his priests and deacons gathered around and assisting him in his office of teaching, sanctifying and governing (Mt. 28:19-20; Titus 1:4-9). The sacramental sign of the Mystical Body is the Christian faithful. 7.

Thus the Church of Christ is fully present sacramentally (by way of a sign) wherever there is a sign of Christ the Head, a bishop and those who assist him, and a sign of Christ’s Body, Christian faithful. Each diocese is therefore a particular Church.
The Church of Christ is also present sacramentally in ritual Churches that represent an ecclesiastical tradition of celebrating the sacraments. They are generally organized under a Patriarch, who together with the bishops and other clergy of that ritual Church represent Christ the Head to the people of that tradition. In some cases a Rite is completely coincident with a Church. For example, the Maronite Church with its Patriarch has a Rite not found in any other Church. In other cases, such as the Byzantine Rite, several Churches use the same or a very similar liturgical Rite. For example, the Ukrainian Catholic Church uses the Byzantine Rite, but this Rite is also found in other Catholic Churches, as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches not in union with Rome.
Finally, the Church of Christ is sacramentally present in the Universal or Catholic Church spread over the world. It is identified by the sign of Christ our Rock, the Bishop of Rome, Successor of St. Peter (Mt. 16:18). To be Catholic particular Churches and rites must be in communion with this Head, just as the other apostles, and the Churches they founded, were in communion with Peter (Gal. 1:18). Through this communion with Peter and his successors the Church becomes a universal sacrament of salvation in all times and places, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20).



By Bishop Fulton J. Sheen EXTRACT

The Bible Is a Sacramental
Coming closer to the meaning of sacrament, the Bible is a sacramental in the sense that it has a foreground and a back-ground. In the foreground are the actors, the cult, the temple, the wars, the sufferings, and the glories of men. In the background, however, is the all-pervading presence of God as the Chief Actor, Who subjects nations to judgment according to their obedience or disobedience to the moral law, and Who uses incidents or historical facts as types, or symbols, of something else that will happen.

For example, take the brazen serpent in the desert. When the Jewish people were bitten by poisonous serpents, God commanded Moses to make a brazen serpent, and to hang it over the crotch of a tree; all who would look upon that serpent of brass would be healed of the serpent’s sting. This apparently was a rather ridiculous remedy for poison and not everyone looked on it. If one could divine or guess their reason, it would probably be because they concentrated on only one side of the symbol; namely, the lifeless, shiny, brass thing hanging on a tree. But it proved to be a symbol of faith: God used that material thing as a symbol of trust or faith in Him.
The symbolism goes still further. The Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ, Who reveals the full mystery of the brazen serpent. Our Lord told Nicodemus that the brass serpent was lifted up in the desert, so that He would have to be lifted up on a Cross. The meaning now became clear: the brass serpent in the desert looked like the serpent that bit the people; but though it seemed to be the same, it was actually without any poison. Our Blessed Lord now says that He is like that brazen serpent. He, too, would be lifted up on the crotch of a tree, a Cross. He would look as if He Himself was filled with the poison of sin, for His Body would bear the marks, and the stings, and the piercing of sin; and yet as the brass serpent was without poison so He would be without sin. As those who looked upon that brass serpent in the desert in faith were healed of the bite of the serpent, so all who would look upon Him on His Cross bearing the sins and poisons of the world would also be healed of the poison of the serpent, Satan.
The word “sacrament” in Greek means “mystery,” and Christ has been called by St. Paul “the mystery hidden from the ages.” In Him is something divine, something human; something eternal, something temporal; something invisible, something visible. The mystery of Bethlehem was the Son of God taking upon Himself a human nature to unite human nature and divine nature in one Person. He Who, in the language of Scripture, could stop the turning about of the Arcturus, had the prophecy of His birthplace determined, however unconsciously, by a Caesar ordering an imperial census. He Who clothed the fields with grass, Himself was clothed with swaddling bands. He from Whose hands came planets and worlds had tiny arms that were not quite long enough to touch the huge heads of the cattle. He Who trod the everlasting hills was too weak to walk. The Eternal Word was dumb. The Bird that built the nest of the world was hatched therein.
The human nature of Our Blessed Lord had no power to sanctify of and by itself; that is to say, apart from its union with divinity. But because of that union, the humanity of Christ became the efficient cause of our justification and sanctification and will be until the end of the world. Herein is hidden a hint of the sacraments. The humanity of Christ was the bearer of divine life and the means of making men holy; the sacraments were also to become the effective signs of the sanctification purchased by His death. As Our Blessed Lord was the sensible sign of God, so the sacraments were to become the sensible signs of the grace which Our Lord had won for us.
If men were angels or pure spirits, there would have been no need of Christ using human natures or material things for the communication of the divine; but because man is composed of matter and spirit, body and soul, man functions best when he sees the material as the revealer of the spiritual. 8.


From the very beginning of man’s life, his mother’s fondling is not merely to leave an impress upon his infant body, but rather to communicate the sublimely beautiful and invisible love of the mother. It is not the material thing which a man values, but rather what is signified by the material thing. As Thomas a Kempis said, “regard not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver.” We tear price tags from gifts so that there will be no material relationship existing between the love that gave the thing and the thing itself. If man had no soul or spiritual destiny, then communism would satisfy. If man were only a biological organism, then he would be content to eat and to sleep and to die like a cow.

What is a Sacramental?

What is a sacramental?

A. A sacramental is a sign instituted (created) by the Church’s intercession (prayer on behalf of others).

B. T o help us in our spiritual life.

What is the purpose of Sacramentals?

A. Sacramentals are sacred signs that bring us closer to God’s grace.

B. They help us develop an attitude of prayer, faith, holiness, and devotion.


What can sacramentals do?

Through the intercession of the Church and their correct use (devotion), Sacramentals can:

A. Drive away evil spirits,

B. Remit venial sin

C. Prepare us for grace (God’s very life).


What could be a sacramental?

A. Sacramentals can be material things like rosaries, crosses, holy water.

B. Sacramentals can be actions such as: genuflection, sign of the cross, prayers, blessings.



Anything blessed by a priest can become a sacramental.

Catholics are encouraged to bless, to set aside objects for the glory of God.

We bless meals, Bibles, cars, houses, etc. We are encouraged to receive blessings and to bless others.


Types of sacramentals


Holy Water




Holy images

Holy vessels



Blessed Palms






Some sacramentals remind us of the sacraments. Holy water reminds us of baptism.

Ashes remind us of reconciliation, penance


What is a sacramental?

From The Baltimore Catechism

Question: What is a sacramental?

Answer: A sacramental is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to increase devotion, and through these movements of the heart to remit venial sin.

This is Question 292 of the Baltimore Catechism, a work in the public domain.



In instituting the sacraments Christ did not determine the matter and form down to the slightest detail, leaving this task to the Church, which should determine what rites were suitable in the administration of the sacraments. These rites are indicated by the word Sacramentalia, the object of which is to manifest the respect due to the sacrament and to secure the sanctification of the faithful. They belong to widely different categories, e.g.: substance, in the mingling of water with Eucharistic wine; quantity, in the triple baptismal effusion; quality, in the condition of unleavened bread; relation, in the capacity of the minister; time and place, in feast-days and churches; habit, in the liturgical vestments; posture, in genuflection, prostrations; action, in chanting etc. So many external conditions connect the sacramentals with the virtue of religion, their object being indicated by the Council of Trent (Session XXII, 15), that it is asserted that apart from their ancient origin and traditional maintenance ceremonies, blessings, lights, incense, etc. enhance the dignity of the Holy Sacrifice and arouse the piety of the faithful. Moreover the sacramentals help to distinguish the members of the Church from heretics, who have done away with the sacramentals or use them arbitrarily with little intelligence.

Sacramental rites are dependent on the Church which established them, and which therefore has the right to maintain, develop, modify, or abrogate them. The ceremonial regulation of the sacraments in Apostolic times is sufficiently proved by the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians with regard to the Eucharist:

“Cetera autem, cum venero, disponam” [the rest I will set in order when I come (1 Corinthians 11:34)], which St. Augustine, on what ground we know not, supposes to refer to the obligation of the Eucharistic fast (Ep. liv, “Ad Januarium”, c. 6, n. 8, in P.L., XXXIII, 203). The Fathers of the Church enumerate ceremonies and rites, some of which were instituted by the Apostles, others by the early Christians (cf. Justin Martyr, “Apol. I”, n. 61, 65 in P.G., VI, 419, 427; Tertullian, “De baptismo”, vii in P.L., I, 1206; St. Basil, On the Holy Spirit 67). The Catholic
Church, which is the heiress of the Apostles, has always used and maintained against heretics this power over sacramentals. To her and to her alone belongs the right to determine the matter, form, and minister of the sacramentals. The Church, that is, the supreme authority represented by its visible head, alone legislates in this matter, because the bishops no longer have in practice the power to modify of abolish by a particular legislation what is imposed on the universal Church. What concerns the administration of the sacraments is contained in detail in the Roman Ritual and the Episcopal Ceremoniale.

Apart from the ceremonies relating to the administration of the sacraments the Church has instituted others for the purpose of private devotion. To distinguish between them, the latter are named sacramentals because of the resemblance between their rites and those of the sacraments properly so-called. In ancient times the term sacrament alone was used, but numerous confusions resulted and the similarity of rites and terms led many Christians to regard both as sacraments. After Peter Lombard the use and definition of the word “sacramental” had a fixed character and was exclusively applicable to those rites presenting an external resemblance to the sacraments but not applicable to the sensible signs of Divine institution. St. Thomas Aquinas makes use of the terms sacra and sacramentalia (Summa I-II, Q. cviii, a. 2 ad 2um; III, Q. lxv, a. 1 ad 8um), which the theologians of a later period adopted, so that at present sacramentalia is exclusively reserved for those rites which are practiced apart from the administration of the seven sacraments, for which the word ceremonies is used.

The number of the sacramentals may not be limited; nevertheless, the attempt has been made to determine their general principles or rather applications in the verse: “Orans, tinctus, edens, confessus, dans, benedicens”.

Another distinction classifies sacramentals according to whether they are acts, e.g. the Confiteor mentioned above, or things, such as medals, holy water etc. The sacramentals do not produce sanctifying grace
ex opere operato, by virtue of the rite or substance employed, and this constitutes their essential difference from the sacraments. The Church is unable to increase or reduce the number of sacraments as they were instituted by Christ, but the sacramentals do not possess this dignity and privilege. Theologians do not agree as to whether the sacramentals may confer any other grace ex opere operantis through the action of the one who uses them, but the negative opinion is more generally followed, for as the Church cannot confer sanctifying grace nor institute signs thereof, neither can she institute efficacious signs of the other graces which God alone can give. Moreover, as experience teaches, the sacramentals do not infallibly produce their effect. Finally in the euchologic formulas of the sacramentals the Church makes use, not of affirmative, but of deprecatory expressions, which shows that she looks directly to Divine mercy for the effect.

Besides the efficacy which the sacramentals possess in common with other good
works they have a special efficacy of their own. If their whole value proceeded from the opus operantis, all external good
works could be called sacramentals. The special virtue recognized by the Church and experienced by Christians in the sacramentals should consist in the official prayers whereby we implore God to pour forth special graces on those who make use of the sacramentals. These prayers move God to give graces which He would not otherwise give, and when not infallibly acceded to it is for reasons known to His Wisdom. God is aware of the measure in which He should bestow His gifts. All the sacramentals have not the same effect; this depends on the prayer of the Church which does not make use of the same urgency nor have recourse to the same Divine sources of merit. Some sacramentals derive no special efficacy from the prayer of the Church; such are those which are employed in worship, without a blessing, or even with a blessing which does not specify any particular fruit. This is the case with the blessing of vessels meant to contain the holy oils: “Give ear to our prayers, most merciful Father, and deign to bless and sanctify these purified vessels prepared for the use of the sacred ministry of Thy Church”. On the other hand, some sacramentals, among them one of those most frequently used, holy water, are the object of a benediction which details their particular effects.

One of the most remarkable effects of sacramentals is the virtue to drive away evil spirits whose mysterious and baleful operations affect sometimes the physical activity of man. To combat this occult power the Church has recourse to exorcism and sacramentals. Another effect is the delivery of the soul from sin and the penalties therefor. Thus in the blessing of a cross the Church asks that this sacred sign may receive the heavenly blessing in order that all those who kneel before it and implore the Divine Majesty may be granted great compunction and a general pardon of faults committed. This means remission of venial sins, for the sacraments alone, with perfect contrition, possess the efficacy to remit mortal sins and to release from the penalties attached to them. St. Thomas is explicit on this point: “The episcopal blessing, the aspersion of holy water, every sacramental unction, prayer in a dedicated church, and the like, effect the remission of venial sins, implicitly or explicitly” (Summa III, Q. lxxxvii, a. 3, ad 1um). Finally the sacramentals may be employed to obtain temporal favours, since the Church herself blesses objects made use of in every-day life, e.g. the blessing of a house on which is called down the abundance of heavenly dew and the rich fruitfulness of the earth; so likewise in the benediction of the fields, in which God is asked to pour down His blessings on the harvests, so that the wants of the needy may be supplied by the fertile earth.

Ecclesiastical approbation.
Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.


From the Konkani Catholics blog, January 4-6, 2008

David MacDonald is a convert into Catholicism and he’s a singer; his website
The site does provide a wealth of information for Evangelicals on their various doubts and questions on the Catholic faith. The answers are simple and easy to understand and have the additional force of his testimony and music background.
Here is the section on “Sacramentals” (and I hope our readers know what “Sacramentals” – not Sacraments – are). This is how he explains it:
QUOTE: Many Evangelicals have a problem with the Catholic idea that a material item can conduct spiritual power. Despite this criticism, many Evangelicals freely use the idea of Sacraments and Sacramentals in their ministry (though they don’t call it such). For example:
-blessing people (especially the laying on of hands)
-praying over a house that it might be free of any negative spiritual powers
-anointing people with holy oil during a healing service
-saying Grace (i.e., “Bless this food to our use and us to thy Service, for Christ Sake Amen”)
-There is a great Kirk Franklin (Evangelical) song off the Revolution album that says:
“There’s healing in the water, down by the riverside”
The Evangelist Billy Graham in his last trip to Ottawa, said “after we leave this hockey arena, even the steel beams will have absorbed our prayers and will affect everyone who comes into this building for secular events.” These are all examples of Evangelicals practicing what a Catholic would call a Sacramental. UNQUOTE
If I did know the Church’s teachings on Sacramentals well enough, I would possibly risk deriving at least one – if not all – of the following conclusions (and more) after reading the above:
1. Some objects possess miraculous power.
2. Anyone can perform an exorcism.
3. Billy Graham must be very “powerful”. 11.
I know this sounds funny but this is where we need to know what the Church teaches us about Sacramentals.
The all-important point which is missing in the whole explanation is that A SACRAMENTAL IS INSTITUTED BY THE CHURCH (unlike a Sacrament which is instituted by Christ). Evangelicals need to know that Catholics don’t believe in any or every object, gesture, words/prayer, action, time or place in being sacramentals, but only those deriving from the Church’s authority.
Secondly, unlike Sacraments, the efficacy of Sacramentals depends not on the rite itself, but on the influence of prayerful petition; that of the person who uses them and of the Church in approving their practice. In other words, Sacramentals merely signify effects which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. Therefore they ALWAYS include a prayer and often a sign like laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water.
Therefore they are not and should not be treated as something magical, material objects which possess preternatural powers that can be invoked without reference to the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ which is the true source of the power
of Sacramentals.
These important distinctions can obscure the proper meaning of Sacramentals. But with this understanding we can now correct the 3 misleading conclusions listed above.
1. Sacramentals do not by themselves confer the grace of the Holy Spirit but prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it.
2. An exorcism is a Sacramental and therefore is subject to Church authority and legislation. According to the Church law in force, a solemn exorcism can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop.
3. A sacramental is instituted and recognized as such by the Church, not by an individual. Further they draw their power from the Paschal mystery and the effect and obtain effects through the intercession of the Church.
Austine, moderator



By Father William P. Saunders

Q: Could you please explain what a “blessing” is?—A reader in Ashburn

A: Blessings come under the category of sacramentals. A sacramental is a special prayer, action or object which, through the prayers of the Church, prepares a person to receive grace and to better cooperate with it. One example is when we make the Sign of the Cross using holy water when entering a church. That pious action and the holy water itself, which together remind us of our baptism, awaken us to the presence of God and dispose us to receiving God’s grace. Unlike a sacrament, a sacramental does not itself confer the grace of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, like a sacrament, a sacramental helps the faithful to sanctify each moment of life and to live in the paschal mystery of our Lord.

Among the sacramentals, blessings would be foremost. In the decree publishing the “Book of Blessings”, Cardinal Mayer, then prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, wrote, “The celebration of blessings holds a privileged place among all the sacramentals created by the Church for the pastoral benefit of the people of God. As a liturgical action the celebration leads the faithful to praise God and prepares them for the principle effect of the sacraments.

By celebrating a blessing, the faithful can also sanctify various situations and events in their lives.”

Blessings are signs to the faithful of the spiritual benefits achieved through the Church’s intercession.

Throughout sacred Scripture, we find how God issued various blessings. In the account of creation, God blessed all the living creatures and especially Adam and Eve, telling them to be fertile, to multiply and to full the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:22, 28). After the flood, God blessed Noah and his sons (Genesis 9:1ff).

The Patriarchs administered blessings, particularly to the eldest son, signifying a bestowing of God’s benevolence, peace and protection. In a similar vein, the Lord spoke to Moses and commanded the following blessing for all the Israelites: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord Look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Numbers 6:22-27).

The people also blessed God, praising His goodness shown through creation as illustrated in the beautiful hymn of praise in the Book of Daniel (3:52-90). The Preface for Eucharistic Prayer IV captures well this understanding of a blessing: “Father in Heaven…source of life and goodness, you have created all things, to fill your creatures with every blessing and lead all men to the joyful vision of your light.”

For us Christians, blessings have taken on an even greater meaning through Christ who perfectly revealed to us the goodness and love of God. St. Paul wrote, “Praised be the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing.”

Jesus blessed those He encountered: the little children (Mk 10:13-16) and the Apostles at the ascension (Lk 24:50-53). He blessed objects: the loaves used to feed the 5,000 (Mk 6:34ff) and the bread of the Last Supper (Mt 26:26-30).

Since Christ entrusted His saving ministry to the Church, it has instituted various blessings for people as well as objects to prompt the faithful to implore God’s protection, divine assistance, mercy, faithfulness and favor. 12.

Who can do a blessing? The Catechism states, “Every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing’ and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more its administration is reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priest, deacons)” (No. 1669).

Priests are the ordinary ministers of blessings, asking God’s help for those people being blessed or dedicating something to a sacred service; the priest’s blessing is imparted with the weight of the Church and therefore has great value in the eyes of God.

The blessing of a layperson upon another, such as a parent blessing a child, is an act of good will whereby the person implores God’s aid for the person; the value of this blessing in the eyes of God depends upon the person’s individual sincerity and sanctity.

Blessings are categorized into two types: invocative and constitutive. In an invocative blessing, the minister implores the divine favor of God to grant some spiritual or temporal good without any change of condition, such as when a parent blessed a child. This blessing is also a recognition of God’s goodness in bestowing this “blessing” upon us, such as when we offer a blessing for our food at meal time. In blessing objects or places, a view is also taken toward those who will use the objects or visit the places.

A constitutive blessing, invoked by a bishop, priest or deacon, signifies the permanent sanctification and dedication of a person or thing for some sacred purpose. Here the person or object takes on a sacred character and would not be returned to non-sacred or profane use. For example, when religious Sisters or Brothers profess final vows, they are blessed, indicating a permanent change in their lives. Or, when a chalice is blessed, it becomes a sacred vessel dedicated solely to sacred usage.

In all, in bestowing His own blessing, God declares His goodness. We in turn bless God by praising Him, thanking Him for all of His benefits and offering to Him our service, adoration and worship. When we invoke God’s blessing, we implore His divine benevolence, trusting that He will respond to our needs.

Fr. Saunders is president of Notre Dame Institute and associate pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, both in Alexandria.

This article appeared in the March 2, 1995 issue of “The Arlington Catholic Herald.” Courtesy of the “Arlington Catholic Herald” diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.


Blessings without a Stole From ( ZE07051529

ROME, May 15, 2007 By Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
I was told that a priest’s blessing over a person or object, given without wearing his stole, is one given by himself as a man, whereas a blessing given while wearing his stole has more power in that it comes with the power and protection of the charisms given him as a Vicar of Christ. Is this true? Should we ask them to wear their stole when they give a blessing? When children approach our pastor for a blessing with their arms crossed over their chest during Communion, he taps them on the head with the back of his hand and says: “God bless you.” Is the back of the hand appropriate? Is this a blessing? Isn’t he retaining the blessing rather? — E.S., Ontario
A: Certain liturgical blessings, such as the blessing of holy water, naturally demand the use of a stole due to fidelity to the rite. In such cases both the proper vesture and the correct liturgical formulas should be used without cutting corners out of expediency. The use of the stole for other blessings is an eloquent symbol of the priestly condition and ministry and is thus to be commended whenever practical. The use of the stole, however, is not required for the validity of these sacramentals. Nor can it be said that a priest’s blessing is “more powerful” when he wears the liturgical garb, since his ability to impart these blessings derives from his ordination and not from any external vesture.
The Holy Father frequently imparts the apostolic blessing without a stole during the weekly recitation of the Angelus. Priests are also frequently called upon to bless people or objects of devotion on the spur of the moment with no possibility of donning a stole. In all such cases the effects of the blessing is the same regardless of vesture.
With respect to the second question, I believe that the priest’s gesture probably stems from respect toward the Eucharist and toward the communicants. Since he touches the hosts with his fingers he probably wishes to avoid using them to touch the children. This is probably the priest’s personal decision and does not correspond to any particular liturgical norms. It is highly doubtful that he desires to retain the blessing, and his words are enough to convey his intention.
Even where this blessing of non-communicants has been specifically approved (and some dioceses specifically discourage or forbid it), the question of the proper gestures is as yet unclear. For motives of respect toward the Eucharist I would suggest that it is preferable to impart this blessing without touching the person being blessed. Follow-up:
Blessings Without a Stole, May 29, 2007, from ( ZE07052920
In line with our column on blessings without a stole (May 15), several readers have asked a similar question: “Is it proper for lay extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to give a ‘blessing’ to young children or people who cannot (or choose not to) receive the Eucharist?” 13.

There are many ways of distinguishing kinds of blessings and sacramentals. One such distinction is between constituent and invocative sacramental.
The effect of a constituent sacramental is to transform the person or object being blessed in such a way that it is separated from profane use. Examples would include the blessing of an abbot and the blessing of holy water. Practically all of these blessings are reserved to an ordained minister and sometimes are the exclusive preserve of the bishop. Invocative blessings call down God’s blessing and protection upon a person or thing without sacralizing them in any way. Some of these blessings are reserved to the ordained, such as the blessing of the assembly at the end of a liturgical celebration.
Some blessings may also be imparted by lay people by delegation or by reason of some special liturgical ministry, above all when an ordained minister is absent or impeded (see general introduction to the Shorter Book of Blessings, No. 18). In these cases lay people use the appropriate formulas designated for lay ministers. This latter situation is probably the case of the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who ask that God’s blessing may come upon those who for some good reason approach the altar but do not receive Communion. Finally, some simple blessings may be given by lay people in virtue of their office, for example, parents on behalf of their children.

Instruction INCULTURATION AND THE ROMAN LITURGY Varietates Legitimae

Fourth Instruction for the Right Application of the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy (Nos. 37-40) Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, March 29, 1994.


59. The blessing of persons, places or things touches the everyday life of the faithful and answers their immediate needs. They offer many possibilities for adaptation, for maintaining local customs and admitting popular usages. [131] Episcopal conferences will be able to employ the foreseen dispositions and be attentive to the needs of the country.


131. Cf. ibid., 79; De Benedictionibus, Praenotanda Generalia, 39; Ordo Professionis Religiosae, Praenotanda, 12-15.


Vatican demands end to anointings with “oil of gladness”

October 13, 2008 – In a sharply worded message to the head of the South African bishops’ conference, the Congregation for Divine Worship has called for an end to the widespread practice of anointing people with the “oil of gladness” in unauthorized Catholic rituals. Archbishop Albert Ranjith, the secretary of the Vatican Congregation, pointed out in a letter to Cardinal Wilfrid Napier that “there are only three blessed oils used in the Roman Ritual, namely, the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and the Sacred Chrism. The use of any other oil or any other ‘anointing’ than those found in the approved liturgical books must be considered proscribed and subject to ecclesiastical penalties.” He asked the South African prelate to report back to Rome on actions taken to end the abuse.


Oils of gladness ain’t oils: Vatican says

October 15, 2008 The Congregation for Divine Worship has written to the South African Bishops Conference calling for an end to the practice of anointing people with the “oil of gladness”.

Catholic Culture reports that in a sharply worded message to SACBC head, Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop Albert Ranjith, the secretary of the Vatican Congregation, pointed out that “there are only three blessed oils used in the Roman Ritual, namely, the Oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and the Sacred Chrism.”

“The use of any other oil or any other ‘anointing’ than those found in the approved liturgical books must be considered proscribed and subject to ecclesiastical penalties, “Archbishop Ranjith wrote.

He asked the South African prelate to report back to Rome on actions taken to end the abuse.











Congregation for Divine Worship Letter






Storage of the Holy Oils

ROME, October 4, 2005 ( Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Can an altar be used to house and display the vessels containing the holy oils blessed during the Chrism Mass, i.e., in the same fashion as a reliquary is sometimes housed behind a metal grille within an altar (like those of St. Pius X and Blessed John XXIII in the Vatican basilica)? J.T., Clifton, England
A: Official norms regarding the storage of the holy oils are somewhat scant. The Rite of the Blessing of Oils and Consecrating the Chrism 27-28 indicates that in the sacristy after the Chrism Mass the bishop may instruct the presbyters about the reverent use and safe custody of the holy oils.
There is a growing practice in the Church of visibly displaying the holy oils. These are usually stored, locked, in a niche in the sanctuary wall called an ambry or aumbry. 15.
Apart from the presbytery the ambry is often located near the baptismal font and this is most appropriate in churches with a distinct baptistery. The ambry may also sometimes be placed within the sacristy.
The oils are usually kept in silver or pewter vessels, albeit these often have glass interiors for the sake of practicality. Each vessel should also have some inscription indicating the contents such as CHR (Chrism), CAT (Catechumens) or O.I. (“oleum infirmorum”).
The visible display of the holy oils, by means of a grille of a transparent door, does not seem to present a particular problem and in some cases serves to avoid exchanging an ambry for a tabernacle. If the door is opaque it should usually have an indication either near or upon it saying “Holy oils.”
The use of an altar as an ambry in the manner described in your question would detract from the centrality of the altar. I do not consider it appropriate.
There is also no precedent for such a practice in the tradition of the Church as she has usually only placed the relics of the saints beneath the altar.
It might be acceptable, however, to locate an ambry above an old side altar no longer used for celebrating the Eucharist. But placing it below would likely lead to having the oils confused with relics.
Stretching the issue, one could even adduce a certain historical precedent in the fact that, in some ancient churches, when the tabernacle was almost universally transferred to the high altar after the 16th century, the former wall tabernacle was used to store the holy oils.
Apart from the holy oils stored in the ambry, priests may also keep smaller stocks on hand of the oil for anointing the sick.

More on Holy Oils

ROME, October 18, 2005 ( – Pursuant to our replies regarding the public display of the holy oils (October 4) several questions turned upon their proper use outside of the sacraments themselves.
Several readers asked if holy oils may be used in blessings in lieu of holy water or for other paraliturgical acts, for example, in retreats or commissioning ceremonies in which teachers or catechists are anointed.
The question is difficult to respond to from the viewpoint of official documents as, in all probability; it probably had never entered into anybody’s head that such things would occur.
Apart from the use of holy oils for the sacraments, the sacred chrism is also used by the bishop in solemnly dedicating a church and an altar. Apart from these, the official rituals of the Church do not foresee other uses for the holy oils.
One official document refers to the incorrect use of anointing by lay people. In the Instruction “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of the Priest” (1997), Article 9 states: “The non-ordained faithful particularly assist the sick by being with them in difficult moments, encouraging them to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, by helping them to have the disposition to make a good individual confession as well as to prepare them to receive the Anointing of the Sick. In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or any other oil.”
This document certainly only refers to a very specific case but it encapsulates an important principle: that of not creating confusion regarding the sacramental signs.
Some sacramental signs have but one meaning and are never repeated even for devotional purposes. For example, baptism’s unrepeatable nature precludes the repetition of the rite although a person could devoutly renew his baptismal promises on his anniversary.
Other signs, such as the laying on of hands, have more than one meaning and may be used in several contexts. It can mean consecration and the gift of the Holy Spirit in the rites of ordination and confirmation, forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, and healing in the sacrament of anointing as well as within the extra-sacramental context of some recent spiritual currents such as the charismatic renewal.
The case of anointing is closer to the first case (baptism) than the second. Although there might be no explicit prohibition, liturgical law usually presupposes a certain degree of common sense. And the use of holy oil, or any other oil, for extra-sacramental anointing can only lead to inappropriate confusion with the sacramental rites as such.
It also ignores the fact that the Church already has a rich source of rituals and prayers in the Book of Blessings which can easily be used or adapted for practically every situation in which these oils have been adopted.
This does not mean that oil may never be used in any other Catholic rituals. In some places, on the occasion of a particular feast in honor of Mary or a saint, it is customary to celebrate a rite of blessings of food or drink (including oil).
The Book of Blessings admonishes pastors to ensure that the faithful have a correct understanding of the true meaning of such blessings so as to avoid superstitions.


Laypeople’s Use of Oil

ROME, July 28, 2009 ( – Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara…
There are chaplains who minister at a local Catholic hospital and one of them likes to use “oil” when she prays with the patients (Catholics and non-Catholics). I feel that this causes confusion. One of the chaplains attended a recent convention of chaplains and was told by a presenter that this practice is allowed as long as they tell the patients that they are not receiving the sacrament of the sick. I seem to recall that years ago the Vatican came out with a document on the use of oil by laypersons. Could you please comment? — A.S., Bridgeport, New York
A: The document you refer to is probably the 1997 instruction “On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest.” This is an unusual document insofar as it was formally issued by the Congregation for Clergy but was co-signed by no fewer than eight Vatican congregations and councils, including that of the Doctrine of the Faith. This gives the document a certain weight with respect to its authority.
The document first presents the theological principles behind its decisions before giving a series of practical considerations on aspects of lay ministry in the Church. Then, having laid the groundwork, it enunciates in 13 articles practical provisions and norms that outline the possibilities and limits of the collaboration of the lay faithful in priestly ministry.
The first article, on the “Need for an Appropriate Terminology,” attempts to clarify the multiple uses of the expression “ministry.” This responds to an intuition of Pope John Paul II who, “In his address to participants at the Symposium on ‘Collaboration of the Lay Faithful with the Priestly Ministry’ …, emphasized the need to clarify and distinguish the various meanings which have accrued to the term ‘ministry’ in theological and canonical language.”
The document accepts that the term “ministry” is applicable to the laity in some cases:
“§3. The non-ordained faithful may be generically designated ‘extraordinary ministers’ when deputed by competent authority to discharge, solely by way of supply, those offices mentioned in Canon 230, §3 and in Canons 943 and 1112. Naturally, the concrete term may be applied to those to whom functions are canonically entrusted e.g. catechists, acolytes, lectors etc.
“Temporary deputation for liturgical purposes — mentioned in Canon 230, §2 — does not confer any special or permanent title on the non-ordained faithful.”
However: “It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as ‘pastor,’ ‘chaplain,’ ‘coordinator,’ ‘moderator’ or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or Priest.”
Another article, No. 9, is on “The Apostolate to the Sick.” Regarding our reader’s question on the use of oil in a non-sacramental way, the article is very clear:
“§1. […] The non-ordained faithful particularly assist the sick by being with them in difficult moments, encouraging them to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, by helping them to have the disposition to make a good individual confession as well as to prepare them to receive the Anointing of the Sick. In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or any other oil.
Ҥ2. With regard to the administration of this sacrament, ecclesiastical legislation reiterates the theologically certain doctrine and the age old usage of the Church which regards the priest as its only valid minister. This norm is completely coherent with the theological mystery signified and realized by means of priestly service.
“It must also be affirmed that the reservation of the ministry of Anointing to the priest is related to the connection of this sacrament to the forgiveness of sin and the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. No other person may act as ordinary or extraordinary minister of the sacrament since such constitutes simulation of the sacrament.”
To many it might appear that this document is excessively restrictive in its dispositions. Yet by providing clear guidelines and demarcations of proper competences based on solid theological reasons, it actually facilitates fruitful collaboration between priests and laity in a true spirit of charity and service to Christ, the Church and to souls.


Charism gifts building up the Church

(Excerpt from the Rule of St. Michael) 2004, Order of the Legion of St. Michael

237. Misdirected and False Teachings […]

(c) On Using the term “baptism”: Although the Church has instructed the Renewal on the proper definition of the “baptism” of the Spirit, the use of the term, “baptism” in the Holy Spirit, is nevertheless misleading and is a “Pentecostalism.” A more accurate term would be a “re-awakening or filling with the Holy Spirit”42 since existentially and ontologically that is the phenomenon actually taking place.43 The term “baptism in the Holy Spirit” in the context of the charismatic experience was born in theological error.

Pentecostals do not believe in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Thus when they read the passages in the book of Acts about laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, they misinterpreted it to be some additional post-conversion act that must be performed. That is not true. The gift of the Spirit may not be separated in any way from conversion…44 There are no instances in the New Testament of the “laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit” outside of the Sacraments.

(d) On the Laying on of Hands and Anointing with Oil: The practice of anointing with oil and laying on of hands to “receive the Holy Spirit” was adopted by Pentecostals, as explained above, because they did not understand the doctrine of the Sacrament of Confirmation. Given this theological bias, it is not surprising that they misinterpreted the passages in the Book of Acts 45. As such, it appeared to them that this “laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit” was a separate act and experience from that of conversion, rather than as an act of the Sacrament of Confirmation. As Catholics we know that there is no need for us to “receive the Holy Spirit” in some extra-Sacramental way. As the Catechism instructs us, Confirmation gives us “the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (CCC 1302) We already have the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, there is no need for any additional forms of quasi-liturgical ceremonies or actions to “receive” the Holy Spirit and His gifts. In addition, the Magisterium has repeatedly warned the Faithful against performing rites and prayers that too closely resemble the Sacraments or the actions and prayers reserved to priests. The Instruction on Prayers for Healing, 46

Confusion between such free non-liturgical prayer meetings and liturgical celebrations properly so-called is to be carefully avoided. for example, makes this point: Another example is found in the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest: In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest. Since they are not priests, in no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or any other oil.47
Pope John Paul II reminds us that: …the particular gift of each of the Church’s members must be wisely and carefully acknowledged, safeguarded, promoted, discerned and coordinated, without confusing roles functions or theological and canonical status.
48 Also in the Collaboration Instruction: Every effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion … To avoid any confusion between sacramental liturgical acts presided over by a priest or deacon, and other acts which the non-ordained faithful may lead, it is always necessary to use clearly distinct ceremonials, especially for the latter. 49

Finally, in a letter sent to us from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Monsignor Mario Marini, Undersecretary, writes:

Prot. N. 1116/00/L Rome,

24 June 2000

This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter dated 4 May 2000, in which you ask whether the Instruction Ecclesiae de mysterio on Lay Collaboration in the Ministry of the Priest, article 9, should be interpreted as prohibiting the use by laypersons of blessed oil as a sacramental. While a certain degree of prudent reserve in this matter is indeed advisable, it is clear that the exclusion of traditional devotions employing the use of blessed oil, and in which there is no likelihood of confusion with the sacramental of Anointing of the Sick by a priest, is not the intention of this Instruction. Excluded instead would be any use by a layperson of oil, which even if not the Oil of the Sick blessed by the Bishop on Holy Thursday, would be interpreted as replacing the sacramental Anointing by a priest, or which would in any way be seen as equivalent to it, or which would be employed as a means of attaining for laypersons a new role previously reserved to clergy.

The intention of the person using the oil, the clarity with which such an intention is expressed by such a person, and the understanding of those present will all be relevant in determining the likelihood of misunderstanding and therefore the degree to which such a practice should be avoided. In this matter as in all similar cases, such a practice is subject to the supervision of the local Pastor and ultimately of the diocesan Bishop.

Thanking you for your interest and with every prayerful good wishes for a blessed Easter Season, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ, Mons. Mario Marini, Undersecretary

The common practices of the Charismatic Renewal of the quasi-liturgical “laying on hands to receive the release of the Holy Spirit” is often done without regard to the understanding of those present that the Congregation requires. Even when permission has been attained by a group’s Pastor, the actual practice among many groups tends to be quasi-liturgical in appearance. Many individual Charismatics seem present themselves as quasi-priest in their demeanor even if verbally claiming they are not. Thus, in much of the Charismatic Renewal this practice can be both potentially theologically problematic and certainly too closely resembling what is reserved to bishops and/or priests.

47 Holy See, Instruction, On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of The Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry Of Priest (15 August 1997), art. 9 §1.

48 John Paul II, Discourse at the Symposium on “The Participation of the Lay Faithful in the Priestly Ministry” (11 May 1994), n. 3, l.c.; quoted Collaboration, “Conclusion.”

Collaboration, art. 6 §2.



Laying on of hands

St. Michael Spiritual Warfare Depository Archive, May 17, 2010

Q: Well is laying on of hands good or bad? I have been to many Charismatic groups where they do this, but I will only let someone that I know and is right with the Lord to do this?

A: You are looking for trouble when you have someone lay hands on you. It is an open door to possession. The same goes with massage. If you consider how many people to a massage therapist and how many of them are carrying some kind of demonic “baggage” it can get transferred. So, the answer is NO, do NOT let someone lay hands on you. The only one who should lay hands on you is an ordained Catholic priest. PERIOD. –Ellen Marie

A: Well Ellen is wrong again on certain points not because I say so, but because the Vatican says so.
There is a grain of truth in what Ellen says. The Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest states at article 6 §2:

Every effort must be made to avoid even the appearance of confusion… To avoid any confusion between sacramental liturgical acts presided over by a priest or deacon, and other acts which the non-ordained faithful may lead, it is always necessary to use clearly distinct ceremonials, especially for the latter.


This Instruction, however, does not prohibit such things as laying on of hands or the administering of oil in conjunction with laying on hands. I personally wrote a letter to the Vatican to clarify this.

In Summary, what follows is what the Vatican told me about the use of Holy Oil:

A) Sacramental Oil (blessed by the Bishop on Holy Thursday) cannot ever be used.

B) Blessed oil, like that you get at shrine MAY BE USED, but

1. Prudent reserve must be exercised.

2. The situation of its use MUST NOT be one in which there is ANY confusion that what is happening is the Sacrament of Anointing the Sick.

3. The use of a blessed oil by the laity MUST NOT replace the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

4. The use of blessed oil by the laity cannot be used in such a way as to be EQUIVALENT to the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

5. The use of the blessed oil cannot be used in such a way as to create a new role for the laity which is really reserved to clergy.

6. The intention of the person using the oil must not be to violate items 2-5 above.

7. The person using the oil must express WITH CLARITY why he is not in violation of items 2-5 above.

8. The people observing or participating with the person using the oil must fully UNDERSTAND what is happening is not in violation of items 2-5 above.

9. The practice of using blessed oil by the laity is governed specifically (in addition to these general principles) by the local Pastor and ultimately the diocesan Bishop.


This instruction clearly does not prohibit the use of oil, or the lay on hands that is associated with it. What it means is that they laity can NEVER substitute the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick with their own anointing. If the situation is one that a priest would normally administer oil, then the laity cannot do it.
Laity cannot use oil in such a way that is equivalent to the Sacrament of Anointing of Sick even though they are not intending to do the Sacrament. This probably prohibits many charismatic groups from using oil in the way they do.
Laity cannot use oil in such a way that they essentially co-opt a role that really belongs to clergy. This too will prohibit the way typical charismatics use oil.
What is also important to see here, is that even if all criteria is met to allow a layman to use oil, if there is misunderstanding on the part of on-lookers, then it is not to be done. All involved must be properly catechized.
The situations in which oil and laying on of hands can be used are in situations in which there is some sort of paterfamilias relationship. This would include laying hands on your children, your spouse, or others family members. A paterfamilias relationship also may exist between a Spiritual Director and a directee or a Counselor and counselee (even the Spiritual Director or Counselor is not a priest). Even in these paterfamilias relationships, however, the non-priest can never use this privilege as a replacement for the Sacrament of Anointing which must be administered by a priest.
In other words, we cannot do these actions in such a way that too closely resembles that which is reserved to a priest. As long as we are cautious about that and those prayed over, and those on-looking are properly catechized about this, laying on hands can be done by laity.





The use of Holy Oil must not be the Sacramental oil blessed by the Bishop. If we use oil it must be oil that blessed in the normal way by a priest like that of Holy Water. Thus, oil given a normal blessing can be used by the laity in a similar way as Holy Water. Holy Water represents a washing clean factor, and is a reminder of our baptism and our baptismal promises. Blessed Oil represents a healing factor, and is a reminder of our confirmation and the fullness of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and our promises to live a Godly life.
If we understand the differences between Sacramental Oil and regular blessed oil, and understand the differences between the Sacrament of Anointing and what laity might do with its limitations, then we can be okay in the practice.
We must always remember that the Particular Sacramental Power of Healing is reserved to clergy.

Ellen also has a grain of truth concerning the possibility of becoming demonized when laying hands on someone. We have had clients who became demonized after having hands laid upon them. There is a phenomenon called transference. A demon can transfer from one person to another through laying on hands. This is why one should not lay hands on a person too quickly and a person should not allow someone to lay hands on them too quickly.
Certainly we should never lay hands on anyone without their permission. But, if we have the permission of the person being prayed for, and have the right preparations and discernment, and doing the act with the proper circumspection, avoiding doing anything that too closely resembles the acts reserved to priests, then lay on hands may be done. Only the leader of the prayer team, however, should be laying on hands, not the whole team. –Bro. Ignatius Mary

Categories: Liturgical Abuses

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Michael Prabhu, METAMORPHOSE, #12,Dawn Apartments, 22,Leith Castle South Street, Chennai - 600 028, Tamilnadu, India. Phone: +91 (44) 24611606 E-mail:,

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