1052 Q. What is a sacramental?
A. 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.
1053 Q. How do the Sacramentals excite good thoughts and increase devotion?
A. The Sacramentals excite good thoughts by recalling to our minds some special reason for doing good and avoiding evil; especially by reminding us of some holy person, event or thing through which blessings have come to us. They increase devotion by fixing our minds on particular virtues and by helping us to understand and desire them.
1054 Q. Do the Sacramentals of themselves remit venial sins?
A. The Sacramentals of themselves do not remit venial sins, but they move us to truer devotion, to greater love for God and greater sorrow for our sins, and this devotion, love and sorrow bring us grace, and the grace remits venial sins.
1055 Q. Why does the Church use Sacramentals?
A. The Church uses Sacramentals to teach the faithful of every class the truths of religion, which they may learn as well by their sight as by their hearing; for God wishes us to learn His laws by every possible means, by every power of soul and body.
1056 Q. Show by an example how Sacramentals aid the ignorant in learning the truths of faith.
A. Sacramentals aid the ignorant in learning the truths of faith as children learn from pictures before they are able to read. Thus one who cannot read the account of Our Lord's passion may learn it from the Stations of the Cross, and one who kneels before a crucifix and looks on the bleeding head, pierced hands and wounded side, is better able to understand Christ's sufferings than one without a crucifix before him.
1057 Q. What are the Stations or Way of the Cross?
A. The Stations or Way of the Cross is a devotion instituted by the Church to aid us in meditating on Christ's passion and death. Fourteen crosses or stations, each with a picture of some scene in the passion, are arranged at distances apart. By passing from one station to another and praying before each while we meditate upon the scene it represents, we make the Way of the Cross in memory of Christ's painful journey during His passion, and we gain the indulgence granted for this pious exercise.
1058 Q. Are prayers and ceremonies of the Church also Sacramentals?
A. Prayers and ceremonies of the Church are also Sacramentals because they excite good thoughts and increase devotion. Whatever the Church dedicates to a pious use or devotes to the worship of God may be called a Sacramental.
1059 Q. On what ground does the Church make use of ceremonies?
A. The Church makes use of ceremonies:
- After the example of the Old Law, in which God described and commanded ceremonies;
- After the example of Our Lord, who rubbed clay on the eyes of the blind to whom He wished to restore sight, though He might have performed the miracle without any external act;
- On the authority of the Church itself, to whom Christ gave power to do whatever was necessary for the instruction of all men;
- To add solemnity to religious acts.
1060 Q. How may persons sin in using Sacramentals?
A. Persons may sin in using Sacramentals by using them in a way or for a purpose prohibited by the Church; also by believing that the use of Sacramentals will save us in spite of our sinful lives. We must remember that Sacramentals can aid us only through the blessing the Church gives them and through the good dispositions they excite in us. They have, therefore, no power in themselves, and to put too much confidence in their use leads to superstition.
1061 Q. What is the difference between the Sacraments and the sacramentals?
A. The difference between the Sacraments and the sacramentals is:
- 1st. The Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ and the sacramentals were instituted by the Church;
- 2nd. The Sacraments give grace of themselves when we place no obstacle in the way;
- 3rd. The sacramentals excite in us pious dispositions, by means of which we may obtain grace.
1062 Q. May the Church increase or diminish the number of Sacraments and Sacramentals?
A. The Church can never increase nor diminish the number of Sacraments, for as Christ Himself instituted them, He alone has power to change their number; but the Church may increase or diminish the number of the Sacramentals as the devotion of its people or the circumstances of the time and place require, for since the Church instituted them they must depend entirely upon its laws.
1063 Q. Which is the chief sacramental used in the Church?
A. The chief sacramental used in the Church is the sign of the cross.
1064 Q. How do we make the sign of the cross?
A. We make the sign of the cross by putting the right hand to the forehead, then on the breast, and then to the left and right shoulders, saying, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen."
1065 Q. What is a common fault with many in blessing themselves?
A. A common fault with many in blessing themselves is to make a hurried motion with the hand which is in no way a sign of the cross. They perform this act of devotion without thought or intention, forgetting that the Church grants an indulgence to all who bless themselves properly while they have sorrow for their sins.
1066 Q. Why do we make the sign of the cross?
A. We make the sign of the cross to show that we are Christians and to profess our belief in the chief mysteries of our religion.
1067 Q. How is the sign of the cross a profession of faith in the chief mysteries of our religion?
A. The sign of the cross is a profession of faith in the chief mysteries of our religion because it expresses the mysteries of the Unity and Trinity of God and of the Incarnation and death of our Lord.
1068 Q. How does the sign of the cross express the mystery of the Unity and Trinity of God?
A. The words, "In the name," express the Unity of God; the words that follow, "of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," express the mystery of the Trinity.
1069 Q. How does the sign of the cross express the mystery of the Incarnation and death of our Lord?
A. The sign of the cross expresses the mystery of the Incarnation by reminding us that the Son of God, having become man, suffered death on the cross.
1070 Q. What other sacramental is in very frequent use?
A. Another sacramental in very frequent use is holy water.
1071 Q. What is holy water?
A. Holy water is water blessed by the priest with solemn prayer to beg God's blessing on those who use it, and protection from the powers of darkness.
1072 Q. How does the water blessed on Holy Saturday, or Easter Water, as it is called, differ from the holy water blessed at other times?
A. The water blessed on Holy Saturday, or Easter Water, as it is called, differs from the holy water blessed at other times in this, that the Easter water is blessed with greater solemnity, the paschal candle, which represents Our Lord risen from the dead, having been dipped into it with a special prayer.
1073 Q. Is water ever blessed in honor of certain saints?
A. Water is sometimes blessed in honor of certain saints and for special purposes. The form of prayer to be used in such blessings is found in the Roman Ritual -- the book containing prayers and ceremonies for the administration of the Sacraments and of blessings authorized by the Church.
1074 Q. Are there other sacramentals besides the sign of the cross and holy water?
A. Beside the sign of the cross and holy water there are many other sacramentals, such as blessed candles, ashes, palms, crucifixes, images of the Blessed Virgin and of the saints, rosaries, and scapulars.
1075 Q. When are candles blessed in the Church and why are they used?
A. Candles are blessed in the Church on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin -- February 2nd. They are used chiefly to illuminate and ornament our altars, as a mark of reverence for the presence of Our Lord and of joy at His coming.
1076 Q. What praiseworthy custom is now in use in many places?
A. A praiseworthy custom now in use in many places is the offering by the faithful on the feast of the Purification of candles for the use of the altar during the year. It is pleasing to think we have candles burning in our name on the altar of God, and if the Jewish people yearly made offerings to their temple, faithful Christians should not neglect their altars and churches where God Himself dwells.
1077 Q. When are ashes blessed in the Church and why are they used?
A. Ashes are blessed in the Church on Ash Wednesday. They are used to keep us in mind of our humble origin, and of how the body of Adam, our forefather, was formed out of the slime or clay of the earth; also to remind us of death, when our bodies will return to dust, and of the necessity of doing penance for our sins. These ashes are obtained by burning the blessed palms of the previous year.
1078 Q. When are palms blessed and of what do they remind us?
A. Palms are blessed on Palm Sunday. They remind us of Our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when the people, wishing to honor Him and make Him king, strewed palm branches and even their own garments in His path, singing: Hosanna to the Son of David.
1079 Q. What is the difference between a cross and a crucifix?
A. A cross has no figure on it and a crucifix has a figure of Our Lord. The word crucifix means fixed or nailed to the cross.
1080 Q. What is the Rosary?
A. The Rosary is a form of prayer in which we say a certain number of Our Fathers and Hail Marys, meditating or thinking for a short time before each decade; that is, before each Our Father and ten Hail Marys, on some particular event in the life of Our Lord. These events are called mysteries of the Rosary. The string of beads on which these prayers are said is also called a Rosary. The ordinary beads are of five decades, or one-third of the whole Rosary.
1081 Q. Who taught the use of the Rosary in its present form?
A. St. Dominic taught the use of the Rosary in its present form. By it he instructed his hearers in the chief truths of our holy religion and converted many to the true faith.
1082 Q. How do we say the Rosary, or beads?
A. To say the Rosary or beads we bless ourselves with the cross, then say the Apostles' Creed and the Our Father on the first large bead, then the Hail Mary on each of the three small beads, and then Glory be to the Father, etc. Then we mention or think of the first mystery we wish to honor, and say an Our Father on the large bead and a Hail Mary on each small bead of the ten that follow. At the end of every decade, or ten Hail Marys, we say "Glory be to the Father;" etc. Then we mention the next mystery and do as before, and so on to the end.
1083 Q. How many mysteries of the Rosary are there?
A. There are fifteen mysteries of the Rosary arranged in the order in which these events occurred in the life of Our Lord, and divided into five joyful, five sorrowful, and five glorious mysteries.
1084 Q. Say the five joyful mysteries of the Rosary.
A. The five joyful mysteries of the Rosary are:
- The Annunciation -- the Angel Gabriel telling the Blessed Virgin that she is to be the Mother of God;
- The Visitation -- the Blessed Virgin goes to visit her cousin, St. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist;
- The Nativity, or birth, of Our Lord;
- The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple -- His parents offered Him to God;
- The finding of the Child Jesus in the temple -- His parents had lost Him in Jerusalem for three days.
1085 Q. Say the five sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary.
A. The five sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary are:
- The Agony in the Garden -- Our Lord was in dreadful anguish and bathed in a bloody sweat;
- The Scourging at the Pillar -- Christ was stripped of His garments and lashed in a cruel manner;
- The Crowning with Thorns -- He was mocked as a king by heartless men;
- The Carriage of the Cross -- from the place He was condemned to Calvary, the place of Crucifixion;
- The Crucifixion -- He was nailed to the cross amid the jeers and blasphemies of His enemies.
1086 Q. Say the five glorious mysteries of the Rosary.
A. The five glorious mysteries of the Rosary are:
- The Resurrection of Our Lord;
- The Ascension of Our Lord;
- The Coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles;
- The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin -- after death she was taken body and soul into heaven;
- The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin -- on entering heaven she was made queen of all the Angels and Saints and placed in dignity next to her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord.
1087 Q. On what days, according to the pious custom of the faithful, are the different mysteries of the Rosary usually said?
A. According to the pious custom of the faithful, the different mysteries of the Rosary are usually said on the following days, namely: the joyful on Mondays and Thursdays, the sorrowful on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the glorious on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
1088 Q. What do the letters I. N. R. I. over the crucifix mean?
A. The letters I. N. R. I. over the crucifix are the first letters of four Latin words that mean Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Our Lord did say He was king of the Jews, but He also said that He was not their temporal or earthly king, but their spiritual and heavenly king.
1089 Q. To what may we attribute the desire of the Jews to put Christ to death?
A. We may attribute the desire of the Jews to put Christ to death to the jealously, hatred and ill-will of their priests and the Pharisees, whose faults He rebuked and whose hypocrisy He exposed. By their slanders and lies they induced the people to follow them in demanding Our Lord's crucifixion.
1090 Q. With whom did the Blessed Virgin live after the death of Our Lord?
A. After the death of Our Lord the Blessed Virgin lived for about eleven years with the Apostle St. John the Evangelist, called also the Beloved Disciple. He wrote one of the four Gospels, three Epistles, and the Apocalypse, or Book of Revelations -- the last book of the Bible. He lived to the age of a hundred years or more and died last of all the apostles.
1091 Q. What do we mean by the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and why do we believe in it?
A. By the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin we mean that her body was taken up into heaven after her death. We believe in it:
- Because the Church cannot teach error, and yet from an early age the Church has celebrated the Feast of the Assumption;
- Because no one ever claimed to have a relic of our Blessed Mother's body, and surely the apostles, who knew and loved her, would have secured some relic had her body remained upon earth.
1092 Q. What do the letters I. H. S. on an altar or sacred things mean?
A. The letters I. H. S. on an altar or sacred things means the name Jesus; for it is in that way the Holy Name is written in the Greek language when some of the letters are left out.
1093 Q. What is the scapular, and why is it worn?
A. The scapular is a long, broad piece of woolen cloth forming a part of the religious dress of monks, priests and sisters of some religious orders. It is worn over the shoulders and extends from the shoulders to the feet. The small scapular made in imitation of it, and consisting of two small pieces of cloth fastened together by strings, is worn by the faithful as a promise or proof of their willingness to practice some particular devotion, indicated by the kind of scapular they wear.
1094 Q. How many kinds of scapulars are there in use among the faithful?
A. Among the faithful there are many kinds of scapulars in use, such as the brown scapular or scapular of Mount Carmel worn in honor of Our Lord's passion; the white, in honor of the Holy Trinity; the blue, in honor of the Immaculate Conception; and the black, in honor of the seven dolors of the Blessed Virgin. When these are joined together and worn as one they are called the five scapulars. The brown scapular is best known and entitles its wearer to the greatest privileges and indulgences.
1095 Q. What are the seven dolors of the Blessed Virgin?
A. The seven dolors of the Blessed Virgin are the chief sorrowful events in the life of Our Blessed Lady. They are:
- The circumcision of our Lord -- when she saw his blood shed for the first time;
- Her flight into Egypt -- to save the life of the Infant Jesus, when Herod sought to kill Him;
- The three days she lost her Son in Jerusalem;
- When she saw him carrying the cross;
- When she saw him die;
- When His dead body was taken down from the cross;
- When it was laid in the sepulchre or tomb.
1096 Q. What are the seven dolor beads, and how do we say them?
A. Seven dolor beads are beads constructed with seven medals, each bearing a representation of one of the seven dolors, and seven beads between each medal and the next. At each medal we meditate on the proper dolor and the say a Hail Mary on each of the bead following it.
1097 Q. What is an Agnus Dei?
A. An Agnus Dei is a small piece of beeswax stamped with the image of a lamb and cross. It is solemnly blessed by the Pope with special prayers for those who carry it about their person in honor of Our Blessed Redeemer, whom we call the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sins of the world. The wax is usually covered with silk or some fine material.