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Are Sacramentals Superstitious?


A listener named Sean calls into the show with a question for Father Dave about sacramentals. Sean isn’t Catholic and asks Father Dave to explain how and why sacramentals, things such as Rosaries and medals, are not superstitious.

“Sacramentals include things like wearing a cross around your neck or blessing yourself with holy water. … All of this really stems from the basic Christian theology of the Incarnation,” Father Dave explains. “We believe that God became human not out of some divine necessity … The Incarnation was the choice of Almighty God. … So, we believe that it is not an accidental choice or last resort, it is an intentional way that God blesses our humanity by actually becoming like us.”

“Therefore, a lot of things stem from that [the Incarnation]. And this is different in some ways from, for instance, a Calvinist theology that emerged from the Protestant Reformation. I’m using big broad brush strokes here to make a basic point, but it would look more at human matter and flesh as not good and necessities because this was how we were constructed: ‘But boy, if only we could get rid of these bodies that cause us to sin.’ … The way that we would read that is that everything God created is good. So as Catholics, we derive a lot of ways in which we relate to God through our human senses because we don’t believe they’re bad, and they help us come into contact with the Divine.”

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Father Dave talks about how sacramentals are meant to draw us closer to God. “A lot of God is mystery and transcendent, and we are not. … So, to kind of bridge that gap between the human and the transcendent are the Sacraments and sacramentals. So, when we dip our hands in holy water and make the Sign of the Cross, it reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus, it reminds us of Trinitarian theology (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and that when we were baptized into the death of Christ for a purpose and a mission in the world … these sacramentals allow us in our humanness and the mundane things of everyday life, to experience God.”

Father Dave points out that sacramentals are not a requirement for faith. “Everyone is required to believe in the Creed, but not everyone is required to believe that wearing a scapular or miraculous medal necessarily has the particular effects that those who are devoted to it believe it has.” (Original Air 10-22-18)