What is a Catholic Sacramental – definition and examples

Scapulars, Medals, Holy Water… Some people think they are just “Catholic Charms”.

Meanwhile, they are signs given to us by Church, trough which we get closer to God by his grace so we can grow in faith, hope and love

Catholic Sacramental- definition

Sacramental is a holy action or thing used by the Church to obtain favors for us from God, through prayers. Favors can be of a spiritual but also of a wordly nature (health for our body for example).

The Decree of the Second Vatican Council on the Sacred Liturgy gives us this definition:

“Sacramentals are sacred signs which bear resemblance to the Sacraments: they signify effects, particularly of a spiritual kind, which are obtained by the Churche’s intercession. By them we are disposed to receive the chief effect of the Sacraments and various occasions in life are rendered holy”


The difference between Sacrament and Sacramental

Sacramentals are distinguished from the seven Sacraments ( Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Penance, Ordination, Matrimony and Anointing of the Sick) by

1. Firstly, all Sacraments were established by Our Lord Jesus Christ during His life on earth, while Sacramentals were instituted by the Church

2. Secondly, Sacramentals obtain graces for us by helping us to practice acts of virtue which bring down God’s graces on us, Sacramentals make us ready to receive grace by act of our faith while in Sacraments grace is given by virtue of the act. What that means is that the grace of a Sacrament is caused directly by the action of God and doesn’t depend on the worthiness of the person giving or receiving Sacrament

3. Thirdly, Sacraments are mandated by God and necessary for our salvation, while Sacramentals are only recommended by Church as very beneficial and salvific

We have to remember that Sacramentals can never replace Sacraments, but through the prayer of the Church they make us ready to receive graces and to cooperate with them.

Types of Sacramentals with examples

The easiest way of dividing Sacramentals is to put them into two categories:

1. Actions

Blessings, Exorcisms and Liturgical Gestures( Sign of The Cross, Kneeling, Bowing)

2. Things

Blessed Objects: The Rosary, Candles, Relics, Sacred Images, The Crucifix, Holy Oils, Medals, Scapulars, Holly water, Cords, Chaplets, Ashes, Palms, Holy Foods, Novenas

The rosary and Bible

For more comprehensive list of Catholic Sacramentals press here

How many Sacramentals is there?

The Church has no definitive list of Sacramentals, as She has the power to institute new Sacramentals according to the need of its people and circumstances. In fact, every diocese can institute their own Sacramentals, always with the approval of the Pope. What that means in order to count Sacramentals you would have to contact every diocese in the world to find out if they made some additions …

Do we need Sacramentals?

So, do we have to use Sacramentals? The answer is no, we don’t have to. None of the Sacramentals are obligatory, but knowing how beneficial they are for our spiritual development it is worth to acknowledge them.

Main benefits acquired through use of Sacramentals are:

  1. They prepare to receive actual graces, as they do not give graces themselves
  2. We get help in receiving forgiveness of our venial sins
  3. Protection from the power of the devil
  4. Sacramentals obtain for us health of the body and other blessings for our daily life
  5. Forgiveness of the punishment for our sins

Faith is all you need…

The most important fact we have to know and remember about Sacramentals is that they don’t work without faith and act of wearing, using or possessing them is simply not enough. Sacramentals are not some kind of charm that works magically. We must use them with faith, always believing that Mercifull God will help us as he is our Father and he loves us very much.


Church encourages us to use Sacramentals and wants them to help us. They carry the promise of God’s help for soul and body through the authority of the Church.






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