Difference Between "Blessed" Items and Lucky Charms


#1

Attack: The Church continues to hold on to pagan superstitions by using “sacramentals.” I know many Catholics that honestly think that their St. Christopher medal will save them from car crashes and are upset if they know their kids are driving without wearing their holy medals. What is the difference between tap water and holy water? What is the difference between a blessed medal and a horseshoe or rabbit’s foot?

I’m not sure how to answer this attack that I actually came up with myself. I have yet to actually encounter it. Also, a quick aside: what’s up with laity giving blessings? I had a lay person bless my throat for the St. Blaze feast day… why can they bless my throat but not my rosary? This is probably answered every other day so sorry for the redundancy.


#2

[quote=CollegeCatholic]I know many Catholics that honestly think that their St. Christopher medal will save them from car crashes and are upset if they know their kids are driving without wearing their holy medals.
[/quote]

These Catholics are “guilty as charged” of being superstitious. But this is not what the Church teaches about sacramentals (and the Catholics who believe this are possibly guilty of sin – it is certainly a matter for Confession).

The Church does not teach that a blessing upon a sacramental actually DOES anything at all to the object being blessed. The object is in every way and sense no different than it was before the blessing (unlike the bread used in Eucharist, which does change – but that’s a Sacrament, not a sacramental).

So the St. Christopher medals themselves do absolutely nothing. You could fill a van with medals and you would be no safer than you would be without them.

    The purpose of sacramentals is to inspire us to seek Grace (which is our duty and privilege as Christians). The "blessing" which the object receives is a prayer that asks God to use this object as a reminder of this duty.

The idea of the medal is that it will (hopefully) inspire us to pray for our safe passage, and maybe serve as a reminder that we ought not break traffic laws or be rude to other drivers. It is not the medal which protects us, but the prayer and Christian attitude for which the medal (hopefully) reminds and inspires us.

Also, a quick aside: what’s up with laity giving blessings? I had a lay person bless my throat for the St. Blaze feast day…

A “blessing” is a prayer for Grace. Anyone may pray that you receive Grace (I can say, “May the Grace of God be with you”). But a “formal” blessing may be administered only by an ordained minister (deacon, priest, or bishop). I am very sure that it is not permitted for the laity to do the blessing of throats as you describe.


#3

Are scapulars also sacramentals? I’ve heard that on Mt. Carmel our Lady promised that whoever wore the brown scapular would never suffer eternal damnation. I’m guessing there’s an actual Church teaching about scapulars but I don’t know what it is and when I hear that just by wearing the scapular we won’t be damned when we die, it does sound like kind of a superstitious belief. If someone could explain the matter I’d appreciate it.


#4

A “blessing” is a prayer for Grace. Anyone may pray that you receive Grace (I can say, “May the Grace of God be with you”). But a “formal” blessing may be administered only by an ordained minister (deacon, priest, or bishop). I am very sure that it is not permitted for the laity to do the blessing of throats as you describe.

Then what is the difference between ordinary and “formal” blessing? If nothing about an item changes when it is “blessed,” what enables clergy to “bless” items and not laity? Do you have any reference for your being “very sure” that it is not permitted. If so, I would like to speak with either the priest (who I have never seen before at this parish) or the Bishop (which is very difficult to do.)

[quote=CollegeKid]Are scapulars also sacramentals? I’ve heard that on Mt. Carmel our Lady promised that whoever wore the brown scapular would never suffer eternal damnation. I’m guessing there’s an actual Church teaching about scapulars but I don’t know what it is and when I hear that just by wearing the scapular we won’t be damned when we die, it does sound like kind of a superstitious belief. If someone could explain the matter I’d appreciate it.
[/quote]

I agree that the idea of the scapular as being a guarantee of salvation if worn is very superstitious sounding. The salvation lies in the wearing of the cloth, not in the faith of the wearer, as implied by the assertion. Obviously the Carmelites are perfectly in-line with the Church but this particular aspect is something I have always been very concerned about. What stops a supposed apparition of Mary from telling us that if we kiss a toads bottom in her name that we will be guranteed salvation? Cloth piece, horshoe, rabbits foot, clover leaf…

Thanks for any and all help/guidance! Sorry to be a pain and play devil’s advocate but if I was trying to find avenues to bash/discredit the church, this is where I would start.


#5

[quote=CollegeCatholic]Then what is the difference between ordinary and “formal” blessing?
[/quote]

If an **object **is blessed, it is always a formal blessing (and it is improper for the minister to “make up” the prayer - it should be read from the Book of Blessings). A formal blessing of a person occurrs within a liturgy (and, as such, it is improper for an extrodinary minister of Communion (ie, Eucharistic Minister) to ‘bless’ a person who does not receive Eucharist, though this is widely abused).

If nothing about an item changes when it is “blessed,” what enables clergy to “bless” items and not laity?

Nothing, really. Except the Church says so. There is no theological basis for this distinction; I imagine the Magesterium feels (in Her wisdom) that such distinction is appropriate to the situation, and She thus imposes this purely non-doctrinal rule (as is Her right and duty). As faithful Catholics, we are obliged to respect these rules.

Do you have any reference for your being “very sure” that it is not permitted.

I haven’t looked it up in Canon Law, but since this blessing occurs within a liturgy, I’m “very sure” it is not permitted to be administered by a layperson.

I agree that the idea of the scapular as being a guarantee of salvation if worn is very superstitious sounding.

Nor is this a Church teaching, and it’s not even historically accurate. See my post regarding the Brown Scapular here (and my follow-up) for more information why this “promise” is neither Catholic teaching nor historically sound.


#6

[quote=CollegeCatholic] Also, a quick aside: what’s up with laity giving blessings? I had a lay person bless my throat for the St. Blaze feast day… why can they bless my throat but not my rosary? This is probably answered every other day so sorry for the redundancy.
[/quote]

On his blog, here, Jimmy Akin provides the relevant citations from Canon Law and the Book of Blessings that say lay persons may give some blessings, including the blessing of the throats on St. Blase’s Day.


#7

thank goodness the blessing of the throat thing
was answered… i am one of the layity that our
priest picked to administer the blessing this
past Sunday…

it was a wonderful experience…

:slight_smile:


#8

[quote=CollegeCatholic]I agree that the idea of the scapular as being a guarantee of salvation if worn is very superstitious sounding. The salvation lies in the wearing of the cloth, not in the faith of the wearer, as implied by the assertion. Obviously the Carmelites are perfectly in-line with the Church but this particular aspect is something I have always been very concerned about. What stops a supposed apparition of Mary from telling us that if we kiss a toads bottom in her name that we will be guranteed salvation? Cloth piece, horshoe, rabbits foot, clover leaf…
[/quote]

I did some more digging, here’s a good link that explains the brown scapular.

carmelnet.org/scapular/rules/rules.htm

It reaffirms exactly what it should: that salvation isn’t guaranteed simply by wearing the scapular. The wearer has to be of good faith and seeking to live a life of virtue. The essence of the scapular is to remind the wearer to do just that everyday of his or her life. I also talked to my priest about brown scapulars and the other ones (green, red, etc.). He said something that stuck in my mind as a good answer, I’ll paraphrase: “Its not like just tying a string around your finger to remind you. It does have grace after its been blessed, but this is not the type of grace recieved at baptism, which is conferred automatically. The matter of this world can be made holy, and reminding you to pray and do good works is a holy purpose.”


#9

Best tactic? Get them to justify what the Bible (KJV - always use this or the NIV when talking with Protestants) says…

[quote=CollegeCatholic] What is the difference between tap water and holy water?
[/quote]

What’s the difference? You tell me:**
Numbers 5:17**
And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:

[quote=CollegeCatholic] What is the difference between a blessed medal and a horseshoe or rabbit’s foot?
[/quote]

What’s the difference between “holy ground” and “regular ground”?
Exodus 3:5
And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
Acts 7:33
Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.

How does the “ground” become holy? When you can answer that, you’ll know the difference between a blessed medal and a rabbit’s foot.

That would be my response, anyway…

God Bless,
RyanL


#10

[quote=CollegeCatholic]Attack: The Church continues to hold on to pagan superstitions by using “sacramentals.” I know many Catholics that honestly think that their St. Christopher medal will save them from car crashes and are upset if they know their kids are driving without wearing their holy medals. What is the difference between tap water and holy water? What is the difference between a blessed medal and a horseshoe or rabbit’s foot?

I’m not sure how to answer this attack that I actually came up with myself. I have yet to actually encounter it. Also, a quick aside: what’s up with laity giving blessings? I had a lay person bless my throat for the St. Blaze feast day… why can they bless my throat but not my rosary? This is probably answered every other day so sorry for the redundancy.
[/quote]

The difference between a “charm” and a sacramental is that someone believes that the “rabbits foot” actually has the power to do something. The sacramental is an object that is used by God to supply grace or accomplish something. The sacramental has no power in itself.

A layperson I’m sure is not permitted to bless throats. One would have to look in the book of blessings and see exactly what it says. A lay person my assist if necessary in the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday, but they must be blessed by a priest or deacon.


#11

[quote=CollegeKid]Are scapulars also sacramentals? I’ve heard that on Mt. Carmel our Lady promised that whoever wore the brown scapular would never suffer eternal damnation. I’m guessing there’s an actual Church teaching about scapulars but I don’t know what it is and when I hear that just by wearing the scapular we won’t be damned when we die, it does sound like kind of a superstitious belief. If someone could explain the matter I’d appreciate it.
[/quote]

That is a misunderstanding. The promise means that anyone who dies wearing the scapular and has a devotion to Mary will receive from her , at the hour of death either the grace to persever in the state of Grace or the grace of final contrition. The promise does not mean that regardless of what a person does or how a person lives that they will not be condemned to eternal punishment. One can rest assured that if they continually sin even though they wear the sacpular, that they will NOT die wearing the scapular.


What exactly is the soul?
#12

[quote=DavidFilmer]If an **object is blessed, it is always a formal blessing (and it is improper for the minister to “make up” the prayer - it should be read from the Book of Blessings). A formal blessing of a person occurrs within a liturgy (and, as such, it is improper for an extrodinary minister of Communion (ie, Eucharistic Minister) to ‘bless’ a person who does not receive Eucharist, though this is widely abused).
** Nothing, really. Except the Church says so. There is no theological basis for this distinction; I imagine the Magesterium feels (in Her wisdom) that such distinction is appropriate to the situation, and She thus imposes this purely non-doctrinal rule (as is Her right and duty). As faithful Catholics, we are obliged to respect these rules.

I haven’t looked it up in Canon Law, but since this blessing occurs within a liturgy, I’m “very sure” it is not permitted to be administered by a layperson.
Nor is this a Church teaching, and it’s not even historically accurate. See my post regarding the Brown Scapular here (and my follow-up) for more information why this “promise” is neither Catholic teaching nor historically sound.
[/quote]

Very interesting, especially regarding the fact that there is no real theological explanation of this practice. I can understand the inherent graces provided through a “blessing” but how this blessing is applied to an object, and thus the object is given higher status (ie one cannot destroy a sacramental unless done in so and so fashion) over non-blessed items is still a bit out there for me.

On his blog, here, Jimmy Akin provides the relevant citations from Canon Law and the Book of Blessings that say lay persons may give some blessings, including the blessing of the throats on St. Blase’s Day.

Oh wonderful. I’m glad that I don’t have to take any sort of action. It’s weird how a throat can be blessed “by” the laity but not a rosary or a house, fore example. Weird! The significance of the St. Blase blessing is that it is an intercessory act as the actual words begin “By the intercession of St. Blase” (or something to that effect) there might be a fundamental difference in the nature of the blessing over a “formal” blessing on a house or medal or rosary. With that said though, it seems like the laity could bless a medal or rosary or house by seeking the “intercessory blessing” of a particular saint such as Mary or St. Christopher… at least that seems to be the natural implication in light of the exceptions to the rule, such as St. Blase’s feast day and the blessing of throats.

Thanks for all the feedback! You all are awesome and I hope that one day my great-grandchildren (or spiritual grandchildren) will carry your saint/prayer cards!


#13

What’s the difference between “holy ground” and “regular ground”?

Holy Grounds is the coffee shop at Belmont Abbey College. No joke.

-ACEGC


#14

[quote=CollegeCatholic]Very interesting, especially regarding the fact that there is no real theological explanation of this practice. I can understand the inherent graces provided through a “blessing” but how this blessing is applied to an object, and thus the object is given higher status (ie one cannot destroy a sacramental unless done in so and so fashion) over non-blessed items is still a bit out there for me.
[/quote]

We live in a material world. Matter has value to us. When we ask God to “bless” an object, we ALSO promise that this object will be reserved for sacred purposes and not used in a profane (common) manner. We offend God when we break this promise.

FWIW, this principle has clear Biblical merit. The goblets in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem had been “blessed” (reserved for sacred use). The Temple was sacked, and King Belshazzar ordered that those goblets be brought for use in a pagan banquet, whereupon a mystical hand wrote upon the wall. The prophet Daniel was called upon to translate the writings, and he determined that Belshazzar had offended God (citing, specifically, the abuse of the goblets). Belshazzar died that very night (see Daniel 5-6).


#15

This is not exactly the same thing, but it is similar.

Num 6:22 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
Num 6:23 "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
Num 6:24 The LORD bless you and keep you;
Num 6:25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
Num 6:26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Num 6:27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

We see here that when Aaron said a blessing on the people, God would bless them because of it. In other words, as a direct result of Aaron saying the blessing, God would bless the people.

This is the same principle that applies to priests blessing people, and ultimately to items as well. When the priest saying the blessing, God blesses the the person/item.


#16

Excellent points! Thanks for the feedback!


closed #17

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