My friend says that Rosaries, Relics, etc are Pious Devotions and not Sacramentals

Hello everyone. My devout Catholic friend and I got into an argument last night regarding the definition of sacramentals. I told him that the Rosary, relics, and scapulars are sacramentals as you will see in my exact words below. I was giving examples of sacramentals. He disagreed with me and said that they are popular piety. After the exchange below, we continued arguing in private message and I explained to him that rosaries, relics, scapulars, and other like things are both sacramentals and pious devotions but he refused to believe me unless I provided a Church document which stated this. He used the Catechism of the Catholic Church to back up his argument but I told him that he was misinterpreting it.

Can you please tell me which of us is right? I have always been taught, ever since RCIA, the argument that I made. If I am correct, could you please help me to find an official Church document which states what I said? I am not good at searching for official Church documents because they often have Latin titles and I the Vatican website’s search engine never works very well for me. I would appreciate your help.

He commented and said this:

  1. Sacramentals are things like (-al) the seven Sacraments (sacrament-), such as blessings and exorcisms. They are not popular piety, such as medals, pilgrimage, sign of the cross, rosary, veneration of relics, via crucis, scapulars, consecration, novenas, litanies, the Divine Office, etc.
  1. Sacramentals =/= Sacraments. Sacraments are holy rites (sacra-ments), which come from the Jewish sacraments: the sacrifices, the rites of purification, confession, feast days, etc. Jesus perfected these sacraments by His Baptism, Last Supper, etc., instituting the seven Sacraments.
  1. Sacramentals are not based on your disposition but on the Church’s prayers, because they are not Sacraments. You can’t receive the Eucharist in a sinful disposition, but you can pray the Rosary in sin, and if you pray well, than He Who prays with and in you to His Father, Himself, and Their Spirit will grant you contrition, Baptism or Confession, and new and eternal life with God.

I replied and said this:

The Rosary, relics, and scapulars are sacramentals.

He replied with:

no, they are popular piety

And then he also said:

Catechism 1674 Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals,180 etc.

I think that your friend is right. They are pious devotions that are not required by the faithful. He provided sources that backed up his argument.

No, you are correct. Some of them do spring from popular piety, but that does not detract from certain items being sacramentals.

Blessings and exorcisms are paramount in the order of sacramentals, but any action or thing given an appropriate action of being set apart for pious use is by definition a sacramental. This includes holy water, blessed candles, approved scapulars and medals.

Baltimore Catechism:

Q. 1052. 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.

Q. 1056. 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.

Q. 1063. Which is the chief sacramental used in the Church?
A. The chief sacramental used in the Church is the sign of the cross.

Q. 1070. What other sacramental is in very frequent use?
A. Another sacramental in very frequent use is holy water.

Q. 1074. 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.

My understanding is that Scapulars and Rosaries and Crosses, etc., are Sacramentals only if they’ve been blessed. The blessing, itself, is the sacramental, which confers sacramental graces onto the objects being blessed. Thus, any non-blessed object, properly speaking, shouldn’t be considered sacramental.

Popular devotions and acts of piety are just that, acts. The reason the Rosary and medals are listed as popular devotions is because of the prayers associated with these things. That is to say, the prayers themselves are the popular devotions.

So, there is certainly a distinction to be made here. Things like the Rosary and the Scapular are both sacramental and popular devotions, because they are both blessed (assumedly) objects, and devotional prayers. The blessing of the object renders it sacramental, and the devotional prayer renders it a popular devotion.

Relics are not sacramentals. Relics are parts of the bodies of the saints or things that have been touched to the bodies of the saints. They are holy in themselves, because Christ’s glory and power is manifested in the bodies of His saints as well as in their souls.

Sacramentals are only holy because of the blessing given them by a priest, bishop, etc.

Very few people pray the Rosary or use scapulars that are not blessed by a priest. A individual blessed rosary or scapular is a sacramental. The prayers and practices themselves are forms of popular piety.

Hope this helped.

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