Tuesday, January 16, 2007
The Catholic Church defines Sacramentals as sacred signs instituted by the Church.
Holy Cards, Rosaries, Images, Statues, among other things, are considered to be "sacramentals", for they are tangible things that lead us into a more intimate union with Jesus Christ. For example, when a priest blesses a holy card or a religious image, he prays that anyone who looks up that image be blessed, be touched by God's grace in some way. For it is the job of that image to remind us to pray, or if the image is of a Saint, then we look to the person portrayed as an example in how to lead a holy life.
Yet we must be careful not to cross from "veneraton" into Superstition. With a capital "S".
I found a perfect example of this in "Through the Year with Padre Pio", which is a collection of anecdotes, letters, and quotes from Padre Pio taken from several sources, compiled by Patricia Treece.
...Padre Pio was known for enjoying a hearty laugh, for pranks and witticisms. Besides his true spiritual children, there were "followers" of Padre Pio who let superstition creep into devotion to him. While he found this annoying and sometimes even got angry when it went too far, in general he maintained a healthy, humorous perspective.
An example: Some of these devotees would call out as he passed, "Padre Pio, my mother had cancer, and I put your picture on her chest and it disappeared." "Padre Pio, my child was very sick, and I put your picture on him, and he got immediately well." Padre Pio heard so much of the efficacy of his picture and was pretty tired of what he considered rank superstition.
One night, praying alone very late in the choir of the church, he heard footsteps back and forth in the silence of the night. Eventually this disturbed his prayer. He got up and looked out the window. He saw a sinister-looking figure in a cape with something in his hand that might [have been] a grenade or bomb.
This was a time of great political unrest, and Padre Allesio Parente later recalled Pio's telling the other friars, "At first I was so scared he would throw the bomb at me. But then I said to myself, 'Oh, don't worry; I think I've got a picture of Padre Pio somewhere."
~ Kathleen Stauffer, "They Knew Padre Pio," Catholic Digest, December 1991 and The Voice of Padre Pio, Vol. 20, No. 4, 1990, 7. (p. 27, Through the Year with Padre Pio)