In these times of much evil, when truly the devil goes about “seeking whom he may devour”, let us make as much use of what Holy Mother Church gives us in order to put on our “armor” for each day, dodging the attacks that may come upon us!
-Father Arthur Tonne, The Big Book of Sacramentals
“For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected that is accepted with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” – I Timothy, 4:4
The magazine, Ave Maria, of May 2, 1942, reported a human interest story sent in by a war correspondent. It concerned a certain Second Lieut., Clarence Sanford, a pursuit pilot, whose life was saved by the medal he wore.
When he became separated from five other American fighter planes, he lost his way in the South Pacific. His fuel ran low, and he was forced down into the gulf of Carpentaria which indents Australia on the north. He was over two miles from the closest island. He stripped off his clothes and began to swim. He made the beach but fell exhausted in a sound slumber.
He awoke to see two natives leaning over him with the points of their spears aimed at his chest. Suddenly their expressions changed; they noticed the medal about Sanford’s neck. In difficult English one of them declared: “All right, Jesus No. 1 Man.”
The natives helped the exhausted flyer to a mission nearby, the only civilized spot within 500 miles. From there he finally made his way back to his squadron.
A medal saved that soldier’s life.
Similar instances of physical protection secured through the wearing of a religious medal are so numerous that one cannot question the heavenly aid which they secure for the body of man.
Much more important, however, is the spiritual aid which they give to those who wear them devoutly and thoughtfully. That is the principal reason Mother Church approves and fosters the wearing of them. It is putting another creature–metal from the earth–to a sacred use.
Religious medals are pieces of metal resembling coins of various sizes and shapes. They are designed to increase devotion, to commemorate some religious event, to protect the soul and body of the wearer, and to serve as a badge of membership in some society, sodality, or other spiritual group.
When they are blessed, they become sacramentals. Some blessed medals also bring indulgences to the one who uses them.
Religious medals have been used from the dawn of Christianity. Many have been found in the catacombs, with the name of Christ and figures of the saints upon them.
In the Middle Ages certain souvenirs in the form of medals were brought home as keepsakes by pilgrims to famous shrines and places of devotion.
In 1950 many who visit Rome will bring home some such reminder of their pilgrimage. The variety of medals is almost without limit as to size, shape, color, weight, type of material, and especially purpose.
We might divide them into three principal groups:
1. Those in honor of our Lord, like the medal of the Sacred Heart, the Savior of the World, the Holy Childhood, the Infant of Prague, and the Ecce Homo or Behold the Man medal. We even have a medal representing the Holy Spirit as a dove.
2. Those in honor of the Blessed Virgin are numerous: The Sorrowful Mother, Our Lady of Victory, Mount Carmel, Good Counsel, Perpetual Help, Lourdes, Guadalupe and Fatima. The Miraculous Medal is perhaps the best known and most widely worn.
In 1830 our Immaculate Mother appeared several times to a young French nun, Sister Catherine Laboure. She appeared as if in an oval picture, standing on a globe, half of which was visible. Mary was clothed in a white robe and a mantle of shining blue.
Her hands seemed covered with diamonds. Rays shone from these diamonds upon the earth. A voice explained: “These rays are symbolic of the graces Mary obtains for men, and the point upon which they fall most abundantly is France.”
Around the picture in golden letters were these words: “O Mary! Conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
On the reverse is the letter “M” surmounted by a cross, having a bar at its base. Beneath the “M” are the hearts of Jesus and Mary. Mary asked that medals be struck from this model. These miraculous medals are highly treasured.
3. We also wear medals in honor of the saints–St. Joseph, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, St. Anthony, St. Aloysius, St. Agnes, St. Ann, St. Christopher, the Little Flower, St. Benedict and many others.
4. Another group includes those in honor of religious events like First Communion, Confirmation, jubilees, Eucharistic Congresses, and the Holy Year. These coin-like sacramentals have three meanings: for the person who wears them; for the person who sees them; with regard to Christ, Mary and the saints represented.
For the wearer—
a. A medal is a means of power. It helps the wearer to share in the rich treasures of prayer and good works of the Church. Definitely there is no superstition in this. We do not expect that piece of metal to save us, but we do expect, and rightly, that when we honor those represented, we will share in their good works.
b. It is a reminder that the wearer must be worthy to carry the representation of such holy people.
c. It prompts the one using this sacramental to perform every act in way worthy of it.
For those who see it—
a. If Catholics, they recognize the wearer as one of their faith, just as the natives with their menacing spears recognized the pilot of our story.
b. If non-Catholics, they know this Catholic is not ashamed of his faith.
For those whose image it bears, the medal—
a. Is a source of honor and veneration.
b. A reminder of the virtues and influence of that individual. Again we emphasize that you don’t have to wear a medal or medals to be a Catholic, no more than you had to wear a dog-tag or identification disc as a soldier during the war.
But–the medal identifies you. It wins for you the heavenly help of the one pictured upon it. It tells others about your faith. It reminds you constantly that you must be worthy to wear it. Make the most of this sacramental. Amen.
You can make your greatest contribution to your family as the heart of your home. From you, your children should learn to love others and to give of themselves unstintingly in the spirit of sacrifice. Never underestimate the importance of your role. -Rev. George Kelly, The Catholic Family Handbook, 1950’s https://amzn.to/2LmAHch (afflink)
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The rosary, scapulars, formal prayers and blessings, holy water, incense, altar candles. . . . The sacramentals of the Holy Catholic Church express the supreme beauty and goodness of Almighty God. The words and language of the blessings are beautiful; the form and art of statues and pictures inspire the best in us. The sacramentals of themselves do not save souls, but they are the means for securing heavenly help for those who use them properly. A sacramental is anything set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to help devotion, and thus secure grace and take away venial sin or the temporal punishment due to sin. This beautiful compendium of Catholic sacramentals contains more than 60,000 words and over 50 full color illustrations that make the time-tested sacramental traditions of the Church – many of which have been forgotten since Vatican II – readily available to every believer.
Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo’s Surrender Prayer brought understanding and peace to countless souls amid the turbulence of the last century. Now, in our age of incomparable uncertainty, this miracle-worker and visionary writer offers the assurance you need to resolutely face the final things: death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell.
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- Why even venial sin impairs our relationship with God
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