Thursday, August 5, 2010

Answer to Doctrinal Quiz Show, Sacraments/Sacramentals. And, Bubble Awards!

For all you who hope for the soap (whoa, that sounds like a twist on a famous blog!! Get it, "all you who hope"? I just noticed that!), here we go... 
The question was: 
What is the difference between a sacrament and a sacramental? (Bonus points for players who can name all seven sacraments and at least five sacramentals.)
And the answers:
A sacrament is "an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." Sacraments are the channels of God’s grace to our souls. They are the most tangible and direct connection between Heaven and earth, between God and man. They infuse the soul with the very Life of God (sanctifying grace), and they are the ordinary means of salvation.
Sacraments really, truly bring about what they signify. For example, when we are washed with water in Baptism, our souls really are made clean -- not symbolically, but truly. The outward sign (form and matter) of each sacrament signifies the actual transformation which occurs in our soul.
Sacraments are not a “work” that we humans do (as many Protestants believe of Catholics), but they are works of Christ Himself, by the Holy Spirit. The power of the sacraments comes straight from God down to us, and we simply open our hearts to receive His grace. Sacraments give grace ex opere operato, which means “from the act performed.” In other words, God's grace will objectively be there every time a sacrament is conferred, even if we limit or block its infusion into our souls by being poorly disposed to receive it. 
The seven sacraments are: 
Holy Communion (Eucharist)
Confession (Penance, Reconciliation)
Holy Matrimony
Holy Orders 
Anointing of the Sick (Last Rites, Extreme Unction)
A sacramental is a special prayer, action, gesture or blessed object that helps a person grow in holiness. The graces and effects of a sacramental are the result of both the faith of the believer and the prayerful intercession of the Church. In other words, whatever spiritual benefits and graces come from sacramentals are dependent on the individual's faith and the prayers of the Church.
Sacramentals include blessings, novenas, prayers, holy water, holy oils, holy medals, blessed candles, blessed ashes, blessed fire, incense, altars, icons, rosaries, crucifixes, scapulars, wedding rings, vestments, the chalice, the liturgical year itself, genuflection, prostration, the Sign of the Cross, and much, much more.  
Soooo.........let's do some compare and contrast:
Essentially, the sacraments are objective. (As St. Thomas Aquinas put it, "the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.") 
By contrast, sacramentals are subjective. Their power or efficacy comes from the faith or piety of the one who makes use of them.
Sacraments are the means of salvation. By contrast, sacramentals do not save. (But sacramentals can remit venial sin. Did you know that the use of holy water before mass and the recitation of the Confiteor are for the remittance of venial sin in preparation for our reception of Jesus in the Eucharist?)
Oh, how I could go on, but God saw fit to give us a mere 24 hours in a day! For more on sacraments, click here. For more on sacramentals, click here.
Now..... drum roll.... the Bubble Awards!! 
The Self-Flagellation and Excessive Display of Guilt and Shame Award goes to Tridentine Wife! (You are a convert, so I am impressed!)
The Best Situational Adaptation of a Pop-Culture Reference to a Classic Seinfeld Episode Award goes to This Cross I Embrace! (PS: I'm not sure if there was an "official" change of the name of Last Rites? I know that Anointing of the Sick is more accurate for its use today, since we no longer reserve that sacrament solely for the dying.)
The Spirit of Accusation Award (in an attempt to evade the question) goes to Shannon!
The Sew Award for Being Sew Award goes to Sew! (See, I didn't forget!)
Now, I would love to give the Nerd Mom Award to The Mom (I'm sure that'll come in time), and I would love to give awards to all the first time players, and I would love to give awards to those who brown-nosingly complimented my new graphic, and I would love to give a holey soap to all those who have the right answers, but I am practicing restraint and prudence and tough love. 
So, the GRAND PRIZE must go to the member of the Church Militant who was the first to give me the fullest right answer, including all bonus points and an inclusion of non-objects as sacramentals! And that solider of Christ is.....
Mrs. Mike!!!!!!!!!  
{wild applause, but also some unkind grumblings from those contestants who feel the judge is unjust and who have not yet been perfected in humility and charity}
Mrs. Mike (should she be so trusting as to email her address to me) will be the lucky recipient of a holey object that is not blessed and is not a sacramental..... 

(And isn’t it ironic, or perhaps providential, that soap produces...BUBBLES???!!!!)
Come back soon and join us for more good clean fun in the Bubble!


  1. I would like to thank the little people. And my sisters, who taught me from an early age that most of our family humor revolves around quoting classic movies and television shows, and that it is not polite to say something funny on your own, leaving the rest of the family to sit and wonder what movie it is from.
    Thank you. Thank you very much.

  2. Thank you, thank you very much! Sew is a lucky girl! ;)

  3. Congrats to the winners! And I just want to reiterate how ridiculous looking that soap is.

  4. I demand a recount!

    The Nerd Mom award should definitely be mine. I did answer in Latin, you know.

  5. To TCIE,
    I don't know what your original question was, but I have an idea, so I'll give it a go...

    I don't think the Anointing of the Sick was ever officially called, "Last Rites" though it's fine to refer to it as such. It was once called "Extreme Unction" which, as you know, indicated that it was for use only for the dying. But I believe it was during the Second Vatican Council that they did change the name of the sacrament to Anointing of the Sick along with the effort to use the sacrament more accurately by having it offered to those who were ill, but not necessarily "with one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel" as my professor would say. :)

  6. Since I AM the protestant who believes that Catholic Church's sacraments are 'works' let me ask you this question. Can a person get to heaven without being baptized? If they can (since we are saved by Christ's work on the cross and His perfect obedience preceding it) than baptism is an outward sign of internal transformation that we believe had happened PRIOR to receiving the sign. If they can't, being baptized is something you have to DO to be saved (AND you HAVE to do it in Catholic church, too, otherwise you are still not saved) it's definitely a work.
    Also, you said 'The graces and effects of a sacramental are the result of both the faith of the believer and the prayerful intercession of the Church.' In other words, if I have a relict and believe hard enough and the Church offers enough prayers ANYTHING is possible even if it contradicts the will of God? That's the logical conclusion to your statement. Than how do you explain God saying 'no' to our requests? Does it mean we don't believe hard enough? That is heart breaking! Sometimes God just says 'no'! He is the All Powerful God after all. It has nothing to do with the strength of our faith and no number of prayers offered by the church. No matter how many relicts you have or how many rosaries or novenas you say sometimes the answer will not change. How about Paul's thorn in the flesh? Was HE not believing enough? Didn't God say 'my grace is sufficient for you'? I haven’t even mentioned the fact of the 1st and 2nd Commandments (you know, the one about NOT worshipping ANY man made images. Or other people, for that matter (and yes, that includes Mary, the Mother of Jesus) Well, I guess I just mentioned that one :)
    Before you say that you adore Mary and the Saints and that that’s different from worshipping, let me give you a quote from one of the Catholic Saints defining adoration: ‘Saints tell us that faith is love that believes. Hope is love that expects. Adoration is LOVE THAT WORSHIPS. Prayer is love that petitions. Mercy is love that pardons. Charity is love that sacrifices itself. Mortification, martyrdom, is love that immolates itself." - St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier
    So, you DO worship Saints after all.
    Blessings to you.

  7. Hello again, Olya! I must say you are bold to tell Catholics what we believe (your last statement about us is obnoxious). Catholics will define what Catholics believe, thank you. (Would you appreciate me saying that "Protestants DO worship the Bible after all"?).

    I am off to full day of volunteering, so I can't answer your (many, many) points and misconceptions right now. Will try to address the most grave misrepresentations later. Blessings!

  8. Leila, we have a couple of former Catholics in our congregation. So this isn't taken out of thin air. Thanks for being willing to correct my misconceptions. Have a good time volunteering. I'll be doing the same thing later today so it's possible I'll not see your comments till Friday.

  9. Hi Olya! Great questions. I too don't have time to answer all of them and I will wait paitently until Leila or others answer them, but I appreciate you wanting to know.

    I too love that quote by St. Mary and I posted it on my blog a couple weeks ago! ;) That being said, I don't know of any Catholics that "adore" Mary and that is not what the quote says at ALL. You are correct - worship and adoration is reserved for GOD alone and I fully AGREE. I respect and honor Mary and ask her to intercede for me with the Lord, similar to how I ask Leila and others (including yourself) to pray for me. Yes, Catholics hold Mary in higher regard than others and this is not unusual at all. In the normal course of the day there are people that we respect more than others.

    If you want to read a great article that addresses this EXACT issue that you raised, please read the following:

    Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) is a great resource for understanding what Catholics profess, believe and are called to live out in our relationships with Christ. They have articles on many of the other issues you brought up as well.

    Furthermore, I think it is great that you are friends with Catholics, but if I wanted to understand more about your denomination I would not only ask you and others closely connected to your church, but I would also check out the official documents (e.g., Common Prayer for Episcopalians, Statements of Belief, etc.) of your specific denomination. That way, I can try to understand what is at the core of your beliefs. That is why we as Catholics refer often to the Bible, the Cathechism of the Catholic Church, encylicals, writings of the Saints, etc.

    Enjoy your volunteering! God Bless and go forth and be A SAINT! In Christ, Marie (Mrs. B)

  10. Olya, one last thing, I don't know if you are an Episcopalian, I was just giving examples of other denominations that have statements of creed, beliefs, etc. The one for Episcopalians came to mind. That is all. Sorry for any possible confusion.

  11. I love how your blog can even get a debate going on a Bubble Award post! :)

  12. JBTC, very well said.
    Olya, First, I want to mention that since you said the people you are getting your information from are former Catholics, I think it stands to reason that perhaps these people don’t truly understand their former faith. If they truly got it and had a full appreciation for the beauty of Catholicism, then they wouldn’t be attending your church.
    Second, yes, baptism is necessary for salvation because it is how we become part of the body of Christ. It is not something that we “DO,” but it is us allowing God to transform our souls. However, that said you don’t have to be baptized in a Catholic Church for the baptism to “count.” If the person is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, then it is a valid baptism. When people enter the Catholic Church at Easter, they are not “rebaptized” if they have already been baptized in another denomination. Also, in a life or death situation, a lay person can baptize if there is no priest available.
    That said, God is a merciful God, and if someone dies without baptism, it is not for us to decide if he went to Heaven or Hell.
    Third, as you know, God does not grant prayers that are contrary to His perfect will, and we Catholics don’t expect “magic” to happen just because we have faith in sacramentals etc. However, if we have faith and truly believe that God will answer our petitions, that is pleasing to God. There are many Bible stories where this is the case. A good example is the woman in the Gospels who had suffered from a terrible hemorrhage for 12 years. “She said to herself, ‘If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.’ Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, ‘Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.’ And from that hour the woman was cured.” Matthew 9:21-22.
    In Mark 6:25-34, the same story is recounted, and we see that the woman was healed immediately when she touched his garment. She did not touch Christ’s body, and He did not lay hands on her. She simply touched his clothes, and she was healed because of her faith, and her request fit with God’s will for her life.
    We Catholics have things like crucifixes and statues simply to remind us and encourage us in our faith, and rosary beads are a tool for prayer. In fact, the rosary prayer is actually a meditation of the life of Christ.
    When we look at the crucifix, we are reminded of Christ’s suffering and love for us. How could it possibly be bad to remind ourselves of this as often as possible. We have one in almost every room of our house.
    And I will second what JBTC said, we do not worship the saints or Mary. Adoration is a term reserved for God, and I don’t know of any Catholic who says they are going to go adore Mary or the saints. We honor the saints, and we try to model our lives after their example of holiness. Yes, we should imitate Christ, but He is God! It is encouraging to read about the lives of sinful human beings living lives of prayer and true holiness.
    As for Mary, Olya, is there an older woman in your church who you consider to be particularly holy, and who you would really want to pray for you if something happened? Asking Mary for her prayers is very similar. Only Mary’s prayers are so much more powerful since she is asking her Divine Son for His help for us. We also thank Mary for saying yes to carry God’s Son, and we appreciate her role in our salvation. However, we do not worship her. She would not want us to worship her; she wants only to point us to her perfect Son.
    Olya, I hope this helps!
    Ladies, if there is anything I left out seemed to portray inaccurately, please feel free to jump in. :)

  13. Olya - just really quick (and sorry if this is confusing but I am typing fast).

    First, you are correct about the word "adore" -- Catholics do not adore Saints. They venerate them. You got your words mixed up.

    Second, the Catholic Church never teaches our will trumps God's will. You are reading too much into the statements on sacramentals. The point of sacramentals is that the condition of our hearts matters when we pray in our ability to receive whatever graces God chooses to bestow. We see this happen in Scripture when Jesus comments on the strength of various individuals' faith and prayers before performing a miracle.

    In regards to baptism:

    Scripture tells us that unless we are born by water and the Spirit we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. It seems God's Word is saying baptism itself is necessary for salvation (not just an symbol of having already been saved).

    The apostles are also commanded to go forth and baptize all nations. Not just to spread the Good News so that people accept it in their hearts... but to perform the act of baptism.

    The Catholic Church takes that command seriously and follows God's orders here!

    I am not sure why you think this is mere human works. Just as the apostles could cast our demons in Christ's name, they could baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God apparently likes to work through His people and that's not the same as merely performing "good works."

    It's also worth noting that Catholics believe in multiple forms of baptism. There is baptism by water, the ordinary way which is required for salvation. Then there are two other forms:

    Baptism by desire
    Baptism by blood

    Both of these forms refer to those who were *unable* to receive baptism by water before death or martyrdom.

    So these folks aren't just "saved" by their own intellectual assent... they are saved by God's grace through a form of baptism.

    Finally, altho the Church proclaims what is necessary for salvation, we entrust all unbaptized souls to God's perfect mercy and judgement. The Church never proclaims if one *particular* soul went to heaven or hell. That's always ultimately up to God's perfect judgement.

  14. Wow. I too find it appalling that someone would come on this blog and presume to tell Catholics what it is we believe (or worship). I can't even imagine going up to a person and telling them, "You worship doughnuts, end of story. And before you go and say you DON'T, let me tell you preemptively why you really DO." Seriously??

    I would add to Megan's beautiful articulation of how Catholics venerate Mary and how her prayers are so much more powerful than the average human or Saint, by pointing you toward John's Gospel of the Wedding Feast at Cana. Here, Jesus's time had not yet come to reveal himself, yet Mary asked Him and He turned the water into wine upon her request.

    A beautiful homily I heard said that Mary will often do the same thing for us when she sees WE are in trouble, like the couple at the wedding who ran out of wine: she will approach her Son on our behalf, and tell Him, "Jesus, they are in trouble," and He will answer.

    In His time.

  15. Well sorry... I guess the Church does say some souls are in heaven when they canonize Saints. But in regards to hell... there is no, like, list of people's names.

  16. Oh TCIE... I love the image in that homily! That is beyond Awesome. Mary has our back.

    I would second Megan's point about where one should get information about what us Catholics believe. I was once told by a very wise man that... anyone who truly understands the richness, beauty and the TRUTH of the Catholic Church will NEVER leave the church. NEVER. Their faith will not even waiver even under the harshest of circumstances. If someone does leave the church, they never truly understood it at all, even if they say they did. With all the individuals I've known who have left the church, this was so true.

  17. Olya, this is a game of semantics. Unfortunately, it is it the same game played by atheists who select a single sentence out of the Bible and build their whole argument against Christianity upon that quote. But in your case, it is even more misguided given that that this quote bears no authoritative weight by the Church, as opposed to the Bible.


    #1. I bet you adore your husband, yes? Do you worship him, too?

    #2. While St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier's quote is inspirational, it is not "official" Catholic teaching. The saints don't define "adoration."

    So my challenge: Please find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which IS official) where the Church puts saints on a higher or equal plane to Christ, or even that Catholics do - or should - worship saints. (And I'm sure that you'll forgive that I also don't afford the "former Catholics" at your church much deference either). I await your response with baited breath.

    #3. St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier was French and lived in the 19th century. Isn't it just a little possible something is lost in translation, and aren't you really just trying to say that the word "adore" has an "official" Catholic meaning that means "worship" without any evidence other this mere statement? I mean - seriously?

    Ultimately, you're trying to argue 2,000 years of Church teaching on the subject can be coalesced into a single sentence uttered by one Catholic saint. Good luck with that . . .

  18. WOW! An award I'm actually proud to get but it gets trumped by a good debate. Thank you Olya for a rousing discussion and clarification that we do not in fact worship saints (among other things).

  19. No love for the girl who quote Augustine? Sheesh...this is a tough competition ;-)

    My two cents on the other hot topic. In response to why catholics have pictures of saints, statues, etc. We consider the communion of saints our family in faith. Isn't it typical for most people to have pictures of their family in their home? Especially family that may have passed or live far away? Of course, pictures help as a visual reminder of the person. Same goes for pictures of the saints. We don't pray TO saints, we ask them to pray FOR us, since they are after all, hanging out with the Lord Himself right now. Just like we would ask family and friends to pray for us here on earth.

  20. Haha.. LOVE the first line of this post.

    And wow, every time I come here I realize just how little I know and, more importantly, how very articulate my fellow bloggers are! I'm still hoping one of these days I can actually attempt to answer one of the quizzes, but I have to admit I'm always very intimidated! :)


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