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A Palm Sunday photo of the blessing of palms, a sacramental in Christianity

A sacramental in Christianity is a material object or action (in Latin sacramentalia) ritually blessed by a priest to signal its association with the sacraments and so to incite reverence during acts of worship. They are recognised by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Church of the East, the Lutheran churches, the Old Catholic Church, the Anglican churches, Independent Catholic churches, and Methodist churches.

In the Bible, prayer cloths and holy oil are mentioned in reference to praying for healing.[1] Holy water is a sacramental that believers use to recall their baptism; other common sacramentals include blessed candles (often given to churchgoers on Candlemas), blessed palms (given away at churches on Palm Sunday), blessed ashes (placed on believers' foreheads on Ash Wednesday services), a cross necklace (often taken to be blessed by a pastor before daily use), blessed salt, and holy cards, as well as Christian art, especially a crucifix.[2] Apart from those worn daily, such as a cross necklace or devotional scapular, sacramentals such as a Family Bible, are often kept on home altars in Christian households.[3][4] When blessed in a betrothal ceremony, engagement rings become a sacramental.[5]

As an adjective, sacramental means "of or pertaining to sacraments".

Biblical basis

The Biblical basis for the use of sacramentals is that Jesus used a form of sacramentals himself; for example, when Christ healed a blind man, he made a mud paste that he put over the eyes of the man, before telling him to wash in the Pool of Siloam.[6]

Denominational usage


The Anglican Rosary sitting atop the Anglican Breviary and the Book of Common Prayer

A text of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America includes items such as the Anglican rosary, ashes, and palms among objects counted as sacramentals.[7]


The Catholic Church currently defines sacramentals as "sacred signs which... signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy."[8]

Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare one to receive grace and dispose a person to cooperate with it. "For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power."[9]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists three types of sacramentals: blessings,[10] consecrations/dedications,[11] and exorcisms.[12]

Rosary beads, scapulars, medals and religious images are more accurately termed devotional articles; non-liturgical prayers such as the rosary, the stations of the cross, litanies, and novenas are called popular devotions or "expressions of popular piety".[13]

The Latin Church allows the reception of certain sacramentals, such as blessings, by non-Catholics unless there is a prohibition to the contrary.[14]


A blessed prayer cloth and holy anointing oil distributed by the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association, a Pentecostal apostolate

Pentecostal theologian Mark Pearson states that the Bible speaks of sacramentals, sometimes referred to as points of contact, such as blessed prayer cloths (Acts 19:11-19:12) and holy oil (James 5:14).[1] He states that God is the source of healing and that Pentecostal clergy "can confidently offer prayer, administer the various sacramentals, and lay hands on the sick".[1]

Further reading

  • Deharbe, Joseph (1912). "Chap. IV. Sacramentals" . A Complete Catechism of the Catholic Religion. Translated by Rev. John Fander. Schwartz, Kirwin & Fauss.
  • Leclercq, Henri (1913). "Sacramentals" . Catholic Encyclopedia.
  • "Sacramentals" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 23 (11th ed.). 1911.


  1. ^ a b c Payne, Leanne (1 March 1996). Restoring the Christian Soul: Overcoming Barriers to Completion in Christ through Healing Prayer. Baker Books. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-4412-3957-0.
  2. ^ Experiencing Religion: New Approaches to Personal Religiosity. LIT Verlag Münster. 2016. p. 125. ISBN 978-3-643-90727-1. Clara Saraiva, Peter Jan Margry, Lionel Obadia, Kinga Povedák, José Mapril
  3. ^ Nelson, Paul A. "Home Altars". Immanuel Lutheran Church. Retrieved 2018.
  4. ^ Turpin, Joanne (1 June 1993). Catholic Treasures New and Old: Traditions, Customs and Practices. St. Anthony Messenger Press. pp. 49-50. ISBN 978-0-86716-164-9.
  5. ^ Marriage Mass & Rite of Betrothal. Angelus Press. 1962.
  6. ^ O'Neill, Eddie (1 November 2014). "What Are Sacramentals?". Our Sunday Visitor. Archived from the original on 8 August 2018. Retrieved 2017.
  7. ^ Armentrout, Don S. (1 January 2000). An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians. Church Publishing, Inc. p. 541. ISBN 978-0-89869-701-8. Retrieved 2014.
  8. ^ Sacrosanctum Concilium 60
  9. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1670
  10. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1671
  11. ^ Catechism § 1672.
  12. ^ Catechism § 1673.
  13. ^ Catechism § 1674.
  14. ^ Code of Canon Law 1170

External links

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