Disclaimer

NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry & Blog Administrator


Thursday, March 26, 2020

No Sacraments? Make use of Devotions & Sacramentals!



Like most people here in Hawaii, I'm hunkered down at home waiting out this terrible Coronavirus Pandemic that has quickly spread around the globe.  I'm doing fine but I'm missing something badly - the Mass. I'm craving the profound sense of "connection" with the Divine that I personally feel when receiving the Holy Eucharist, as well as, the fellowship of other worshippers... and the inner peace and strength that flood my soul from the very heart of Christ, himself; blessings we could all use at this present time.

What allows me a measure of consolation, however, is the fact that the Catholic Church is a veritable treasury of traditions, spiritual exercises, and religious articles that help us to still make a deep and tangible connection with God in this dark period of Mass suspensions... and they bring us grace, too!  We call them "popular devotions" and "sacramentals"... and now is a better time than ever to put them to good use.  I sure am.


In case you're not aware, there are many pious practices and spiritual objects, which, in addition to gracing us through the benediction of the Church, have special signal blessings attached to them, per approved private revelations. Often, physical protection from harm is included in these promised graces, which is an added "bonus"!

Below are just a few devotions and sacramentals I'd like to recommend, especially during the ongoing pandemic...

D E V O T I O N S :

+ Eucharistic Adoration & Spiritual Communion
With the temporary suspension of public worship and the Sacraments that's now commonplace, these devotions have taken on a greater relevance.  Spiritual Communion may be performed any time, anywhere - click here for more information about the practice... and fortunately, through modern technology, we can now adore Jesus through various chapels that offer livestreaming, 24/7 - click here to view one such chapel... and here is access to another one in the United Kingdom.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

+ The Sacred Heart of Jesus
In 1675, Jesus appeared in the Visitation Monastery of Paray-le-Monial to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (d. 1690). His message was simple - he affirmed his immeasurable love for all mankind and wanted his Sacred Heart to be especially honored as a visible representation of Divine Love. The devotion is a popular staple amongst Catholics and, from the writings of St. Margaret Mary, are compiled a list of 12 promises made by the Lord to those who will practice and promote this devotion - the promises may be read here.

+ Our Lady & the Rosary
Devotion to the Holy Mother of Christ is another powerful one to practice, as most believers already know. The Blessed Virgin is the premier advocate before her Divine Son, and the Rosary is the primary expression of devotion to her. Mary, herself, once said to St. Dominic Guzman (d. 1221), "One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, I will save the world."  The Holy Mother further went on to dictate 15 promises to the Saint and Bl. Alan de la Roche (d. 1475) for people who will practice this time-honored devotion - read them here.

+ The Stations of the Cross
I believe it's not coincidental the Coronavirus hit pandemic status during Lent. It's as though God willed that the entire world should do penance in conjunction with his Church; to make reparation for its countless sins. An effective way to do that is to meditate on the Passion of Christ; to unite ourselves with our Crucified Lord, in the spirit of supplication and atonement.  The Stations of the Cross is a perfect way to do this.  For more info about this beautiful devotion, click here


+ The Divine Mercy Chaplet
Compared to the three devotions already described above, this one is fairly recent, having been introduced to the world in the 20th Century through St. Faustina Kowalska (d. 1938).  Yet, it is no less popular.  Jesus once said to the Saint, "It pleases me to grant everything souls ask of me by saying the chaplet." Empowering and timely, given the world's present circumstances - many have likened the viral outbreak to a divine chastisement. If this be the case, praying this chaplet frequently is a must for one's spiritual routine.  It's another way to atone for sin, while drawing down mercy from Heaven.

Holy Angels of God, guide and protect us!

+ The Angels
Having recourse to the Holy Angels is another worthwhile devotion. Start with your own guardian angel, who loves you beyond what you could ever comprehend in this life.  Only in the next life will we see just how many dangers and evils have been prevented through our angels' unwavering care and protection.  So love... appreciate... and pray to your personal angel each and every day.

And of course, there are the three Archangels - Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.  St. Michael shields us with God's protection; St. Gabriel reveals God's Word; St. Raphael dispenses God's healing.  All these are much needed blessings right now so invoke these Holy Archangels frequently - together!

To read more about the marvelous intercession of angels in the lives of our Saints, click here.

+ The Saints
I cannot say enough of our spiritual heroes. In the 35+ years that I've been learning from, praying to, and cultivating devotion to various Saints, I've personally experienced their help in extraordinary ways - healing, protection, financial assistance, and other favors. Throughout history, countless people have too... and sometimes entire towns and cities!  To cite one notable example, I remember reading a story that when the bubonic plague broke out in northern and central Italy in the 1630s, the town of Cascia had recourse to their Patron Saint, St. Rita (d. 1457). The citizens processed the ornate casket enshrining her incorrupt body around the town, which had the effect of miraculously sparing Cascia from the outbreak, while neighboring towns and cities were devastated by the pestilence.

Holy Saints of God, pray for us!

So if you haven't done so yet, why not pick a Saint (or Blessed) to be your personal Patron - any Saint; doesn't have to be a "plague Saint" (all of them can intercede in any circumstance).  Read about his or her life while you're self-isolated to start a personal friendship with that particular Saint/Blessed. A good way to then cultivate your new bond is to exercise frequent novenas to the Saint/Blessed or to simply have spiritual conversations, via informal prayer.  You may just be surprised by how well they listen; how willing they are to help us get closer to God; and to even help us with our daily needs. Click here to start reading the interesting and inspirational lives of many Saints/Blessed already featured on this blog.   

S A C R A M E N T A L S :

Concerning sacramentals, they are external signs of certain devotions. They primarily differ from the Sacraments (e.g. Baptism, the Eucharist, Confirmation, etc.) in that the Sacraments were instituted by Christ to give us sanctifying grace, while sacramentals are given to us by the Catholic Church to inspire us to live better lives so as to gain graces. Used properly - not superstitiously - sacramentals dispose us to receive favors in soul and body through the authoritative power of the blessing and prayer of the Church. Among the most common sacramentals the Faithful may avail themselves of during these urgent times are...

Cover us with your Precious Blood, Lord Jesus!

+ The Crucifix

This is a no-brainer. For me crucifixes are on a level all their own compared to other sacred images, and should be automatic in a Catholic home.  If you don't already have one, get one and display it in a prominent place in your house!  Use it regularly to meditate on the Passion and invoke the saving power of the Precious Blood.

+ Holy Water
This is "Sacramentals 101". Water universally symbolizes cleansing so Holy Water is commonly used to spiritually purify everything it's prayerfully sprinkled on - persons, objects, and places.  The great St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582) once wrote, "From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like holy water to put devils to flight." Get into the habit of blessing yourself daily with it and sprinkle it weekly within one's home.

+ Sacred Images / Statues
Having statues, icons, and pictures of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints in a home is not only comforting since images effectively convey a sense of presence of the holy persons represented... and they can also channel signal graces.  This has been witnessed and documented time and time again throughout history. One tremendous example occurred in Rome, circa 590 - the black plague was decimating the city and the reigning Pontiff, Pope Gregory I, was inspired to have an ancient icon of the Madonna and Child (reportedly painted by St. Luke on a wooden tabletop) carried in procession through the Roman streets. During the procession, Our Lady appeared above Hadrian's Tomb - now called Castel Sant'Angelo - along with a crowd of angels, including St. Michael. The archangel sheathed his sword, which signaled the abrupt end to the pestilence.

The procession of a miraculous icon of the Blessed
Virgin in Rome that ended a deadly plague.

Not surprisingly, the miracle icon used in the procession inspired a popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin under the title of "Salus Populi Romani" (Salvation of the Roman People).  It's now enshrined in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and this is the very same Marian image Pope Francis will pray before whenever he leaves for a trip and returns.  If I recall correctly, he visited the icon recently to again invoke Mary's intercession against the current pandemic.

Consider carrying a blessed statue or icon of Jesus and/or Mary around your property in a mini-procession with members of your household... then "enthrone" it in a central place in your home. I especially recommend the Sacred Heart, the Divine Mercy image and/or Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Sprinkle holy water along the way while you're at it.

+ Medals
There are devotional medals of all sorts, intended for varying spiritual purposes. Among the approved and widely acclaimed are the St. Benedict Medal (especially potent against evil); the Miraculous Medal (revealed to St. Catherine Laboure and particularly effective for healing); the Holy Face Medal (revealed to Bl. Maria Pierina de Micheli along with promises from Jesus for spiritual and physical protection).  Incidentally, many exorcists recommend the practice of burying blessed medals at the four corners of one's yard as a way of warding off all forms of evil.  Another thing to consider.

+ Scapulars
Like medals, scapulars come in many forms; each intended to be an external indication of a particular devotion to Jesus, Mary, or a Saint (e.g. St. Michael). By wearing a scapular, one places oneself under the protection of the holy person to whom the scapular is dedicated. Arguably the most popular scapular is the Brown Scapular of Carmel.  To read more about this particular sacramental, click here.


Another scapular worth mentioning for these times and that's grown in popularity in recent years is the Scapular of Benediction and Protection (sometimes called the "Purple Scapular" - shown above).  It's a large scapular, compared to most, and pricier due to it's more intricate design. This sacramental has its origin in a private revelation from the Virgin to the French stigmaticMarie-Julie Jahenny (d. 1941) and directly connected to it are several heavenly promises, including the following: "All those who will wear it will be protected from thunder, sudden death, and accidents. During the chastisements they will be protected." The Purple Scapular does not have to be worn, but can simply be blessed then displayed in a prominent place in one's home in order to benefit from its grace.**

**NOTE: It's important to point out that the effectiveness of any sacramental is dependent on the user's faith in the blessing imparted by the Catholic Church through its priests, as well as the level of fervent use of the sacramental for its intended purpose. There is no power in the religious article, itself.  Faith in God and in his power to work through the blessing are the essential factors. 

In closing, I'm hoping that by sharing this information, readers will be encouraged to practice one or more of the popular devotions I described, as part of a daily routine; an alternative way to sanctify one's day in the absence of the Mass... and please don't stop when Mass is reinstated - one can never have enough grace!

A biblical scene from the Book of Exodus - the Jews
protecting themselves from a coming plague.

As for sacramentals, take advantage of these spiritual gifts; the divine promises attached to several of them - we, Catholics, are fortunate to have them! And if you have any doubts, just remember the Israelites when they were enslaved in Egypt - God instructed them, through Moses, to smear the blood of sacrificed lambs on their door posts as a visible signal to the angel of death to "pass over" their homes (see Exodus 12).  We can do the same with this modern plague, minus the blood, of course - instead, use sacramentals. Wear them on your persons; fasten them on your doors to signal Heaven that we, too, are people of God who are looking to be spared.

So have faith in the infinite power of Christ and confidence in the blessings of the Catholic Church, which Jesus, himself, founded... and pray, pray, pray!


All shall be well.

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