Allison Gingras ponders the role of sacramentals in our faith life, noting how they can be cherished reminders of God's grace.
As an icebreaker at a recent virtual event, I suggested the participants share their favorite sacramental. Little did I know the incredible and touching stories this question would unleash. One of my most cherished sacramentals is a petite porcelain statue of the Infant of Prague, which I accidentally discovered tucked and heftily glued in a dusty plastic flower patch among other treasures lovingly assembled in my godmother's home shrine. I'm not sure what draws me to this image of the child Jesus; however, I've been a devotee since discovering a powerful novena to him early in my reversion.
I am also intrigued by the folklore around acquiring one's Infant of Prague image, either a ceramic one like mine or the fancier doll version with colorful Liturgical vestments. Many believe the Infant will find you, and I've heard stories of yard-sale finds, random bequeathing, and other buried in dusty, unexpected places stories! My sweet porcelain friend sits on my shelf, peering lovingly over my shoulder as I work in Catholic ministry each day.
Devotions play an exciting role in the life of a Catholic, especially in helping to make the invisible God—visible. How blessed are we to have so many ways to connect us to our truly unfathomable God. Devotions join us in worship, not, of course, the often misunderstood accusation of idol worship, but a glorification of the Lord who gives us all that we need, including the reassurances of tangible graces. The limits of our carnal bodies crave physical reminders of God's heavenly assurances.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides this evocative scope of sacramentals in the life of a Catholic Christian:
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 us to receive grace and dispose us 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. There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God (CCC 1670).
From our wedding rings to our beloved Bibles to the heavenly images we collect around us, sacramentals continually remind us of the abundant graces God has for each of us. Graces, Mother Mary, relayed through St. Catherine Laboure and the Miraculous Medal, which often remain unused because we simply fail to ask for them. Surrounding myself with devotional objects acts then as a "string around my finger" so that I may never forget to seek God in every aspect and every moment of my life.
Look around you; what (or whom) do the sacred images or objects surrounding you bring to mind? What sweet stories of God's faithfulness do they evoke?
Copyright 2022 Allison Gingras
Images copyright 2022 Allison Gingras, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Allison Gingras works for Family Rosary, Catholic Mom and the Diocese of Fall River as a social media and digital specialist. She is the author of Encountering Signs of Faith (Fall 2022, Ave Maria Press). Allison developed the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women series including her volumes—The Gift of Invitation and Seeking Peace (OSV). Podcast host of A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras and a co-host of Catholic Momcast.