I’ll never forget the time my family bought a treadmill - you know, to stay fit during those cold winter months up in Canada. The only problem was after a few months, not only was it collecting dust, but it became the bedroom’s finest clothes hanger! Every time we’d see it, we’d think: ‘I should use the treadmill soon,’ but there was never a time set aside in the week to use it, so it continued to serve other functions.
Unfortunately, everyone has that thing they buy and never use - it’s just there.
It’s just one of those things that you don’t use, but you might use someday, so you can’t throw or give it away. You know you need it; you just don’t know how to put it to daily use.
The same thing can happen in our spiritual life. The Catholic faith offers various paths to aid us in our daily life toward sanctity. We have the seven Sacraments instituted by Christ, but we also have “sacramentals” instituted by the Church. Sacramentals are like Sacraments. While Sacraments give grace from God, Sacramentals prepare us to receive grace. But although they’re there, many times we don’t know how to make use of them!
Now that we know what they are, here are 10 simple ways to use them:
1. Before digging in… Bless your food at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
2. Cross Yourself! Make the sign of the cross with greater fervor before and after praying for meals, in the Mass, and in personal prayer. You are expressing your belief in one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and you are forming a cross over yourself.
3. Invoke those intercessors! Get into the habit of asking Christ, Mary or your favorite saints for their intercession: before a trip, a sports game, a tough moment at work, or when you lose something!
4. Bless yourself! The next time you walk into the Church, bless your forehead with holy water¬, which is a symbol of purity. When you make this act, thank God for the gift of Baptism.
5. “My Lord and my God!” To kneel, bow or genuflect is an outward sign that helps us with our internal fervor. Kneeling is an attitude of bending ourselves as creatures before God our Creator. Try to make a slower genuflection, remembering Christ is truly present in the Eucharist.
6. Pray those beads! Spend a moment with family or friends to pray each Hail Mary with more awareness, or place yourself in the scene of the mystery.
7. Dust off your Bible! We need to constantly go deeper into God’s Word in salvation history. Take a few moments to read and reflect on the Gospel or one of the Psalms. Ask, how can I live this lesson out in my day today?
8. Pre-read! Read through the readings, Psalm, and Gospel before Mass. It helps to follow along with the readings instead of getting distracted with the baby crying a few pews over, or the microphone problems!
9. “May Almighty God bless…” The next time you invite your parish priest over for dinner (try it soon!), ask him to bless your house or give you a family blessing.
10. Trust that the Church wants to give us Sacramentals so we can live out our Christian call to holiness. God is calling you to be holy, and it’s possible.
Don’t let these Sacramentals get stuck in the corner to collect dust or lose their meaning. Choose a few you need to do better or that you think you should start doing more frequently. Maybe it’s as simple as praying before meals, making the sign of the cross with more fervor or consciously blessing your forehead with holy water as you enter the Church. God has given us so many ways to be holy and find him; don’t throw them away! Jump on your spiritual treadmill and build up some holy endurance!
For more information on Sacramentals, go to http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13292d.htm.
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