A sacramental is a material object, thing or action (sacramentalia) set apart or blessed to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments and so to excite pious thoughts and to increase devotion to God. They are recognised by the Roman and Eastern Catholic churches, the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, the Church of the East, as well as certain Anglican, Independent Catholic and Old Catholic, Lutheran churches, and Methodist churches.

Holy water, for example, 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 one's pastor before daily usage), blessed salt, and holy cards, as well as Christian art, especially a crucifix or cross.[1] Apart from those worn daily, such as a cross necklace or devotional scapular, sacramentals are often kept on home altars in Christian households.[2][3]

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.[4]

Denominational usage


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.[5]


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." [6]

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."[7]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists three types of sacramentals: blessings,[8] consecrations/dedications,[9] and exorcisms.[10]

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".[11]

The Latin Church allows the reception of certain sacramentals by non-Catholics.[12]


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).[13] 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".[13]


  1. 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
  2. Nelson, Paul A. "Home Altars". Immanuel Lutheran Church. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  3. 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.
  4. O'Neill, Eddie (1 November 2014). "What Are Sacramentals?". Our Sunday Visitor. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  5. 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 9 April 2014.
  6. Sacrosanctum Concilium 60
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1670
  8. Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1671
  9. Catechism § 1672.
  10. Catechism § 1673.
  11. Catechism § 1674.
  12. Code of Canon Law 1170
  13. 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.
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