Catholic CornucopiadCheney


The Sacramentals of the Holy Catholic Church

The Gospel presents to us the record of our Saviour’s birth and public life, but passes over, in almost total silence, the years of His Egyptian exile and His abode at Nazareth. His childhood’s days wherein His little hands assisted His dear Mother in easy household work, or, with the unskillfulness of His age, used the plane and chisel of St. Joseph—the glorious evenings of the Jewish Summer, when, in early manhood, He went to the brow of the cliff that overhung Nazareth, and gazed wistfully to the South, towards Jerusalem, and wept to think that, whilst all round was so fair, the hearts of His countrymen should be curtained by the shades of sin—the moonlight nights He passed on that same mountain’s top in the “prayer of God,” —all have been hidden from our view. This mystic period is the “sealed fountain” and the “closed garden” of the Canticles. Many a bright stream of grace that flows over the green fields of the Church springs from that hidden fount, and many a zephyr, richly laden with the perfume of lowliest yet sweetest flowers, blows from that mysterious garden. Even in our Lord’s public life, much He said in familiar converse with His disciples which the multitude never heard. Not that He would conceal His heavenly doctrine, but because of the hardness of the Jews’ hearts, and, that having eyes, they saw not, and ears, and heard not, as He Himself declares. The meanest and most sinful among them might have gone, if he had so chosen, to our Lord, in His retirement, as did Nicodemus, to hear from His divine lips the explanation of each holy saying and parable, as far as it was for his soul’s good.

The Church is a perfect copy of Jesus. She is the Incarnation continued, and, if Jesus lived a hidden life, and taught in public and in private and suffered, she has imitated and still imitates Him in all. Jesus “spoke to the multitude in parables things hidden from the foundation of the world,” and so, in the first ages, the Church explained the great mysteries of the Blessed Eucharist and the Trinity to the children of the household only, whilst to the scoffing Jew and Heathen, she spoke not at all of them, or in guarded and mystic language. And why ?—to exclude them forever from the fountains of life-giving grace? Little would we know of the tenderness of her motherly heart towards the erring children, bought by the Blood of Christ her Spouse if such were our thought. She but obeyed the divine injunction, “cast not your pearls before swine;” she was waiting until, by her holy preaching and holy life, she would soften those hard hearts to receive the impress of love from the Ever Blessed Three and the mystery of Christ’s Body and Blood.

The discipline of the secret is no longer in force, but still there are many beautiful doctrines and practices of our religion hidden alike from infidel and Catholic, not that the Church conceals them, but because they will not seek them. We may compare the Church to a glorious temple, whose exterior beauty is a type of the interior. We enter, and the font at the door tells us that, by baptism, we are buried with Christ unto death, and rise with Him unto life, members of His mystic Body. The statues of the Apostles and other Saints tell us that the Church is Apostolic and holy. The sacrifice going on at the altar, the Bishop administering Confirmation, the penitent leaving the sacred tribunal, the calm on his countenance but a faint image of that in his heart, the priest proceeding quickly, yet reverently, down the aisle, bearing the Viaticum and the Blessed Oils, the white-robed Levites, like worshiping Angels in the sanctuary, the bride and bridegroom kneeling for the nuptial benediction, all tell us that the Church has the Seven Sacraments, the seven streams of Precious Blood that flow from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We admire and love and then go our way. But if we had looked closer we might have noticed many rich draperies along the walls. They conceal small yet most beauteous chapels wherein we might have seen many a rite peformed, full of sweet symbolism, yet which has been excluded from the main edifice, reserved as that is for statelier functions.

Now let us apply our comparison. The leading articles of faith, especially the doctrine of the Sacraments, form the great temple itself, whilst what Cardinal Wiseman has called the “Minor Rites and Oflices,” under which is included our present subject, the “Sacramentals,” are the side chapels. These minor points of teaching and practice are today what the discipline of the secret was in the Apostolic times, and the familiar discourse of our Saviour to the little circle of His disciples in the time of His public ministry. The lukewarmness of the faithful has made them so. Unlike the Jews, they receive, with respect and love, Christ’s public instruction delivered by His priests, but like them, they do not care to join the company of the disciples, and talk with our Lord as a Friend and a Father. They are guests in the household of the faith rather than children. They pay their homage to Jesus in the grand reception room, but they do not accept His invitation to repair to the inner apartment, and, by examining the beautiful treasures He keeps concealed therein, to have love’s dying embers kindled into a bright flame.

We shall love our religion in proportion as we study it. Much study will beget charity, and charity, we know, blotteth out many sins.

Love is a flower pleasing to the eye,
Sweet to the smell, but Love can droop and die:
Let streams of prayer and study cease to flow
The root from which Love springs will cease to grow.

Our love for Jesus and Holy Mother Church will become warmer and purer if we examine the minor articles of our belief as well as the more important. Let us endeavor, with the assistance of God, and by following approved Catholic authors, to perform this labor of love in regard to the Sacramentals of the Church.