Three things make a Sacrament; the conferring of inward grace, by an outward sign, in virtue of divine institution. Thus in Baptism the pouring of water is the outward sign, and by it habitual, or sanctifying, grace is infused into the soul, because of Christ’s institution. Now the Sacramentals, like the Sacraments, have an outward sign or sensible element, but unlike them, they are mostly of ecclesiastical origin, and do not, of their own power, infuse grace into the soul, but only excite it to desires whereby it may obtain from God’s gratuitous mercy that grace or its increase. Holy Water is a Sacramental, but, of its own nature, it washes not the soul from sin and pours not grace into it, as do the waters of Baptism. If, however, a person uses it devoutly, it will, on account of the Church’s blessing attached to it, assist his will in forming pious desires.
The Sacramentals may be arranged under two Heads—“The Prayers of the Church” and “The Benedictions of the Church.”