This little book does not profess to exhaust the subject of the Sacramentals: to do so would require a detailed exposition of the whole Liturgy of the Church. All the ceremonies of divine worship, all the blessed articles used in ecclesiastical functions, all the prayers of the Missal, the Ritual, the Pontifical and the Breviary are Sacramentals—that is, they participate of the nature of Sacraments without being Sacraments. They are signs and channels of actual grace, instituted by ecclesiastical authority. The Sacraments are signs and channels of sanctifying, or habitual, grace, instituted by divine authority. The present volume is, however, complete in itself. Each sacred rite is, of itself, intelligible and teaches its own holy lesson to the Catholic mind and heart.
I have endeavored to select from the beautiful treasures which the Liturgy offers, in almost inexhaustible variety, to the choice of even a careless explorer, those which fall more frequently under the observation of the faithful and which are, consequently, of greater present utility. To explain the historical origin of the Sacramentals on which I have written, their mystical meanings and the practical lessons to be drawn from them constitutes the triple end kept in view in the composition of this treatise. Whether I have succeeded is a question which I leave to the decision of my readers.
No statement, historical or rubrical, is advanced which has not been substantiated by the authorities at my disposal. The Treatise on the Festivals by Benedict XIV., Migne’s Cursus Theologiæ et Scriptur&ae;lig;, the Liturgical Institutions of Fornici, the Authentic Decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, Cardinal Bona’s Treatise on the Liturgy, Hierurgia and The Church of our Fathers by Dr. Rock and the large Catechisms of Guillois and Gaume are the books which I have most frequently consulted.
That the blessing of God may attend this little work, that, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin Mary and of all the Saints, it may increase the love of the faithful, be it in ever so small a degree, for the holy things and holy rites of Mother Church is the sincere prayer of the author.
W. J. B.
Mount St. Mary’s of the West,
Feast of St. Gregory III.,
Nov. 28th, 1857.