I am fascinated with Catholic Culture.  As the years have gone by,  I have tried to instill it in my children and bathe our family life in it.  Homeschooling affords us the time to teach Catholic Culture, but it doesn’t have to be done in an academic way.  It is more effectively taught if it is lived.  I didn’t realize how much Catholic Culture has been lost in the last 40 years until I started attending a Tridentine parish recently.  So much of what I grew up with is lost to all but a few.  Some examples:

My mother never let anybody leave the house without her vaya con Dios blessing, and when we would talk about something planned for another time, she always said con el favor de Dios.  It was just part of who she was to put things in God’s hands and to ask His blessing on our comings and goings.  We never went to bed without her blessing, even as adults.  We prayed for the Pope every time we entered a Catholic church for the first time, we avoided meat on Friday, we wore scapulars, prayed the rosary, looked to the bishops’ rating in choosing movies,  we fasted, we abstained, etc.  We were Catholic, and yes, our practices were different than those of most of our neighbors. 

A friend recently asked me to teach a class about Catholic culture.  She is a convert and did not receive any teaching on the culture of Catholicism.  She had not heard the word sacramental or many other terms that are part of Catholicism.  She truly wants to learn to live a Catholic life, but what does that mean?  How do people learn about it?

I don’t feel called to go out and teach a class on Catholic culture, and there are many people who are far better qualified than I to do so, but I can share what I know and point people to sources of information.  I humbly submit to you that there is far more that I don’t know than I know.

So where do we begin?  How about with a definition of sacramental?  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

a sacramental is a sacred sign which bears a resemblance to the sacraments.  It signifies effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church.   Sacramentals always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water.  (1667, 16680)

Since we are in the liturgical season of Epiphany, I will begin with one of the sacramentals of Epiphany.  In my Epiphany post I explained what Epiphany is and when it is celebrated.  One of the sacramentals associated with Epiphany is blessed salt.  There are special prayers which the priest says to bless salt for individual use.  Fr. Hampsch has a wonderful explanation here of the importance of salt in our religious history and its use today as a sacramental.  No point my trying to summarize his words, because his explanation is complete and fascinating.  After Mass last night, we were given blessed salt to have in our homes.   We do not look at this wonderful sacramental as something magical.  The salt points us to the saving, healing power of Christ, as do all sacramentals.  Grace does not flow from sacramentals as it does from the sacraments, but the sacramentals help prepare us to receive grace.  Isn’t our Church wonderful in giving us so much to help us on our earthly journey?