First Communions and Confirmations are almost over, but it’s almost summer, otherwise known as wedding season! I’ve found myself scrambling to purchase and ship gifts for my engaged friends, stuck in the inevitable dilemma of money vs. time vs. personalized gifts.
Sure, it’s easy to click through a gift registry on Amazon, and usually that’s my go-to. Recently, though, I needed to get a gift for a friend whom I haven’t seen or talked to since college, but who graciously invited me to her wedding. I wanted to go a little out of my way to show her how much I appreciated that gesture, and to demonstrate my love and prayers since I can’t fly out to the wedding. The end result was the Catholic Home Sacramental Kit.
Sacramentals are discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs 1667-1679. Essentially, they are “sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They 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” (1667). Blessings, exorcisms, and blessed objects are all sacramentals – in that last category, the church blesses many items from the natural world, joining every aspect of our lives to the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord. In a Catholic home, you’ll often see crucifixes, images of Christ and the saints, and Rosaries, but many other things can be channels for grace if blessed with one of the many formulae the Church has prepared for us.
In my kit, I went back to my family home for ideas. Slipped behind the crucifix in every room in my parents’ house is a blessed palm or palm cross, traditionally a protection against fire. Over the front, back, and garage doors hang crucifixes; everyone who enters or exits does so in the presence of our Crucified Lord. Each window has a Miraculous Medal (more here) and St. Benedict medal hung above, invoking Mary and St. Benedict’s protection against dangers from inside and out. Candles, blessed at Candlemas (Presentation of Our Lord/Purification of Our Lady, Feb. 2) were usually brought out and burned during a storm or tornado watch. And finally oil, salt, and Epiphany water – each blessed with the traditional blessings, which include exorcisms and many other beautiful prayers. These are good to use around the home (sprinkle salt in all the corners, anoint the doors and windows, etc.) or depending on what quantity you have, even in cooking or baking.
Most of these sacramentals I had on hand (thanks, Mom) but if you don’t, your first step is pinning your local parish priest down and asking him to bless a handful of items! It might be a good idea to have the specific blessings (St. Benedict medals, oil, salt, and candles all have unique formulae) on hand, so he doesn’t have to go hunting. Now’s your chance to get a ton of things blessed so you have the sacramentals on hand for your own use and more than one gift kit.
Next, find the nearest store that sells inexpensive travel-size bottles and jars. I headed over to Bed, Bath & Beyond and settled on three 3-ounce containers for the water, oil, and salt, a 2-oz one that was just the right size to slip two tea lights in, and two pill carriers that worked just fine for medals and small crucifixes.
And off to a craft store for just the right box. (I bought the containers first because I wanted to make sure the box held everything comfortably and neatly.) Eventually, after exploring every container in the store, I found a beautiful little trunk-shaped box in the woodworking aisle.
Then home to slip a piece of red flannel into the bottom of the trunk to pretty things up, and fill my containers. At the last minute, I added a small blessed pillar candle I forgot I owned, and slipped a palm cross into the top.
As my friends start their married life together, they’ll be forming a new family and building a home. I hope this little, very Catholic, gift will help them bring the Church’s sacramental life into that home. Here’s hoping this gives you ideas for a different sort of wedding gift this year! (This might also be a great graduation present to a student heading to a dorm room.) If you want to read more about sacramentals, check out CatholicSacramentals.org.
Copyright 2017 Rebecca Willen