Are Sacramentals superstitious?
As the Church knows and teaches that sacramentals are anything but not tools of superstition, the fact is that some Catholics do not use sacramentals in a proper way and fall into seeing them as a kind of good luck charm.
How often should a Catholic use these sacred items without falling prey to a superstitious mindset?
Firstly, a brief reminder on these religious items. Sacramentals can be anything set apart or blessed by the Church with the purpose of sanctifying our lives and leading us to the sacraments.
They are also, sacred signs that provide grace for us(spiritual help) through the intercession of the Church.
Another way to describe sacramentals is that they are an external arm of the sacraments. They are not and can not be called sacraments in themselves, but are related to the seven sacraments and flow from them, ultimately leading us back to them.
Bearing this connection in mind, just as those preparing to receive the sacraments need to be disposed properly, in the same way do those desiring to use sacramentals need to be prepared to do so rightly.
For instance, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1450) explains that the proper celebration of Confession requires the penitent to “be contrite of heart, confess with the lips, and practice complete humility and fruitful satisfaction”.
Here’s a good reference point for those desiring to use any sacramental, if we persist in a life of sin, but still like to wear a rosary around our necks just because our mother told us that it brings good luck, the sacramental won’t have much effect.
Or, if we wear a brown scapular because we believe that “whosoever dies wearing it shall not suffer eternal fire,” and all the while we still continue living a life of crime, then we can’t expect to experience a flood of God’s graces.
In the above cases sacramentals are seen as a “lucky charm” that is used for some selfish benefit, and the graces God wishes to give us through them won’t find a proper home in us.
Primarily, if our hearts are not open to God, how then can his grace get to us? If we truly want to receive the graces God wants to give us in sacramentals in full and not use them in a superstitious way, then we should make ourselves available by going to the sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist more frequently and strive to live with “prudence, integrity of life, constancy and humility; relying, not on our own power but on the power of God who is divine.”
With this type of disposition we will be kept away from any sacramental superstition and get to realize that it is not these material objects themselves that save us, but God who is our Savior and who through material realities leads us along the path of holiness.
Sacramentals are not superstitious but they are instruments that God uses to lead us along the right path. If we use them in a proper way and under the Church’s instruction, they help to speed us on our journey towards Heaven.