St. Benedict Medal
Over the years that I have been examining the doctrine and practice of the Roman Catholic Church, I have labeled many articles and acts as superstitions. Perhaps it would be fair to point out that, officially at least, the Roman Church does not approve of superstition.
Rome views superstition as an offense against the First Commandment.
So. What are we talking about when we talk about superstition? The above definition covers a lot of ground. Idolatry was mentioned, and this is something that non-Catholics, including myself, have often charged against the RCC and Catholic faithful. Idolatry is rendering worship to anyone or anything that rightly only should be rendered to God.
What about vain observances? There’s a term I’ve not seen before. The definition is a beauty:
Now we’re getting somewhere. Specific examples are welcome and easy to deal with. I remember a childhood saying: “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” We would chant that as we walked along the sidewalk, being ever so careful not to step on any cracks. I doubt any of us – I certainly did not – believed that our mothers could be injured were we to inadvertently step on a crack. It was just a “silly practice,” to borrow a term from Attwater. I have broken a few mirrors in my lifetime, and heard a few warnings that I was going to be visited with seven years of bad luck. It is something of a cultural expectation to respond to such events with a cliché statement of some adverse fortune to come, but I suspect most folks don’t really believe anything will happen. More silly practices. So. Where’s the sin?
There we have it. “When one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practice otherwise lawful or necessary.” That seems to cover the wrongful trust in the St. Benedict medal mentioned above. Or the expectation that the Brown Scapular, or any other scapular, will convey specific protections and blessings to an individual who simply wears it, without conforming to the other requirements necessary to obtain indulgences, blessings, protections, etc. This is the RCC view, of course. I doubt that many non-Catholic professing Christians attribute miraculous powers or blessings to such “sacramentals.”
Blessings and indulgences are promised to those Catholics who faithfully pray the Rosary and fulfill the other requirements to be worthy of such rewards. These requirements include, but are not limited to, contemplating the mysteries, participating in acts of Reconciliation and Communion within a specified time frame, etc. In other words, the mere mechanical mouthing of five decades of the Rosary, without following through with the other necessary acts, is a vain observance that will result in no blessings or indulgences for the person doing the praying – at least not according to RCC teaching. At best, it is a waste of time and, at worst, could result in a mortal sin being charged against the soul of the praying individual. Why is this?
I invite everyone who reads this to perform a quick check of billfold or purse. Did you find a lucky penny? Or a four-leaf clover? How about a wallet-sized card with an image of some saint to help in difficult times?
I do not doubt that most who are reading this will be quick to deny trusting in any charms, incantations or the like. While this may be true for you, can the same be said for your Catholic families and friends? Next time you go to Mass, look around the church parking lot. How many cars will you see with rosaries dangling from the rear-view mirror? How many little dashboard statues of Jesus or Mary will you be able to count? Will you see any St. Christopher medals? If you do, that will be particularly interesting, for the Bollandists de-canonized him back in the 1960’s (They said there is no evidence that he ever existed.).
Put your trust in in God, not created things. The rewards are eternal.
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