Of themselves [sacramentals] do not save souls, but they are the means for securing heavenly
help for those who use them properly. A sacramental is a sacred object or religious action which the Catholic Church, in imitation
of the sacraments, uses for the purpose of obtaining spiritual favors especially through her prayer. A sacramental is anything
set apart or blessed by the Church to excite good thoughts and to help devotion, and thus secure grace and take away venial
sin or the temporal punishment due to sin.
Let us compare and contrast the sacraments and the sacramentals:
The sacraments were instituted by Christ Himself; the sacramentals were founded by Christ's Church.
2. The sacraments
are limited to the seven instituted by Christ, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, Confession, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction,
Holy Orders and Matrimony; the sacramentals are numerous and varied, according to the directions of Mother Church.
The sacraments produce grace directly in the soul, if there is no obstacle on the part of the recipient; the sacramentals
do not produce grace directly and of themselves—they produce grace indirectly by disposing
and preparing the soul for this divine gift.
4. The words used in the sacraments, except in Extreme Unction, positively
declare that God is producing certain effects in the soul; the prayers used in the sacramentals merely ask God to produce
certain effects and to grant certain graces.
5. The sacraments give or increase sanctifying grace; and the sacramentals are the means to actual
—Father Arthur Tonne