What are Sacramentals?
The official teaching of the Church is found in the Catechism of Catholic Church Articles 1667-1673. (cf. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c4a1.htm).
How exactly does it protect us or curb the powers of the Evil One?
I will take the cue from 1 Peter 5:8-9:
"Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.
The key in the power of the Sacramentals is Faith! This faith is confidence and trust in:
- the Faith of the Church in Her Risen and Triumphant Lord
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-10)
- the Faith of the Church who received the power and authority from Christ
And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:18-20)
- the Faith of the Church who instituted the Sacramentals to be signs of faith
And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."… (Matthew:16-17-19)
- the Faith of the Faithful in Christ and His Church
"The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me." (Luke 10:16)
Therefore in so far as the Sacramentals are visible sacred signs of unwavering faith in Christ in His Church, then they become instruments of grace and blessing. Where God, through the prayers of the Church, elevates the material objects to something that is holy.
1667 “Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These 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.”
1668 Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man.
It is also clear that in the absence of the true faith, then the Sacramentals are then accorded by its users something in the realm of magic. This disposition is superstitious and therefore gravely sinful:
CCC 2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition.
Prayer of Exorcisms is also a Sacramental
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called "a major exorcism," can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. ....Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. ...
In the blessing of certain sacramentals, the Church first performs an exorcism on the object so that the object would be removed from the dominion of the Evil One. Then the Church blesses the objects and imploring the Most Holy Trinity to grant a special blessing on them so that wherever the sacramentals would be used devotedly and prayerfully they would ward off the assaults and attacks of the Enemy, the devil and his legions.
This exorcistic prayer blessings are found in the Roman Ritual of Blessings prior to the changes made by the Second Vatican Council. However, the documents of the Magisterium under Pope Benedict XVI especially Summorum Pontificum and Universae Ecclesiae, gave back the faculty for priests to use the old ritual of blessings (Extra-ordinary form of the Roman Rite). This therefore is very advantageous especially for those sacramentals to be used for spiritual battle.
The following sacramentals have very clear exorcistic blessing prayers:
- Blessing of Salt and Water
- Blessing of Oil
- Blessing Candles
- Blessing of Incense
- Blessing of the Medal of St. Benedict
- Blessing of a Cross/Crucifix
- Blessing of Priestly Vestments
O candles, I exorcise you in the name of God + the Father Almighty, in the name of Jesus + Christ his Son, our Lord, and in the name of the Holy + Spirit. May God uproot and cast out from these objects, all power of the devil, all attacks of the unclean spirit, and all deceptions of Satan, so that they may bring health of mind and body to all who use them. We ask this through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, light of everlasting life, you have given us candles to dispel the darkness. We humbly implore you now to bless + these candles at our lowly request, and hallow + them by the light of your grace. By the power of the Holy + Cross, endow them with a heavenly blessing. May the blessing they receive be so powerful that, wherever they are placed or lighted, the princes of darkness shall flee in fear, along with all their legions, and never more dare to disturb those who serve you, the almighty God. Let the entire building in which these candles are kept, be free from the power of the adversary, and be defended from the snares of the enemy. Grant we pray, that those who will use these candles may be protected from every assault of the evil spirit, and be safeguarded from all danger. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Here is an example of an exorcistic prayer blessing applied to Priestly Vestments.
Almighty everlasting God, who decreed through Moses, your servant, that the vesture of high-priest, priest, and levite, used in fulfilling their ministry in your sight, should be worn to dignify and beautify the worship rendered to your holy name; mercifully heed our prayers, and be pleased, through our lowly ministry, to bless + this priestly vestment (these priestly vestments), bedewing it (them) with your grace, so that it (they) become hallowed and suitable for divine worship and the sacred mysteries. Let every bishop, priest, or deacon clothed in this sacred vestment (these sacred vestments) be strengthened and defended from all assault or temptation of wicked spirits; let them perform and celebrate your mysteries reverently and well; and let them always carry out their ministry in a devout and pleasing manner. Through Christ our Lord.