Vatican II & Liturgy - Part 9
“The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify men, to build up the body of Christ, and, finally, to give worship to God; because they are signs they also instruct. They not only presuppose faith, but by words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it; that is why they are called ‘sacraments of faith.’ They do indeed impart grace, but, in addition, the very act of celebrating them most effectively disposes the faithful to receive this grace in a fruitful manner, to worship God duly, and to practice charity. It is therefore of the highest importance that the faithful should easily understand the sacramental signs, and should frequent with great eagerness those sacraments which were instituted to nourish the Christian life.
“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 kind, which are obtained through the Church's intercession. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.
“Thus, for well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event in their lives; they are given access to the stream of divine grace which flows from the paschal mystery of the passion, death, the resurrection of Christ, the font from which all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is hardly any proper use of material things which cannot thus be directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God” (Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 59-61).
St. Thomas Aquinas points out that the Church’s prayer effects what it signifies. That is, sacramental objects (Rosaries, Miraculous Medals, Scapulars, etc.) take on the properties that the Church assigns to them by her prayer of blessing. There is a real albeit spiritual difference between a Rosary blessed by a priest who just makes the sign of the cross over it and a Rosary blessed with the prayer of the Roman Ritual. “Lord, bless this rosary,” is different than the prayer of the Church: “Let it be endowed with such power of the Holy Spirit, that whoever carries one on his person or reverently keeps it in his home, or devoutly recites it may be protected by you from every danger to body and soul” (Roman Ritual, Vol. 2).