S2E2: Secular “Sacramentals of a Sort”

SHOW NOTES

  1. Ken and Bill see the focus of this new series on incarnational piety naturally pointing us toward sacramentals. A “sacramental,” as a symbol used in everyday life to point toward something bigger, deeper and more meaningful, is a word used commonly by Catholics, but it is hardly an unknown concept in the secular culture.
  2. Among Catholics, sacramentals point us toward grace—and particularly toward the grace the Lord gives us in the sacraments of the Church. This is discussed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 1667-1679.
  3. The Pledge of Allegiance (directed toward the flag of the United States of America – *and* to the republic for which it stands) has an interesting backstory that encapsulates some of what we’ll discuss in this episode. Our podcast colleagues Ken Jennings and John Roderick discussed a bit of the Pledge of Allegiance’s history (and that of its creator) in their excellent Omnibus Project podcast episode “The Bellamy Salute (Entry 112.HE0616)”.
  4. Here’s evidence that the basic notion of “sacramental” is a comfortable concept in secular society: Certain holidays might be considered types of sacramental feasts filled with civic pride and patriotic symbolism. Examples include Independence Day (although founding father John Adams thought the symbols we associate with July 4 belonged properly on July 2, the actual signing date of the Declaration of Independence).
  5. Thanksgiving is another powerfully evocative holiday. And for many Americans, the Super Bowl Sunday has the symbolic gravitas of a secular sacramental. The Olympic Games inspire people around the world, and stirring musical themes are associated with these celebrations of excellence. Here’s a musical example from composer John Williams.
  6. Statues often impart powerful meanings and memories as secular sacramentals, whether placed in town squares or in New York Harbor, as is the case for the Statue of Liberty. Its meaning is expressed in “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.

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