If one looks at the 7 Sacraments of the Catholic Church you will see startling similarities to the realities found in everyday life. Baptism with the birth of a child. Eucharist with the family meal around a table. Reconciliation the healing that occurs when someone acknowledges they have said or done something hurtful towards another person. Anointing of the sick when we care for a sick person. Marriage when we see the love exchanged between wife and husband. Confirmation when an individual decides to act in a more mature manner and when they make faith their own decision. And Holy Orders when we see an individual live a life of commitment helping others in a dedicated fashion. We also include the whole person as sacraments try to have multiple senses engaged with each celebration. So the use of touch, taste, hearing and seeing in each Sacrament. Even smell is engaged when we use many of the things found in church celebrations of these sacraments.
The theme that runs through the Sacraments is the total engage-ment of the person in their encounter with God. That is what every retreat attempts to do, engage the whole person. This can all be done on the surface. In which case the effects of the sacrament are minimal. But the more we engage ourselves in the celebration of these moments, in the home and at church, the more we are transformed by our reception of these holy moments.
It is my experience that the more often we participate in the Sacraments the deeper we plunge into the spiritual dimensions. The more we prepare for the reception of them the more we are changed. Recall your own experience with the family meal, for example. The smells of things cooking spread throughout the entire house. The time preparing for these meals the more the family member’s value what is cooked and the deeper our relationship with all of the members of our family who sit down. Science has discovered that the more a family sits down to a meal as a family the less likely the children will engage in risky activities. They feel loved, needed and heard so they are more comfortable sharing themselves with their family. That is what happens to all of us as we receive the Sacraments. The family that eats together, prays together, works and plays together the stronger the bond becomes.
I encourage you to take your family experiences and reflect upon them. As you examine them more carefully I believe you will see a lot more being passed along than you originally thought. Children learn to share with family when sharing is encouraged around the table. Conversation, not texting in shorthand, will help them succeed in adulthood. What to share with the appropriate people? How to word my statements so others comprehend what I am expressing but doing so in a manner that tells my story without saying too much? How to listen attentively? The family learns to value each member as individu-als with a unique perspective.
It is a wonderful experience for me to see toddlers come to grips with a younger sibling. They can become great “helpers” and learn how to share toys with the younger child. They move from “mine” to “ours”, which is the reality in the world.
Finally, celebrate these holy moments in your family. Make a big deal about these things and they will become important in the lives of your children. Make a big deal about getting to come to church as opposed to having to come, and children will take on a different perspective. If you think about it, if I realized that every week I get to sit down to a private family meal with Jesus, how would that change my perspective on the level of intimacy with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? Jesus is hosting a party this week and you are the special invited guest. In this, and every Sacrament, you are invited into the immensely personal meeting with Christ. Take advantage of it, and let your family take advantage of this special invitation also. You will discover a lot more God moments in your life.
Fr Mike Sullivan