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7 Quick Takes – the Seven Sacraments

I was rolling quite a few ideas around in my head while the calendar days were being scratched off much more quickly than I cared to see and my deadline loomed larger and larger. I bounced a few of these ideas off on my 18 yr old and he suggested that since I needed seven quick takes – why not review the seven sacraments…  As he so wisely pointed out; we are coming up fast on Lent and what could be better to ponder  at this time than the seven sacraments instituted by Christ and maintained by our catholic church?  How do you argue with such wisdom?

So subdue the drum rolls, please, as I roll out this month’s Seven Quick Takes (and we’re linking up to This Ain’t The Lyceum).


7 baptismal fontQuick Take one: Baptism

According to our Catechism (CCC 1211) these seven sacraments are divided into three groups. The first group is comprised of the sacraments of Christian initiation. And the first of these is Baptism and is the first step that we take as we embark on our Christian journey; regardless whether we are baptized as an infant or as an adult. Jesus himself was baptized by his cousin St. John the Baptist before being led “by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting for forty day and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Mathew 4:1-2)

According to St Gregory of Nazianzus; “Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water: anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed: enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship. (Oratio 40 preached at Constantinople Jan 6,381)

Quick Take two:  Confirmation (or Chrismation)7 confirmation

The second of the initiation sacraments is Confirmation during which we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism (CCC 1831) these are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

 

 

7 holy communionQuick Take three: Eucharist

Within the Roman rite – one’s first Holy Communion is typically received around the seventh year of life which is determined by the church as the beginning of the age of reason and marks the beginning of, hopefully, a lifetime of receiving this life giving sacrament.  Within the Eastern rites the infant receiving baptism immediately following also receives Chrismation and the ‘admission to Eucharistic Communion’.  (CCC 1233) These three sacraments complete the initiation sacraments.

 

7 pennanceQuick Take Four: Penance and Reconciliation

Penance is one of the two Sacraments of healing   that Christ instituted for his Church to offer His people.  “The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health,3 has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.” (CCC  1421)

Some may ask why, once we are washed clean through the act of baptism, is there a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession? The Council of Trent (1549) answers this perfectly as quoted in the Catechism: “Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life.”

It is through the sacrament of penance, as instituted by Christ through St Peter, (Mathew 16:13-20  that we are able to be washed clean and be healed of our sins.

The Catholic Catechism answers the question of what is this sacrament called with the following:

It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

 It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the life of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”

Lent is a wonderful time to take advantage of this sacrament – especially if it is a sacrament that has fallen by the wayside. When I read the explanation of this sacrament in the catechism it filled me with resolve not to miss this wonderful opportunity to be filled with Christ’s grace.

 

7 annointing of the sickQuick Take Five: Anointing of the Sick

There are some misunderstandings surrounding this sacrament. At one time it was known as the ‘receiving of last rites” because it was, and still is, a sacrament used to fortify “the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house.” (Council of Trent 1551) However, it is also a sacrament through which Jesus can unify our suffering with his and thus support the Church and, if it is for the good of our soul, also bring us physical healing from a grave illness. Contrary to the misbelief that one can only receive the Anointing of the Sick once in a lifetime; if one recovers from a grave illness for which they have been anointed and later faces death again, or is suffering intensely and is in need of fortification, they can once again receive this sacrament.  (CCC 1515)

This sacrament is based in Jesus’ command to heal the sick (Mathew 10:1-8) as well as through tradition.

“… the apostolic Church has its own rite for the sick, attested to by St. James: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders [presbyters] of the Church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Tradition has recognized in this rite one of the seven sacraments” (CCC 1510)

As I mentioned at the beginning of this quick takes post the Catholic Church has the three sacraments of initiation through which the Christian begins his journey to heaven. In addition, the church uses three sacraments to assist a Christian on the last leg of this journey. These are the sacraments: of penance, (when possible) the anointing of the sick and the Eucharist.  The administering of the Eucharist when in danger of death is referred to as Viaticum.

The anointing of the sick can only be administered by a priest whereas the Viaticum can be administered by a priest, a deacon or an extraordinary minister, using the reserved Blessed Sacrament.

 

7 holy ordersQuick Take Six: Holy Orders 

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate.”  (CCC 1536)

Holy orders is one of the two sacraments that the Church refers to as sacraments of salvation.  (CCC 1534) The sacrament of Holy orders is conferred  through the Bishop laying his hands on the head of the ordinand while asking God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts proper to the ministry to which the candidate is being ordained.  It is only a bishop that can confer this sacrament which imprints an indelible sacramental character upon the recipient who must be a baptized member of the church. Only the Church authority has the responsibility and right to call someone to Holy Orders.

While I have links to the three degrees of the priesthood above I will give a brief description of them. The episcopate refers to the Bishops and their duties, the presbyterate refers to the priests and the diaconate is the most obvious as it refers to our deacons.

What some may not know is that there are two forms of the diaconate. There is the permanent diaconate and the transitional. The transitional deaconate belongs to the seminarian who is preparing to become a priest. While the spiritual mark on his soul is permanent when he is ordained a deacon, he does eventually transition into the priesthood when he is ordained. On the other hand, the permanent deacon belongs to the man who is not, at that time in his life, feeling the call to the priesthood. He may or may not be married when ordained. If single the acceptance of ordination requires a commitment of celibacy and if married at the time of his ordination, should his wife pass away after ordination he may not re-marry. He may though, if called, become a priest.

We have all, at one time or another been inspired, by various members of the religious in our lives. Sometimes, though, we have felt let down by one priest or another. However, regardless of our feelings, or the personality of any particular priest, the sacraments celebrated by him are never invalid or impure.  This is emphasized quite powerfully by St. Augustine and, as such he is quoted in the Catechism: Since it is ultimately Christ who acts and effects salvation through the ordained minister, the unworthiness of the latter does not prevent Christ from acting.76 St. Augustine states this forcefully: As for the proud minister, he is to be ranked with the devil. Christ’s gift is not thereby profaned: what flows through him keeps its purity, and what passes through him remains dear and reaches the fertile earth. . . . The spiritual power of the sacrament is indeed comparable to light: those to be enlightened receive it in its purity, and if it should pass through defiled beings, it is not itself defiled.” (CCC 1584)

That is so reassuring and perhaps one of the most important things we can remember about the sacrament of the Holy Orders – that our priests are acting “in persona Christi”.

 

7 marriageQuick Take Seven: Sacrament of Matrimony

The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament” (CCC 1601) This understanding of this sacrament is the same in both the Eastern and Western (Latin) rite. In the Latin rite the spouses mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church and this is the same within the Eastern Rites except that in order for the sacrament to be held valid the priest must also extol his blessing on the couple.  (CCC 1623)

The sacrament of marriage is the other sacrament that is for the salvation of others. In fact, the Second Vatican Council refers to the family as the Ecclesia domestica or the Domestic Church. This is very apt as it is within the family that we exercise the ”priesthood of the baptized in a privileged way ‘by the reception of the sacraments, prayer and thanksgiving, the witness of a holy life, and self-denial and active charity.’ Thus the home is the first school of Christian life and “a school for human enrichment.”  Here one learns endurance and the joy of work, fraternal love, generous – even repeated – forgiveness, and above all divine worship in prayer and the offering of one’s life.” (CCC 1656)

It is the duty of the wife and husband to aid each other in getting into heaven and as well the duty of the parents to raise their children in such a way that they are well prepared to continue their personal journey to heaven so it is very fitting that this is called a sacrament of salvation.

This concludes our Seven Quick Takes of the seven sacraments.  A much heavier quick takes than usual, I admit. My topic for next month promises to be a little lighter but not much. I know that by the first Friday of March I will be a tad lost in my efforts to follow the resolutions I will set for myself on Ash Wednesday. I will be flagging quite a bit – if Lent follows its norm for me. I plan to take March’s quick takes as an opportunity to reset myself with seven suggestions that not only I can follow, but anyone who is also lagging a little in the middle of the race. My hopes is that we can apply one or more of them to our Lenten sacrifice and find ourselves ready to head for the finish line and the celebration that follows. Until then, a bientot!

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Ink Slingers Martina Priesthood Vocations

So Your Priest Was Reassigned – Now What?

It happens. Especially for rookie priests fresh off of holy orders. They spend an average of two years at three different parishes before eventually becoming pastor of their own parish after six years.

At my parish, we recently said goodbye to Father Jonathan, who I often joked had been on borrowed time. As things worked out, his first assignment at St. William was an incredible four years. I feel like our parish in that time became closer knit, but that might also been in part due to other factors. Father Dean and Father Jonathan both came on board when Father Joel moved out of state to a new assignment. I could also say the parish started to feel smaller as a result of my own decision to actually get out into parish life and start serving through various ministries but, somehow I don’t think my observation is restricted to just my experience. I think others in my parish would say similar things, that the vibe of the parish shifted after both Father Jonathan and Father Dean’s arrival.

Each year, dioceses shuffle priests from one parish to another. Our parish has been home to a steady stream of rookie priests and with Father Dean leading the charge as of the past four years, these young men have been entrusted with some wonderful responsibilities and experiences that they take with them to their new assignments.

Short of considering bribing the bish into keeping Father Jonathan any longer – and to be serious here for a moment, we all knew it was time for the next chapter, and to want to keep Father J would have been selfish – I started conjuring up a new project in my mind. Friends who know me well know I am constantly looking for my next project. I decided to enlist the help of friends around the parish to do the following and it’s something that I offer as a suggestion for you as well to do for your priests.

I remember reading a letter some years ago from a mother of a priest. She submitted it to my mother-in-law’s newsletter, Les Femmes. In the Fall 2007 newsletter, the mother encouraged parishioners to please send glowing letters to the diocese to let the bishop know of the positive impact the priest has made on your faith, family, etc. She went on to say that more often than not, the diocese hears more from people who complain or have something negative to say about a priest, especially when they speak the truths of the Faith i.e. contraception, abortion, the HHS Mandate, etc. I figured if we couldn’t keep our priest, we could at least send him to his new assignment with some heartfelt letters from parishioners. I added to it by requesting that friends and parishioners make two copies of their letters, one set for the bishop and one set for the priest to keep as a momento of his time at our parish. I have been honored to do this twice now and hope to make it a tradition of our parish before long.

 

My challenge to you: If your priest has been recently reassigned and he has helped you grow in the Faith, challenging you when you needed it, or has just been a wonderful influence and family friend, please take the time to let your bishop know. You don’t even have to wait until they move to their new assignment. Get started writing today.

Categories
Conversion Craig Diaconate Discipleship Faith Formation Guest Posts Holy Orders Perspective from the Head Prayer Priesthood Sacraments Vocations

On That Day: From Agnostic Theist to Seminarian to Deacon

::Friends, we are excited to share with you the next installment in the ongoing story of Catholic Sistas friend Craig DeYoung, a former agnostic who began his journey to Catholicism, then to seminary. We invite you to get caught up by reading his first four installments, part I, part II, part III, and part IV. And now that you are up to speed, please dive in and see what has happened with Craig most recently.::

On the morning of May 18th, 2013 at St. Mary’s Student Center in
 College Station, Texas I was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacon.
 For the last six years I have prepared for that moment and still
 prepare for a moment yet to come next year when I am to be ordained as
 a priest. But, on that day as I was surrounded by friends and family, I 
was called to Holy Orders and then promised to live celibacy as a
 total dedication to the Lord and in service to His Church. I committed 
myself to praying the Liturgy of the Hours faithfully for the Church
 and the whole world, I resolved to carry out the office of deacon and
 conform my life to Christ’s own, and I promised respect and obedience 
to my Bishop Joe Vásquez and his successors. Moments after this, as I 
lay prostrate on the ground I gave my life and all I had to God just
 before Bishop Vásquez laid hands upon my head invoking the Holy Spirit
, ordaining me as a deacon in the Catholic Church. All in all, it was a
 big day. I’d like to offer this article as a reflection about the 
ordination and its significance.

It is my belief that an Ordination to Holy Orders is less about the
 man being ordained and more about the work that God has done and will
 do in him. For this reason, any ordination is an occasion for joyous
celebration and much thanksgiving for the local Church. That said, there is usually a larger 
turnout by the people of a diocese for a priestly ordination than for 
a deaconate ordination. There is more excitement for a priestly 
ordination because it is the ultimate goal of seminary formation, in addition to 
various other reasons. I mention this because for the seminarian 
eventually preparing for priesthood, their deaconate ordination is in
some ways the more important of the two. I say “in some ways” because
, while the seminarian longs for the day he becomes a priest, it is at t
his deaconate ordination that he first lays down his life before God
 and gives himself in service to the Church and her members. It is at t
his deaconate ordination where he makes his promises of celibacy,
 obedience to his bishop, and commitment to praying the Liturgy of the
 Hours. For a new transitional deacon, his ordination is a fulfillment,
 a beginning, and a transition. It is a fulfillment by his commitment
 to live out a vocation faithfully and for life. It is the beginning
 of a new identity as a servant lived out in mission. And as a deacon
 preparing for priesthood it is a transition which becomes the 
foundation for a future participation in the priesthood of Jesus
Christ. As for myself, being ordained as a deacon was all of this, and
 more.

As I reflect on God’s work in my life and how I ended up where I am,
 I think perhaps the most beautiful thing about discovering my
 vocation and making a total self gift of myself to the Lord through
 ordination, is the realization that I am becoming who I am meant to be.
 I am being fulfilled day by day and am becoming more myself, more me.
 However, finding my vocation and now living it out has been a
 challenging and sometimes frightening process, as it is for many.
Whether a vocation is to holy orders, religious life, consecrated 
life, or the married life doesn’t make this less true. Certainly, this is
 because vocations have to do with giving your life away, all of it,
 holding nothing back. It is frightening because answering a vocation 
means committing yourself irrevocably and for life. There are no take
backs so to speak. A vocation is a specific call from the Lord to
respond in a particular way to His total gift of Himself to us in
 Christ by the total gift of ourselves to Him. This is true for every
 vocation. What I have sometimes forgotten during my journey is that
God’s will is for my good and ultimately my eternal happiness by being
with him forever in heaven. This is true for every vocation. A
vocation is God’s plan for a person’s ultimate happiness and joy
through eternal life in Him. Vocation is the road God sets a person
 upon in order to lead them to Himself.

It is important to note that a vocation necessarily includes other 
people in some way, shape, or fashion. (Even for those called to be 
hermits.) This is because vocations are always the path of love and
 every true act of love is an act of sacrifice in which we die to
 ourselves a little so that another may have life through our
 sacrifice; this demands there be another to love. Through vocations, 
the Lord teaches us to live in communion by humbling ourselves in
 order to exalt others. This kind of Love demanded by vocation 
prepares us to be the kind of persons who will enjoy heaven. Heaven 
is nothing other than a participation in the inner life to the Trinity
 wherein the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit live in an eternal 
exchange of love, in communion.

Even knowing this truth doesn’t make it easy to respond to God’s love
 with our own love. There are very real obstacles such as sin and 
fear. This has also been true for me in my own vocation. A little
 over a year ago I was battling with the decision of whether to take
 time off from seminary or to continue formation toward ordination. I
 found myself paralyzed with fear and feelings of inadequacy. After 
much inner turmoil and debate I found myself undecided until the
 morning of my final evaluation at St. Mary’s Seminary. Just before
the evaluation I spoke with a friend about my dilemma and his own
 discernment. I remember in speaking with him how everything suddenly
 became clear. I realized that I wasn’t in doubt about what my
 vocation was but, rather, I was afraid to give my life away to Christ.
 I was holding back out of fear that somehow God wouldn’t be enough 
for me. Moreover, I had an acute case of what Bishop Fulton Sheen 
called staurophopia or fear of the cross. I was afraid of what God
 was asking of me, namely that He was asking everything of me. At that
 moment I realized my fear was keeping me from God. Knowing the truth, 
I was free to chose. Thanks be to God, He gave me the grace to 
respond in love by following Him. Increasing Him, decreasing me.

Committing to a vocation is not a once and done kind of thing. A 
vocation must be recommitted to daily both before and after making a
 final commitment. My formation last year was dedicated to having the
 freedom to make a complete gift of myself to God without holding back 
because of fear or personal sin. An essential moment in this work 
included making the 30 Exercises of St. Ignatius. Those 30 days helped 
me to grow in friendship with Jesus and to trust Him as my friend
 and Lord so that I might follow Him even to His cross. From then 
until today, each day has included its struggles to recommit myself to 
the Lord and place my heart and trust entirely in Him. My greatest 
help in this ongoing effort has been the Blessed Mother who knows my
need, intercedes for me before the Lord, and provides every virtue
 where I am lacking. As the Mother of Jesus, she becomes the Mother of
 every vocation leading each of us to her Son.

On that day I was ordained deacon, I became a little more of the person I am meant to be. I 
was surrounded by my family, my friends, the people of the local 
Church I am studying to serve, brother deacons, future brother
priests, the angels, the saints, and my bishop. I was held up to the
 Lord by their love and prayers but it was the Lord’s work in the Holy 
Spirit which made that day great. As He does for each of us, on that
 day He gave me myself so that I might give myself away and become 
one of his deacons. By his work, I have been blessed in becoming a 
little less so that He might become more in the hearts of men and
 women. Please keep me in your continued prayers so I may continue to
 commit my life to God day in and day out. God Bless!

In Christ,

Dcn. Craig DeYoung