See this page to read the conference online.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. What questions or comments has this conference stirred in you?
2. What do the Sacraments mean to you? How do you experience them in your faith tradition?
3. How do you minister healing, forgiving, nourishing, and empowering in your life? How are these gifts ministered to you?
Sorry all. I have been busy with my other life...work. I guess I should tell you a little bit about it so then you will understand where I am coming from with this conference. I do gardening and garden design work. Most of my clients are either elderly or are physically unable to garden as they did...the love continues even when the body does not cooperate.Lately I have had some novices contact me for their first garden. What a joy that is. I thoroughly enjoy my work even though there are days when maybe I don't seem quite so enthused. So what does this have to do with conference #5&6? Well, first off, I must admit they do sound pretty Catholic. but once I got over that and thought about the things our church has done and the experiences I have had with my sisters in Spiritual Direction, I am really not that far removed from the sacraments as I thought.
I have experienced anointings,baptism (in streams),marriages(my own included), foot washings,memorial services, healing services, and communion. With each one I can honestly say the Christ was there and ministering.The Spirit is so alive and powerful. I agree with the statement"If we come to develop a personal relationship with him through Scripture and prayer, and if we are sensitive to his presence in Christian community, we will appreciate more his love and care for us made manifest in the Sacraments." Now how do I tie all this in with my work? I was told by my Spiritual director during one of our sessions that working with the earth is a gift. That no where else could I get closer to God/Christ. (I suspect that this will be cover in the next conference on nature.) But for me, I experience God/Christ daily through my work with the soil and the people I work for. From listening to their stories to planting seeds to pruning and turning the ground over. Scripture pours through my mind as I work. It is as if Christ where there beside me speaking to me, relating the scripture lessons He wants me to hear.I don't know if this qualifies as a sacrament for anyone else but for me it definately is.It also helps deepen my relationship with Christ when I participate in other sacraments.
That said I don't want to leave you with the impression that I experience Christ everytime I work. Sometimes I choose to be far from Him. I get too caught up in the world and it's demands as well as my own. But if I choose I can always return to the garden and his presence.
Upon rereading this I don't know that I answered the questions that were asked. so this is just a random reflection brought about by this series. Thank you. ~ elizabeth
Thanks, Elizabeth. Beautiful. It must be true, what they say, that with
the kiss of the sun for pardon
the song of the birds for mirth
one is closer to god in a garden
than anywhere else on earth !
This last point about faith needs to be underscored. The Church affirms most unambiguously that Christ is present to us in the Sacraments whether we believe in them or not.
This part struck me, not so much because I don't "believe" in the sacraments, but more so because it is so easy for me to take them for granted....to go through the motions....for them to become a habit...something that I don't think much about. So I find it rather reassuring to think that I'm benefiting in spite of myself .
Penance and Reconciliation (formerly Confession) is a Sacrament we may receive more than once, as we are often in need of the reassurance of God�s forgiveness.
I find this sacrament to be a very moving experience. Most especially when I experience it in a slower-paced setting, such as a retreat or a Day of Recollection. In that setting, the "confessing" can occur within an atmosphere of spiritual counseling. I think it was probably intended to be more like this. Rather than long lines, and the sense of being rushed through like cattle. I think it's a shame that so many people have given up on this sacrament.
Hi, all. I really am still alive. The past two weeks have been a bit rough. We had to move my mom into a board and care home because she's suffering from advanced dementia. It's been pretty rough for the family. But I've been reading and meditating on the conferences, even if I haven't been posting. Makes for some good reading between phone calls at work! Anyway, I think what's really struck me as I've read about the sacraments is the idea of them being at life's transitions (hmmm, could it be because we're in one with Mom?), and the idea of Christ meeting us there and loving us. It's so cool to think of our lives intersecting with Jesus' life in these sacramental moments. And the thought of the church (us) being the way Christ makes himself known now is such an awesome responsibility! Just some of the random thoughts that have crossed through my head over the past few days, but that I'm usually too tired to put into words. I'm hoping that reading and meditating more deeply on the sacraments will help me not to take them for granted and just go through the motions. I pray that I, and all of us, will truly connect with Christ in these special times. As for sacramentals, I don't have any type of sacramental symbol that is especially meaningful. Not sure if that's due to being a blind person and therefore not so tuned into outward things like candles, etc. I liked the idea Phil shared of making the sign of the cross every morning and night. I don't usually remember it until maybe mid-morning or mid-afternoon when my hands are busy in other activities, but then I just make a mental sign of the cross. I'm also reminded of a priest in our parish sharing with us during Advent that the prayer "Come, Lord Jesus" is a wonderful way to pray. Often when I catch myself worrying or wondering about something, I'll pray "Come, Lord Jesus", and that will help me turn it over to him and realize I'm not alone. So there are a few of the thoughts that have gone through my befuddled brain in the past couple weeks.
I liked the idea Phil shared of making the sign of the cross every morning and night.
I find myself making the Sign of the Cross at odd times during the day. I have a habit of making the Sign of the Cross whenever the phone rings. I have two teenaged children, so when the phone rings I make a quick Sign of the Cross as a prayer...that the phone isn't bringing bad news, and that they are safe and sound. Also, I'm waiting on some test results, which I don't expect to be serious, but still, I make the Sign of the Cross when the phone rings, in anticipation of those results.
Yesterday, I almost slipped down the stairs, and when I caught myself, I made a quick Sign of the Cross in thanksgiving. Also, when I am driving, I often find myself making the Sign of the Cross in thanksgiving that I avoid accidents. This action comes automatically....so I guess that this is a way that I turn to God in many moments throughout my day.
It's been a tough week of house and appliance repairs and replacements. What kept coming to my mind about this conference is gratitude for a profound healing I received via the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. About 15 years ago my severe back pain was diagnosed as a herniated disc by an orthopedist. I chose to wear a TENS unit (electrical neurotransmission in which dialing according to the pain level interrupts the message to the brain). It worked for a while, but I felt increasingly disabled. Through the sudden grace of expectant faith, I knew it would be healed by the Sacrament. My pastor agreed and told me to have a group of friends around me after morning Mass, for their faith and love and to lay on hands. My pain subsided greatly and within a few days was completely gone, never to return (only muscle problems when I do what I shouldn't). I realize expectant faith is a gift at times to witness to the love of Christ. Now that we know so much more about the mind-body-energy connection, that third paragraph in this conference sounds so simple and makes a lot of sense. I should be able to open myself more deeply to the healing of Christ if I would first meet him in his healing scriptures, and then approach the Sacrament. And if I am putting an obstacle in the way (unforgiveness, fear, etc.) then the first step of my healing would be awareness of how I am blocking that connection. I don't wait for expectant faith --- the knowing that I will be healed in a certain way. However, knowing that the Risen Lord loves me, tells me that the outcome will be for my best growth in Christ. So, isn't that approaching in expectant faith after all?
It is great to stir all this to mind again.
Blessings to all!
Thanks to all of you who shared your reflections. This helps to add depth and other dimensions to the conferences! It's especially heartening to me to hear how these teachings are helping to raise awareness of the gifts available to us through Sacraments and sacramentals.
Some members of the Heartland team in Great Bend are very good at creating "sacred environment." The way they use candles, pictures, incense, music and even things like lighting and the way the chairs are set up can help to encourage an attitude of spiritual receptivity. I don't have much of a knack for this, but I thoroughly appreciate this kind of gift.
I think people who have a love for liturgy and who feel moved to help with it are also generally appreciative of the sacramental dimension of the Christian life. Even if one is not actively involved in a liturgical ministry, my guess is that most of us appreciate liturgy when it's done well--doesn't matter what kind. That says something, too, about the importance of sacramental spirituality.
I must be the slowest and most unorganized person I know. I am going to blame it on my broken leg.
First I want to say I first experience of communion being more than symbolism happened when I was a liberal evangelical attending a Evangelical Covenant Church and before I had any Eucharistic Theology. My wife became emotionally ill around that time and my life was very messed up. I was attending a communion service at Church. In the Covenant Church communion happens once a month and is low key and theologically speaking pure symbolism. During the service after taking communion I felt a strange peace like God letting me know it would be okay. It was an awesome feeling. No my problems did not okay but it was what I needed at the time. In the Episcopal Church I experienced confirmation, and more reverant Eucharist and penance for the first time. Confession remains my favorite sacrament. For it is a place to shake of coils of my addiction even for just a moment. When Joanne and I came into the Catholic Church we experienced are first Church blessing on our marriage and received the sacrament of matrimony. We were married initially by a judge. I do not know even after receiving the sacrament of marriage if I understood what it meant fully but I do know and beleive that it was the sacrament that held are marriage together as my addiction worsened. God's grace shined on us even when I did not deserve it. The fact she stayed through the worse of my behavior is a testament of real love something I am only beginning to learn.
Gosh, brjaan, that was a very depthful and generous sharing. It has been said that a sacarament is a celebration that uses symbols to effect (to bring into reality) precisely what it is that they bring to mind. You and Joanne are a witness to that for me, a sacrament to me showing how Christ loves His Bride, the Church.
And, I happen to believe that, sometimes, in the sacrament of marriage, we celebrate what has already been effected and brought into reality through cooperation with, as you describe it, unmerited Grace by certain couples, wherever and by whomever they were married.
Thanks to both of you for your new testament!
Fellow retreatants, below is a personal sharing plus reflection on the Eucharist:
Eucharist has really been memorial for me, not only when I recall Jesus' life but also the significant milestones in my own life that were marked with Eucharistic celebration: all of the baptisms, confirmations, reconciliation services, ordinations, weddings, healing masses and first communions. What fond memories and recollections of celebrating with those, like Jesus, whom I call my own in this world.
I think back on my earliest memories of going into the cavernous, dark churches, with only the little red tabernacle light to illuminate our entry, when my Grandmother, Mamon, would go to prepare the altar cloths, vestments and sacred vessels as a sacristan. It all seemed so mysterious and holy. I recall walking on the playground during recess with my best friend as we practiced our Latin as devoted altar boys and riding my bike to early, early mass, before sunrise, in order to serve. I recall getting in trouble in the first grade for breaking into a run, after mass, to the cafeteria. Then, there were the very first guitar masses of the 60's when Fr. McMahon was our pastor and he offered no scruples, such as even I nurture now, about whether or not we were liturgically correct when playing our favorite 60's folk songs (I still have the songbook compiled by me and Joe Turner and Gene Wescovich).
Eucharist has been a true meal for me, nurturing me with bread and wine, feeding body and soul and spirit when I could not find another way to sustain them. Especially when I commuted long miles and long days out of town, a getaway to daily mass reconnected me to home, somehow. In Covington, I'd sneak away from the office to St. Joseph Abbey, a place I'd reverence from childhood, having attended at Vocation Workshop at "St. Ben's" where I met Gary Ault, who would soon emerge as a Damean, my first real experience as a groupie. In Baton Rouge, noon mass at Our Lady of Mercy was my refuge from ... ... well, I won't go into that.
Eucharist has been covenant for me, always there no matter what I'd do or how long I'd stay away. It both symbolized and realized a promise made by my God and my community to be there, no matter how prodigal a son I was.
Eucharist has been thanksgiving in its richest meaning and truest sense --- as all the love He's poured on me can hardly be believed and all that I can offer Him is thanks (to quote the Damean song). Once, when feeling especially thankful and counting my blessings, for which I have a complete litany, I imagined everyone I knew in the front of church standing and then sitting down as I mentioned each of my individual belssings, if in fact they could not claim that blessing; it seemed as if I was the last one standing, in my mind. We often speak of each of us having a unique cross, especially fit and suited to us. Well, that day, I realized that the converse of that is true, too. We are all uniquely gifted and blessed.
Eucharist has been presence for me. In the people gathered my faith has been strengthened when weak and their presence has consoled me when sad or alone. In the Word proclaimed I have been edified with a wisdom that surpasses the knowledge I have been able to find in the worlds of philosophy and science and humanities, even, a wisdom that touches the core of my memory, understanding, will and heart and not just my brain. In the presiding priests and homilies and liturgical ministers, Jesus is present to me again, in a unique way; and each of our priests has a special style and approach, all different and all really, really good. In the bread and wine ... ... there is a presence that, if He could and would dwell within me, means that He dwells not just in the tabernacle but in all of my brothers and sisters.
Eucharist has been memorial, covenant, meal, thanksgiving and presence in the people, presiders, Word and bread and wine. It has been a sacrament, most holy, a sacrament divine ... did I mention Benediction? I could go on.
So, in all of this consideration of Eucharist (see below), I have purposefully explored the dimension of what's in it for me?
How does this square with the imperative: "Go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord." ?
Consider my favorite quote of Teresa of Avila (my rough paraphrase): "Let us desire and occupy ourselves in prayer, not so much so as to receive consolations, but, rather, so as to gain the strength to serve."
How do we reconcile this dynamic of what's in it for me? versus what's in it for God, for others?
In other words, isn't the Christian journey supposed to be about agape (what's in it for others?) and not, rather, eros (what's in it for me?) ?
I read an article, several years ago, in Review for Religious , and I forget both the author and title, but it was something like Agape & Eros in Our Love for God . The author pointed out that, for Catholics, an emphasis on agape with an invalidation of eros would be heresy. He used the Act of Contrition as an example and I think, also, the petitions of the Our Father . He noted that in imperfect contrition (which, mercifully, is all that is required) we are sorry for having offended God because of His just punishment (consequences to us) and in perfect contrition we are sorry most of all because we have offended God, Who art all good and deserving of all our love (consequences to God). He further explores how, in Christianity, we are not dealing with a religion that has no rewards.
In fact, Christianity's rewards, both temporal and eternal, far exceed what our eyes have seen, ears have heard or the heart of wo/man conceived .
I was reminded of this dynamism, reliving my adolescence, watching a Peter, Paul & Mary special on PBS last midnight, when Paul (Noel) Stookey sang The Wedding Song: For if loving is the answer, then who's the giving for?
There is no dichotomy between agape and eros. They are the obverse sides of the same coin of the realm of Jesus, which is love. Only love has currency in the Kingdom. Paradoxically, it is in giving that we receive .. and you know the rest of that story. What we learn is that the best things in life cannot be pursued; rather, they ensue. They result as by-products (not waste products) of living in accord with the Gospel values per St. Francis' prayer.
It has been said, for instance, if you want a person to laugh, you don't order them to laugh; rather, you tell them a joke. So it is with love. If you want a person to love, love them. I'm not saying that in parenting and formative spirituality we don't begin, as is developmentally appropriate, with the obligational , but, somewhere along the way, if the obligational does not transform into the aspirational , the point will have been missed and the journey impoverished. So it is with joy and happiness. It is in pursuing the values and ethics of the beatitudes that their fruits thus ensue. It is almost as only if we choose to be with this attitude will we then glimpse the be-at-ific . Blessed are you who do thus and such because, unbeknownst to you, whose right hand knows not what your left hand is doing, yours is the Kingdom of God.
Thus it is that the eros of Eucharist, what's in it for me, is consummated in the agape of Eucharist, what's in it for you, as I go forth to love and serve the Lord. That is The Dismissal . Bring your Missal to church and your disMissal home, for they are two sides of the same coin, for having occupied ourselves in prayer we will have both gained consolations and gained the strength to serve. Teresa was a Doctor of the Church, so I am certain she would have nuanced her aphorism? Another both-and-ism , brought to you by your Church.
pax, amor et bonum,
Johnboy, your article on the sacrament of the Eucharist is most enriching. I like the way you presented it as "memorial, covenant, meal, thanksgiving and presence in the people, presiders, Word and bread and wine", entertwining all with your personal memories. It helps me to grow more deeply in the correlation between the seen and the unseen -- between eros and agape.
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