Letter to Earl E. Byrd and Ms. Medea Medium continued:
At this point, fellow truth seeker, you are probably asking what has any of this to do with the original questions. It is simply this: You are asking me to comment on the nature of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion and Marriage. These are four of the seven Sacraments. The others are Holy Orders, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, (or as we used to call it Extreme Unction.) It is interesting to note that for the first five mentioned, halls, caterers, photographers and uncomfortable clothing are involved. I have never had anyone invite me to a First Confession Banquet or to an Extreme Unction Party. When the Little Dears come to their first Confession I have never had to deal with an obnoxious photographer saying he “missed the shot. Could we do it over again?” Nor have I had to endure a long, drunken, embarrassing toast to the almost deceased at an Extreme Unction Banquet, though I have endured some rather strange eulogies at funeral Masses. The fact that two of the seven Sacraments are relatively hoo-ha free should tell us that there is something out of kilter. We don’t understand sacraments. A few more horror stories before I get on with my point.
I remember a Catholic high school teacher who told me quite a tale. She taught religion among other subjects, and her students were pretty much comatose in religion class. She decided to ask the students why this was so. They told her that they, and their parents didn’t go to church on Sunday, and they didn’t believe any of this nonsense, nor did their parents. She was shocked. She asked them why their parents went to the expense of sending them to Catholic school. The told her that their parents had the money and wanted to keep them away form gangs by sending them to private schools and that Catholic schools were the cheapest kind of private school and besides if you didn’t get your Sacraments you couldn’t be married in a Catholic Church. She was astounded! Why would you want to be married in a Catholic Church if you didn’t believe in the Catholic Church? The answer was simple; “Where do you expect us to get married? In a hotel?” In other words, it was all about the sacred wedding video.
I remember a Vietnamese priest who had suffered for his faith in the concentration camps of Vietnam. He was a seminarian and a catechist in Vietnam and was arrested after the fall of Saigon. He faced interrogation and torture. He finally escaped and came to America to finish his seminary education and achieve his dream of ordination to the priesthood. He was a true confessor for the faith. He was serving in a suburban parish where there were not many Vietnamese people and English was difficult for him. He had been assigned by his pastor to officiate at one of the many weddings that filled the parish calendar. The bride was a wreck! She refused to allow him to do her wedding. His heavy accent would have just ruined the video. She had the chance to have her marriage blessed by a saint, but preferred quality production values to sanctity. I wonder if the happy couple are still married. I have a suggestion. In Japan it has become common for former priests or imitation priests to do fake western weddings which have become all the rage. We could do that here. Fake priests doing fake weddings and performing fake sacraments for the camera. We wouldn’t have to bother with all the rules and the restrictions that the Catholic Church seems to delight in. We could just celebrate ourselves and it would look the same in the video and the pictures. (Just a note for the humor impaired: this is sarcasm. I don’t really mean it. I am trying to make a point.)
So, you may ask, what is your point? I have already made my point. In the new, good time, God-is-luv, my friend Jesus Church, we haven’t a clue about the meaning of Sacraments. If we understood Sacraments, most of us probably wouldn’t want them. Perhaps I should explain in a little more depth.
What is a Sacrament? The old Catechism definition of Sacraments is a good place to start: “a Sacrament is an outward sign, instituted by Christ to give grace.” The original questioner mentioned that he would like his children to have the graces of Confirmation as soon as possible. Don’t be too sure.
The mother of Louis IX, Saint Louis of France, told her son on the day of his First Communion that, “My son, I would rather see you dead at my feet than have you commit a mortal sin.” This was woman who understood Sacraments. Grace. It’s a good thing, isn’t it? Oh, yes, very good. So was the Cross of Calvary and so were the tears of the Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother.
Grace, the Latin-English word translated from the Greek word “
Kharis” translated from the Hebrew word “
Khen.” It means undeserved favor. Favor from God. It sounds good, but have you ever read any of the lives of the saints? Let’s look at the first and greatest of the saints, Mary, the princess of the royal house of David. An angel appeared to her and said, “Rejoice, o highly favored one.” You may have heard it translated, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” Grace and favor, the same thing. He then went on to explain, that, though she was a virgin, she was to become pregnant with the Messiah who was to be the Son of God and the Son of David, her ancestor. Pregnant, though not yet married in a culture where she would be stoned to death, if her fiancé Joseph made it public. She was told to go to Judea, and shortly after that she was told that a sword would pierce her heart and shortly after that she had to flee for life and the life of her baby who eventually left her to become a rabbi and she stood at the foot of His cross when he was tortured to death as a blasphemer and an insurrectionist. O highly favored one!?!
Grace is about election. Grace is tied up in the fact that God has chosen you (or your children) for his work in the world. So you want the grace of the Sacrament, or still worse, you want the grace of the Sacrament for your children! “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” (Hebrews 10:31)
(To be continued)