Faith and the Sacraments

I have a question I'd like to ask of readers, hoping people might be willing to share. How have the Sacraments played a role in your spiritual life or in your relationship with God?

I know the place of the Sacraments within the Church (the theology of the Sacraments), but I'm interested in hearing about the ways they animate your faith in the highs and lows of daily life, the ways they strengthen you, challenge you, inspire you, and even the ways you struggle to appreciate them.

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I'm looking to help students better understand how the Sacraments integrate into Catholic lives, how they can become part of a regular faith regimen. For example: Do you attend Mass daily? What does Mass do for your spiritual life, or how does it animate your relationship with God? What is your experience like in Confession?

 

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Bruce Snowden
2 years 6 months ago
Matt, I can tell you something of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in my life, hopefully helpful in your quest. My Confessions have been beneficial to my spiritual life, to my Faith in Jesus and the Church. I can think of only one example of a Confession in seventy-five years of confessing that I might call a "mistake" in that the grumpy old priest was so impatient that I wondered if while attempting to get sin forgiven I was actually sinning more because of my feelings of anger and resentment towards him! I took his absolution and asked Jesus to figure out the rest. One of my best Confessions was my First. At that time about seven years old I told the Redemptorist priest - I even remember his name, John Hallisey, that I stole sugar, my very first confessed "sin." We used brown sugar in our home and as a kid I loved the stuff and used to take a teaspoon full and run and hide as I ate it. I thought I was a thief and so my first sin was of stealing. 'Way back to 1938 Fr. Hallisey told me the following. "Young man, I want you to remember for the rest of your life, that you cannot steal what belongs to you. At home if you want, sugar, or milk, or butter or anything, as a member of that family you may help yourself. However your Mother or Father told you not to take something and you did, you would be guilty of the Sin of Disobedience, not the Sin of Stealing." Excellent advice to a little boy from a wise priest. As a result I learned as a very young child the need to make what I later learned was called "distinctions" as to the exact nature of the sin, information that has served me well all my life. Another memorable Confession happened close to fifty years later. One morning on my way to work, I found myself in an unusually dank and dour mood. I passed a Church where Confession began early in the morning and so I walked in and sat in the pew, thinking maybe if I went to Confession I might feel better. Negative prayer began and I found myself asking Jesus why I was bothering with this ritual of Confession and I answered my question by saying, "Because you, Jesus, recommended it!" Suddenly these words popped into my head, "I want you to remember that Jesus Christ is your friend and your brother." Spurred by that reminder I entered the confessional and at the end of my confession the priest said to me, "My good man, I want you to remember that Jesus Christ is your friend and your brother!" What a shocker, as there was nothing in my confession that might give reason for those words. I did my penance and no longer felt dank and dour having been reminded TWICE by Jesus of what I knew but needed to hear again, that Jesus was my friend and brother! One time as a penance a priest told me to go home and do something nice for my wife! Good penance! Once a priest so taken with the mercy and forgiveness of God that I left that confessional never more convinced as then that "all my sins were in fact forgiven." This is of course always true with any good confession. But it's a soaring feeling to have your confessor tell you so convincingly. Once I went to an old priest who complained that no one went to him for confession, so to make him happy I did. I learned why nobody went! In his exhortation he went through the creation story, naming animal after animal until he came to Adam and Eve, at which point he said, "God could have made you an elephant or a fish, or a snake but thankfully he made you a human being, on and on! The old man was happy to give absolution and I was happy too, happy to leave and laughing at the humor whole thing! I hope something here is helpful.
Ana Vago
2 years 6 months ago
The priest told you to do something nice for your wife as penance? How is doing something nice for someone a penance? Penance is defined as "voluntary self-punishment". It has always seemed weird that the ritual of confession turns everything upside down when you stop and think about it. Prayer is a positive thing, not self-punishment. A specific number of specific prayers is the most common "penance". Ritual confession involves a person who does something harmful to himself or someone else, and a priest who usually was not the one harmed. If the harm is only to yourself, and you realize this enough to think you should go to confession, you can also just go to God directly. Jesus said to go to those hurt and try to right the wrong not to confess the sin in secret to someone who wasn't involved. You are luckier than most Catholics. Most Catholics I know haven't found confession to a priest to be a good experience.. Many have been burned and after a while decide that it's safest just to go directly to the person they harmed (if they did) and then to God to ask for forgiveness. Thinking human beings can absolve what only God can absolve seems to be putting human beings in the place of God anyway. Go to the priest for guidance or to talk things over, as long as you realize that it is only God who absolves us from our sins and God doesn't the help of a human being.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 6 months ago
Ana - Doing something nice for my wife as a penance may seem strange since as you said penance implies voluntary self-punishment, or better I prefer ACKNOWLEDGEMENT that by sinning I have hurt myself, or another and reparation is necessary. However, Father meant by me doing something nice for my wife I should do something that would be penitential for ME whatever that might be (maybe changing diapers which I may hate to do) and to do it as an act of love and appreciation of her. A loving husband/wife would instinctively know what that "nice thing" might be. That's how I understood it About confessing directly to God rather than to a priest, in effect that's exactly what we do, as the priest is simply the "delegate" called by God to sit in for him (God) while he (God) listens and gives the absolution instrumentally through the priest. Revelation is replete with examples of God using instrumentality to effect his plans to name two, OT Moses, NT John the Baptist on and on. Even in natural creation we see instrumentality at work or agencies, one thing depending on another to make happen what the Creator intended. Also about priestly confession, I use that instrumentality that agency because the Resurrected Jesus on Easter Sunday evening in the Upper Room Scripture says Breathed on the Apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit,whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained." That's pretty clear to me what Jesus did and meant - he gave to the Church the authority to forgive sin, a power that only God has. Does any of this make sense to you?
Ana Vago
2 years 6 months ago
The way confession is practiced now is not how it was always practiced. One on one was not required for many centuries. Jesus told us to go to the one we harm and try to reconcile. He didn't say to go to a priest. For a lot of people, going to a priest is the easy way out. Go into the box, admit you did something wrong, be absolved and say five Hail Marys. Unless it's a good priest, who takes the time to find out more, who can provide guidance, it's just a formulaic ritual. A good therapist might come closer to getting someone to confront their real sins (usually the spoken sins are not the underlying sins) and help a person figure out a way to go forward, to help heal any harm done and find ways to try to stop any repeated harmful behaviour. You yell at your wife a lot? Is the sin the yelling? Is the sin something else? Is the yelling a symptom of some underlying problem and you're taking it out on the people close to you because you'll get fired if you yell at the boss? A lot of Catholics seem to look at confession as cheap grace. They actually say they go to "get grace". They are not really converted. They go back a week or two later and do the same thing. More grace. People know that Jesus did not ordain priests much less command that people go to human beings to confess. God doesn't need a human being to sit in for him (or her or they or it). The priest says "I absolve you in the name of God.." - emphasizing the priest, implying that he absolves, albeit in the name of God.. The prayer should put the emphasis on God alone - "May God absolve you..." "May" should be used to express the hope that God will forgive and acknowledges that only God knows if absolution can be given - the priest can't read minds or souls. Confession can help people. But it seems to be really rare, from what I hear from my many conversations with Catholics. Most have given up on it. They do like penance services, though, which give them a structured way to reflect and think about their own sins, and to repent with the rest of the community. They flock to those, but most skip the private confession after. The church should do more of those, maybe once/month, and stop worrying about trying to guilt trip people into the box.
ed gleason
2 years 6 months ago
We are about to celebrate our 60th year of sacramental marriage. The marriage sacrament eventually and gradually became for us an ongoing grace filled experience. And you can tell your students that hard times, and there is sure to be hard times,that they can be endured "if God is for us who can be against us' Working with troubled marriages in Retrouvaille we found that if couples embraced the idea and awareness that the marriage sacrament was an ongoing 'presence' not just a 'promise' they made in a Church, they could salvage their marital recovery. This understanding gave many couples the inspiration to forgive, forgive ,and forgive and keep on trying. Retro presenting couples say, " you heard our stories and if you want get where we are , than follow this path'.. If it sounds like AA ... we stole it fair and square Peace Ed & Peg. .. ..

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