Understanding the Gifts of the Sacraments

August 25, 2015

Originally posted August 25, 2013

I am regularly confronted with people who are lamenting the “decline” of the Catholic Church.

These concerned individuals point to people they know who have either become lax in their faith or simply left the Catholic Church to join another Christian church.

sacramentsI believe a huge factor here is our loss in the understanding of and appreciation for one of the greatest gifts of our faith, namely, the Sacraments.

For example, do we know the stark difference between how a Lutheran and a Catholic view the Eucharist? Confirmation? Reconciliation? Marriage? My personal research indicates that most Catholics do not.

In response to this growing concern our Adult Faith Formation (AFF) Committee will be offering a series on our Catholic Sacraments: The Doors to the Sacred – an Adult Perspective on Sacraments with Judy Foster Mon. evenings, Nov. 4, 11, 18, 25.

Watch for the AFF’s program booklet which will list the many wonderful offerings for the coming year or visit the Adult Faith Formation pages on Faith Series Offerings, One Time Events, Book Discussions, Second Sunday Speakers and Rediscover. A calendar for the full year of adult faith formation offerings is now available. Yes, all adult Catholics have a responsibility to know and embrace our faith, especially if we expect to be able to pass it on to our children.

With this in mind, I encourage you to check out Archbishop Nienstedt’s column in the most recent edition of The Catholic Spirit – pick up a copy at church or go to TheCatholicSpirit.com  – for he has offered a great reflection on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, I am going to share his teaching in my column over the next couple of bulletins. I hope everyone will take serious this important responsibility for their continuing education in our Catholic faith.

Summer blessings, Fr. Brian

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Sacrament of reconciliation: Why confess to a priest?

— by Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive is “Why do I have to tell my sins to a priest?” Actually, it is a great question because the answer to it involves the whole reason behind why Jesus established a Church and therefore, why we are Catholics after all.

You recall the scene in Matthew 16:13-20 when Jesus asks the apostles at Caesarea Philippi what people are saying about him. That episode includes Jesus saying to Simon: “I for my part declare to you, you are ‘Rock’ (“petrus”), and on this rock I will build my church…” In Matthew 18:20, Jesus in discussing prayer with his disciples tells them: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.” Notice he didn’t say that when we are off on a mountainside or sitting beside a tranquil lake or even meditating alone in our room he would be present. No, Jesus proclaims that the only authentically verifiable place where we can be absolutely certain he is present is: “Where two or three are gathered” in his name.

Establishing his Church

From these and other scriptural texts we can be assured that Jesus intended to establish a Church as his abiding presence in the world. And, to be sure that it was his presence, he breathed on that Church his Holy Spirit the very evening of his resurrection. Again, notice carefully where he places the priority as he imparts the Holy Spirit: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them: if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” – John 20:22-23

“Binding and loosing” implies an outsider’s judgment; it requires therefore, the context of the Church, Jesus’ presence in the world.

(Tune in next week for part II of Arch-bishop’s reflection on Reconciliation.)