Monday, July 13, 2009

The Sacraments

The Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church are:

Baptism
Reconciliation
Communion
Confirmation
The Anointing of the Sick
Marriage
Holy Orders


I'll focus on Communion because that's the one that'll be in the forefront of your mind as a returning Catholic. It's the most visible- long lines of people go up to receive at every mass. The Holy Eucharist is the bread and wine transformed into the body and blood of Christ. It's real and it's important. People throughout history and even today have risked death to obtain it. Taken by a prepared person it gives graces beyond measure. It puts a special life in you that helps get you into Heaven. It's a very intimate encounter with Jesus. He feeds you with his body, blood, and soul kind of like a mother nursing her child.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." (John 6:53 58).

But you cannot take it with mortal sin on your soul. If you've been away from Sunday mass, had sex outside of a valid marriage, had an abortion or used birth control, or done one of a giga billion other sins, you cannot receive Communion without going to Reconciliation (confession) first. Here's a page that can help you out with that: http://www.catholic.org/prayers/confession.php

It's good to do an examination of conscience before you go. As to the form of what to say when, don't worry. In my experience the priest is so happy you're there he's not going to chide you for not saying, "Forgive me Father for I have sinned...et al." And believe me, he's heard it all (especially if I've gone into the confessional before you. ;-) So, go ahead and be embarrassed but tell it all anyway!!!

When I first returned to the church, I could not receive Reconciliation nor Communion because I was in an invalid marriage to a man divorced from the wife he married in the Catholic church. I could do one of three things:

--continue to live as we were and not take Communion or go to Reconciliation and pray I don't die

--abstain from sex and live with my husband like brother and sister and get permission to go to Reconciliation and Communion

-- urge my husband to obtain an annulment so that we could make our marriage into a sacrament.

I chose the third option and my husband was a complete darling and put that process into motion. I also prayed that we wouldn't die before validating our marriage. The annulment is really my husband's story to tell, not mine, so I'll just talk about it in general.

An annulment declares that his first marriage wasn't actually a sacrament because certain factors were not present at the time they were married. It was still a marriage and the children resulting from it are still legitimate, but it wasn't a sacrament in the religious sense. Declaring a marriage null is a lengthy and emotional process during which the parties and witnesses (ie. Family and friends present for the marriage) are asked to give their version of the story of that marriage.

This was the most profound act of love my husband has ever done for me. Giving me a kidney would be trivial next to this. It took over a year, but it came through and then we had a convalidation of our marriage. It was a tiny ceremony in the chapel with our parents, our kids, and his brother and sister-in-law.

I'm as lucky as can be because now I may go to Reconciliation and receive Communion. Yippee!

Prior to that- I went through lots of emotion at not being allowed to go to Communion- sadness, embarrassment, shame, jealousy, fear, anger... But I was greatly comforted meditating near the tabernacle (that box thingy where the Eucharist is stored.) I recall one day in church during Communion time one of my little girls said, "Mommy, God wants you to go and eat the bread." Oh my goodness, but did I cry!


 
 

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