Posts Tagged ‘Sacrament’

List five things for which you are grateful

September 16, 2011

It is not often that I head to the prison in a really piss-poor mood. Just what the guys need, a cranky presider at the third Friday communion service. I had even entertained putting them on alert at the start of the service, especially those who are always yakking away  along the side wall.

But as I stopped by my local parish to pick up consecrated hosts, the massive silence of the empty church began to take hold of me. Counting out the 12 hosts has always been a solemn exercise and was no less so today.

Stopping by the post office with the 15th of the month bills followed by getting the car partially filled up … used up the stub-end of a couple of gift cards … and then driving the hour and a half to the prison was all very therapeutic.

We had a wonderful communion service followed by a 45-minute discussion in response to the statement: List five things for which you are grateful. Each of the 16 offenders had a small piece of paper to list his items of gratitude, and each one shared his list with the whole group. Really quite moving.

My final visit at the prison today was to a man in the infirmary who is “gratitude personified.” He is a terminal case, can’t see well, but always has a smile and welcomes the Eucharist. He also shared with me five things for which he is grateful.

In any event, I left my mood somewhere along the highway on the way to the prison.

But I still love the church

November 29, 2010

Several years ago, our monthly discussion group had a Mass around a coffee table in the lounge of a residence for religious. The celebrant poured wine into the chalice and set the bottle on the table. A few moments later he said, “We better move this bottle back to the counter otherwise we’ll consecrate the whole batch.” I remember wondering if he was joking, or if there  actually was some “rule” requiring that the bottle be moved.

Sometime after that, I read an article on invalid baptisms. Apparently some were baptizing using the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier.”  These baptisms would be invalid, the article said, since the words were not according to the formula, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

During the past week, there was an article on the mutual recognition of baptisms between the Roman Catholic Church and several Christian denominations. It was agreed that one need not be re-baptized if the proper formula was used and if documentation proclaiming the validity would be kept in the church records.

This last bit of information was a complete surprise to me. People are “received” into the Catholic church all the time without being re-baptized. Do we really do a validity background check? Does it matter?

I guess I take Saint Paul too seriously, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all”

Then I think back to the wine-on-the-table incident. Maybe the celebrant wasn’t joking after all. Perhaps the Holy Spirit really doesn’t know what she’s doing. Maybe it is the correct words for baptism  and the correct placement of wine bottles  that make the Sacraments work rather than the intent of those present. That the Holy Spirit comes forth only when the formula is correct to the last syllable and the ritual is followed to the tiniest movement.

So, one can only conclude that we worship a complete moron … in the eyes of the hierarchy. Can’t you picture the Holy Spirit descending toward the little infant surrounded by beaming parents and reverent godparents only to retreat with alarm and horror when she hears the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Creator, and of …. ” Is there a cosmic alarm that goes off: ABORT BAPTISM! GRACE DENIED! ABORT BAPTISM! Is that poor kid going to go through life with the stain of Original Sin just because the recipe was botched?

But I still love the church and our local faith community no matter how silly things get in the front office.