Catholic Activity: Bringing Home All The Sacraments
The sacraments need to be an integral part of our family life. This includes study and prayer for preparation of reception. Here also are some suggestions of how to incorporate Confession, Confirmation, Wedding Anniversaries, Holy Orders and Annointing of the Sick into the family life.
There are two other sacraments that should hold a similar place in the memory of the Christian: first Confession and Confirmation. It is regrettable that these are not properly celebrated and sufficiently remembered, since both inaugurate a new period of religious or grace-life. Every effort should be made by the family to make these days "holy days" in the true meaning of the word, introducing the child to the significance of the ceremonies, the prayers, and the character of the sacraments. That is only possible if we parents prepare for these days ourselves by study and prayer. Can we do too much to enable our children to become earnest and steadfast Christians? Such efforts will moreover give parents a much deeper understanding of their religion and will draw them into more intimate relations with their children.
Confirmation especially, as the sacrament of holy ordination for the laity, ought to receive far more attention than it does. Since it signifies a spiritual coming of age, the family should in some manner take cognizance of that fact. Perhaps the child on that day can be given his own room, or desk, or the care of the home altar; or the articles used at his baptism such as the candle or garment, might be presented him permanently. Or it may be the time to present a much prized watch, reminding him that from now on he is responsible for the use or abuse of his time, that he has to learn punctuality and trustworthiness to be a soldier of Christ.
Wedding anniversaries in a Catholic home are also primarily religious feast and are most fittingly observed by family attendance at Mass and family reception of holy Communion. They offer a good opportunity also to talk to the children about the liturgy and character of matrimony, about the wedding Mass and the nuptial blessing. And if our adolescents learn that the Church has prepared a rite even for the engagement to marriage, thereby elevating this extremely secularized event into the sacred sphere of liturgical blessing, it may guard them against some of the dangers that ordinarily threaten. If year after year we repeat for them the beautiful prayers of the blessing of the wedding ring, there will grow in them a clear understanding of the fact that the importance of the ring has nothing to do with the price or size of the diamond. Few married people are aware of the indulgence of 300 days granted by Pope John at the beginning of his reign to couples who reverently kiss the wife''s ring and say a short prayer such as: "Grant, O Lord, that loving You we may love each other and live according to Your holy laws."
If, moreover, the young woman is familiar with the profound meaning of the nuptial blessing, she will not easily forget the reverent attitude of the Church towards the high dignity of the bride and her vocation to Christian motherhood. Nor will the young man fail to respect deeply this dignity in the girl since he knows how highly it is esteemed by the Church. Can we hear too often that matrimony was enriched with a blessing "which neither the punishment of original sin nor the curse of the deluge availed to abolish"? The mother with her hard burden will never feel deserted by Mother Church; and even the aged couple, repeating the liturgical prayers of their wedding day on its anniversaries, will experience anew the holy mystery of their being two in one "in Christ and in the Church."
Thus prepared and filled with the spirit and concept of the holy mystery of matrimony, we shall not be tempted — whenever a wedding occurs in our family — to cover up and hide the marvelous spiritual significance of this day behind the screen of secular etiquette or "society ceremonial," so dictatorial, so compulsory, so absurdly punctilious with regard to accidentals that no time remains to concentrate on the essential. The more pomp and "show," the less opportunity there is for the sacramental dignity to manifest itself at the wedding feast.
The sacrament of Holy Orders. We have already indicated the close connection between the sacraments of matrimony and Holy Orders, both of which are social sacraments. Therefore there is a relation between the Christian family and the priesthood. We find that too many who regard themselves as good Catholics are not conscious of this relation; they seem to think that Holy Orders have meaning only for priests and priests-to-be. Let us consider what would happen if there were no priests with the apostolic power to bind and loose, to offer sacrifice, to consecrate, to bless — and then let us thank and praise God for this great gift!
In the course of the liturgical year, Mother Church invites all her children to be present — at least spiritually — at the holy Sacrifice during which ordinations are conferred. On these days the father should talk to his family about the sacramental dignity and holiness of the episcopate and priesthood, the spiritual fatherhood, the mystery of the ordained representative of Christ. In our family prayers we ought to remember the bishop of our diocese, the priests of our parish and of all the parishes we ever belonged to, the priests who taught us and who teach our children, the priests of the entire Church, and last but certainly not least, all those who are called to become priests and who are preparing for that high calling, that the Holy Spirit may live and work in them and with them for the sake of the coming kingdom of Christ and that He may lead them to an eternal reward.
If we should have the opportunity of witnessing an ordination service in the cathedral church, we ought to bring any sacrifice to give ourselves and our children this great liturgical experience; it cannot help but influence our whole attitude toward the representative of Christ.
Finally, the sacrament of Holy Anointing ought also to be known by the family. On All Souls Day or on the anniversary of a death in our family we may prepare a table for administering Holy Anointing, pray and explain the rite of the Sacrament, and say the prayers, offering them for a sick person or for any member of the family who may die a sudden death.
When thus instructing our children about the "last things of man," we might also tell them about our own last wishes, about our most beloved psalms or hymns which we would like to have prayed at our deathbed, about the place where we keep the blessed candles, and about the cloth we have prepared for covering our hands at the last Communion and our face when all is over.
It is to be understood that on all our family holydays the entire family begin festivities with holy Mass. The children should see their parents kneeling and praying together, going to Communion together. They should have a vivid recollection of father and mother praying at home. I shall never forget my own father attending holy Mass on Sundays, though he died years ago. And I always have in mind the devotion and contemplation of my mother kneeling in church or praying at home.
We, too, owe such memories to our children so that they will not forget our example. Nowadays it is almost exceptional that the family comes as a group to the holy Sacrifice. That is regrettable. It is not the best practice for children to be always in the schoolpews in church and for fathers and mothers to be in special benches. Family worship strengthens family ties, and frequent family days in our parishes would help to achieve this end.
Activity Source: Family Life in Christ by Therese Mueller, The Liturgical Press, 1959 by the Order of St. Benedict, Inc.