October 26, 2007

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Sacraments are a powerful resource which are easily overlooked

On Oct. 24 some 70 years ago, my parents were married at St. Joseph Church in Jasper, Ind. They were married at a Mass celebrated at 6 o’clock in the morning because that’s when Benedictine Father Basil Heusler, the pastor, would witness marriages.

I suspect they celebrated their wedding in a simple manner because it was also the beginning of the Great Depression. I recall they had their honeymoon at Turkey Run State Park.

Initially, mom and dad rented an upstairs apartment near St. Joseph Church. A few years later, with the help of relatives and friends, they virtually built their own home on three acres south of Jasper. I remember being told by dad that mom built most of the closets in the house.

There is also the story of my brother, Charlie, who was barely able to walk, attempting to climb a ladder during construction. The house still stands near my brother and sister-in-law’s home.

Dad raised pigs, which were butchered annually for good food. We had chickens and a large vegetable garden as well. Mom and dad worked hard to provide a good living for my brother and myself. In the early years, our lives were simple and happy.

My brother and I learned to work as well as play. And our Catholic faith and the Church were prominent in our upbringing.

I reflect back with a lot of gratitude for our experience of family and home. We wouldn’t have thought of it this way back then, but we learned that simple family life and love is more important than family wealth. In a sense, we didn’t really think of our life as simple; it was just the way it was. The values we learned were gifts for a lifetime.

As I think about it, the circumstances of the time made raising and becoming a family less complicated than might be so today. We certainly weren’t bombarded day and night by secular materialistic values that are so prominent and pressing in our culture today. The tremendous developments that make life more pleasant are good things. We wouldn’t wish them to be otherwise.

Maybe what we need to keep in focus more intentionally is the availability of the support for spiritual and moral values provided by our Catholic faith and the gift of the Church. These things were prominent in earlier times and they remain with us—still reliable and unchanged.

In some ways, it was easier to learn and know our faith years ago. Perhaps it was so because there wasn’t so much competition for our attention. It seems to be more difficult today to make decisions to go to Church, to receive the sacraments, to be sure we are receiving a religious education and to be part of a faith community, our parish family. So many alternatives can be a source of pressure and stress, especially on parents. Grandparents do a lot of worrying, too.

We cannot underestimate the importance of family meals. It seems to take a lot of ingenuity to find time when family can be together, but it is worth the effort.

Family going to Church together is a major support, at least for big feasts like Christmas and Easter, first Communion, confirmation and reconciliation. My brother and I can still recall being expected to go with the folks to confession on Saturday afternoons. Maybe we didn’t like it, but it set a wholesome pattern.

If the family home doesn’t have one, the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is a fine resource for family learning. There are parish opportunities for adult religious education, youth and young adult faith formation, and Catholic schools where available.

In a certain sense, if we pay attention, seek out and participate in the basics offered by our parishes, we have a foundation of support in this era when spiritual and moral values are eclipsed by agnostic materialism. But there are additional aids to living our faith with a positive spirit.

Catholic social ministries, which involve us in living outside of our own preoccupations, bring great graces. Care for the poor, the elderly, the sick and homebound are near all of us. Participation in some of the renewal movements, such as Cursillo or Christ Renews His Parish and others, can be spiritually enriching.

But the most important of all is receiving the sacraments of the Church which, before everything else, is the way in which Christ enriches us with grace. They are such powerful resources which are so easily overlooked.

There is nothing more important that a person can do on Sunday or any other day of the week than to participate in the Eucharist. I also heartily recommend some special time in adoration and rest before the Blessed Sacrament. †

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