From #40: The sacraments communicate an incarnate memory, linked to the times and places of our lives, linked to all our senses; in them the whole person is engaged as a member of a living subject and part of a network of communitarian relationship.A while back I reviewed The Catholic Imagination, by Andrew Greeley. I remember overall appreciating the book although he did perpetuate some half-truths about Catholic teaching. The main point of the book is that people who are raised Catholic, even if they later leave the faith, have a very distinctive mindset.
The Mass and all of the other Sacraments bring the divine into everyday life. That should permeate our whole lives. Encountering the divine in the Sacraments helps us to recognize the divine in the ordinary. Not in the same way, but just as real, Christ is present in the Mass and in our neighbors.
Moreover, the Sacraments connect us not only to God, but to all believers at all times. As this quote points out, it highlights all of the major events in our lives: birth, marriage, birth of our children, death...
And the Sacraments are multisensory experiences. You witness the priest at the altar. You smell the incense. If you go to confession seated across from the priest, you feel his hands on your head as he says the words of absolution. You hear music, the prayers, and the readings.
Growing up with these experiences leaves a permanent mark on cradle Catholics. Those I know who have fallen away still have a deep appreciation for social justice causes, still has a grasp for how interwoven we all are. Many of the ex-Catholics I know fall squarely into the "spiritual but not religious" category as they see God everywhere. I pray that they find the Sacraments again and come back.
If you want to read more of this series of posts reflecting on Pope Francis' first encyclical, visit here.