In your own faith:
- It can be hard to settle our minds on the idea of “cooperating with grace”. How would you explain the Catholic doctrine on salvation to others?
In your parish:
- How does your parish currently respond when there are serious doubts about the readiness of a candidate for the sacraments?
- How would a discipleship model of preparation fit into your current approach?
I’ve been living in Theology of the Body world these last few weeks (and months), so my thoughts on grace and works lean that direction: My body is the means through which my soul acts. I can’t be nice to my kids in my soul, and spewing profanity at them with my body. I can’t be reverent towards the eucharist with my soul, but toss a consecrated host into the garbage with my body. I can’t be faithful to my spouse in my soul, and date another guy with my body.
My apathy works the same way. I care less about a clean desk than blogging, and we can tell because although my blog looks a little lonely at times, my to-be-filed bins look even worse. I care less about the poor in India than about my own children, and we can tell because I shop for the ones reliably every week, and the others much more rarely. I might or might not have my priorities in order, but we can see by my actions what my priorities are.
Our Lord of course warns us against judging one another, since what you and I see on the outside is only part of the picture. He sees on the inside. He knows the whole story. There might be some invisible but valid reason for the condition of my desk. Or my waistline. Or my bank account.
But those invisible stories aren’t excuses. If I’m disorganized for _xyz_ good reason, that doesn’t negate the virtues of orderliness. Perhaps I do have a failure of fortitude, or prudence, or justice, or temperance; perhaps I don’t. Still, it’s not fair to my heirs to risk dropping dead with boxes of unsorted papers, if I can manage to do otherwise. If I can’t, I can’t. But God bless the priest who reminds his congregation that if we don’t want to be a burden to our family members, we can skip euthanasia and go straight to good housekeeping and cultivating a pleasant personality.
I don’t know how my parish handles dubious sacramental situations. My family has always shown up adequately prepared for our various sacraments, and I’m not a sacramental gatekeeper, so I’m not privvy to what happens in those circles. (As is meet – none of my business.) But the topic comes up on the internet in catechist circles, so I do get to hear how other parishes manage it. In my life as a catechist, and as an ordinary parishioner, people do share with me their stories. Between those two influences, I start to develop some opinions. You knew that about me.
And here’s my thought: People deserve to be known. If my parish is running a sacrament mill, with dozens of anonymous second-graders being processed via an attendance policy and a set of registration forms, we’ve got a problem. The problem isn’t just that some unworthy seven-year-old might presenting himself for the Holy Eucharist — that’s the symptom of the deeper problem.
Is my parish really so large, and so utterly devoid of kind, sensible, informed laity, that the only way to dispense the sacraments is like one massive emergency baptism, run by an overworked DRE and a couple brave catechists? It shouldn’t be. No matter how large or small our parishes, there should be a a proportionate number of mature Christians who can each mentor a few up-and-comers. Mothers of 2nd-graders shouldn’t be anonymous faces in the mini-van, mailing in forms and cruising the carpool line once a week, and finally making their debut in Christian society by presenting a child with brushed hair and clean clothes on the appointed day.
If the little saints are missing Mass every weekend, shouldn’t there be someone who has an idea of why? Because there’s an illness in the family? Because work schedules are erratic? Because the non-Catholic spouse is creating mayhem? Or the Catholic spouse is in a fit of despair and just doesn’t have the will to do one. more. thing.? There’s always a story behind the bad-attenders, and the woefully-ignorant, and the badly-dressed.
If the only measure of sacramental preparation that we have is a set of checklist-items, we don’t have a parish. We have Wal-Mart.