The Roman Catholic Church has seven (7) Sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ Himself, no
council or synod nor committee of the Vatican created these Sacraments. Christ created them in Divine Wisdom because He and God the Father determined that we need them in our flawed human condition. The Sacraments provide us with God's grace so that we may journey toward salvation.
The Catholic Church, in committees, synods or councils, developed the rituals for the Sacraments so that we would come to understand and know God's love and desire for each of us. The rituals help to explain God's love for us and His hope that we will choose Him and His truths so that we may come to live with Him forever, passing through the "narrow gate" and enjoy unending glory.
While the rituals do not "make or complete" the Sacraments, they rather call us to understand
them and apply them in our daily lives.
I write this weekend to help people understand some of the "rules and/or requirements --
or expectations" of the sacramental process. You can imagine that our parish office receives lots of
questions and comments when people call to schedule a baptism and asked "why the godparents have to be Catholic" or when a funeral is being planned we might hear that "we don't need a big Mass, Father, but that a small or simple one is ok." Some folks believe that the godparent is just an honorarium or that the Catholic Church might offer something less than a Catholic Mass for those who don't usually attend church.
Would we tell an auto mechanic how to change our car's oil or instruct a CPA how to figure
out our taxes?
With more than 2000 years of practical experience and many highly educated theologians and
philosophers, I believe the Church is well prepared to lead us in the Sacramental life which Christ gave to His Church. So, the following is offered by way of tips or edification in planning a Sacramental ritual for someone.
Baptism: two godparents, a Catholic godmother and a Catholic godfather are expected to serve in this role which is meant to provide the child with living examples of the Catholic faith to instruct them in the ways of faith. It goes against religious freedom to demand that a non-Catholic, e.g., a Methodist or a Jew, to lead by example in the living out of or faith. In some instances a non-Catholic Christian may stand with the Catholic godparent at a Baptism. Two godfathers or two godmothers are not permitted as the godparents are to represent the unique roles of the parents, who when united in marriage represent the fullness of God.
Funeral (Christian Burial) Mass: the funeral Mass-and all Masses- are offered as praise and to give
glory to God. The funeral Mass is thus offered for the deceased's noble soul, and then for the comfort of the family. In the context of the Mass, only sacred music is played, not Broadway hits or great songs by the Rolling Stones no matter how much the deceased loved them. Because it is a Mass, we do not eliminate the Old Testament or the New, nor do we withhold the Gospel. The Mass is held inside the Church, not at Nana's favorite beach. While some may feel that this may not fit into their professed faith or life choices, we should remember that for the faithful Catholic who
has died, we are celebrating their faith and their life--thus Mass is for them.
Holy Communion: the Catholic Church believes that the bread and wine offered in the consecration
become, through the power of God, the sacred body and precious blood of Christ our Savior. This One sacrifice, offered once and for all, nourishes us with Christ's very self.
Holy Communion of the Roman Catholic Church then is offered to Roman Catholics. Thus the
reception of Holy Communion should be for Catholics only. For those who are not Catholic, the
non-reception of Communion should not be viewed as "exclusive" but rather the non-Catholic attending a Catholic Mass should respect their own faith and not consume the Body or Blood of Christ, which their faith does not recognize. If a non-Catholic feels "left out" or feels awkward by staying in the pew while those with whom he or she is attending Mass go up for Communion, he or she may come up for a spiritual blessing, crossing their arms over their chest as a sign to the priest. The priest will them say a brief blessing over them.
Next weekend I will speak to the Sacraments of Matrimony, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders,