Wednesday, May 2, 2012

GROWING TALLER IN MY SPIRIT

(I have been given the permission and privilege to "home-instruct" my 12 year old grandson, Jeffrey, to prepare him for his Catholic Confirmation slated to take place this fall. Reason? He lives elsewhere and his weekend schedule doesn't allow him to attend Saturday classes at Sacred Heart parish with the other catechumens. I'm devising my own creative method of instruction and writing a tailor-made informal curriculum for Jeffrey drawing on resources from our Religious Ed. Dept. I've been writing "Conversations with Jeffrey" for several years already on a variety of life-lesson topics. The current series is focused on required Confirmation preparation and content that needs to be covered. I will post these from time to time. These are imagined conversations, not verbatim dialogue.)

CONVERSATIONS WITH JEFFREY: Series
# 25

Growing taller in my spirit

“I’ll race you to the door, Grandma! Do you have the tape measure?”

“I sure do, Jeffrey. And the door to my basement has more marks on it than I can count. It seems that every time you come to visit me you are taller. I think that when we have your Baptism Anniversary Birthday party this month, you will already be as tall as I am…in your socks too. Here, let me put a mark on how tall you are today.”

“This is the fourth anniversary of my baptism, isn’t it? This year is going to be special. I’m studying toward receiving my First Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation both at once.”

“I can see how tall you’re getting on your body on the outside, but only God can see how tall you are growing in your spirit on the inside. The Sacraments help you grow stronger and taller on the inside.

“Some of the sacraments are once for all, aren’t they?”

“The first three are sort of “start up” events. They are called “Initiation” sacraments and you only do them once. Some of the others are meant to repeat, and others are also one-timers.”

“I have already memorized all seven. Baptism was my first Sacrament. That was the beginning of my Christian life. Jesus said it’s like being born again. Grandma, what does “sacrament” really mean?”

“Sacraments are signs. They are something we can hear or see or do which represents something else that we can’t hear and see or do right now.  A sacrament gives us grace.”

“And what is “grace” again?”

“Grace is God’s life coming into us through Jesus. It is like the power and light that come to us when we turn on a switch. A sacrament is like turning on an invisible spiritual switch.”

“Where did we get the sacraments?”

“When Jesus left for Heaven He established the Church to carry on His work in the world. He gave the sacraments to the Church to give to us with the help of our priests. Sacraments demonstrate to us that Jesus continues to love us and so He provides us with what we need to live the way God wants us to live. Each sacrament gives us some special grace.

“What’s the special sign of grace in baptism then?”

“In baptism the pouring of the water is the main sign. Your original sin was washed away. The candle you received was also the sign that the Holy Spirit came in with His light. Through baptism you became a follower of Jesus and part of God’s family, the Church. You started living and acting as a child of God and His grace is helping you to overcome evil.”

“In Confirmation what grace am I going to receive?”

“In Confirmation you are growing up from childhood to adulthood in your faith. Your spiritual muscles are getting stronger. The Holy Spirit will help you understand and explain your faith more clearly. You will become a better Christian even under difficult circumstances. The visible sign is holy oil put on your forehead with the sign of the cross by the priest or the bishop.”

“The Sacrament of the Eucharist is really part of Confirmation too, isn’t it? It’s also called Holy Communion? When I get to do this for the first time, it is called First Communion. Isn’t that when at Mass the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus?”

“At the beginning of Mass the bread and wine are still just plain bread and wine. Only after the priest says the words of consecration that Jesus said at the Last Supper before He was crucified do they become the Body and Blood.”

“But Grandma, we can’t see or taste any change, can we? It isn’t a symbol or a just pretend—it really happens?”

“We believe it by faith because Jesus said so. Whenever we receive the Eucharist, it’s like food to nourish our souls and make us stronger spiritually. The Eucharist is the greatest of the sacraments. The visible sign for that sacrament is….”

“I think it’s the bread and the wine, right?”

“And also the words of Jesus that the priest says over them.”

 “When I’m confirmed, will I finally be able to receive the Eucharist with all the rest of the Catholic Christians at Sacred Heart Church anytime I come to Mass!”

“Yes, and also anywhere in the country and in the world when you go to Mass—even if you don’t understand the language of that country.”

“Is the next sacrament the one when the priest forgives our sins?”

“It’s also part of Confirmation and is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession or Penance. But it isn’t the priest who forgives you, Jeffrey. The priest celebrates this sacrament with us but he is acting in the place of Jesus. When the priest says ‘I forgive (absolve) you of your sins,’ he is speaking those words for Jesus.”

“Does God always forgive us no matter what?”

“When we are truly sorry, when we confess them, and do the penance for our sins that the priest gives us, yes, our sins are forgiven. Sin makes our souls sick. This sacrament is like medicine to heal them. The sign for this sacrament is not something we can see, but instead the words we speak and what the priest hears and speaks.”

“Is the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick just for people who are dying, Grandma?”

“Not only for the dying, Jeffrey, but for any serious illness or accident or having surgery—things like that—we can ask the priest to anoint us with holy oil, which is the visible sacramental sign of grace. Then he prays for our healing and recovery. Or prays for us to bear our sickness with courage. Or if it is God’s time for us to die, that we will accept our sickness with peace because we will be with God forever. We leave it up to the will of God to know what is best.”

“The Sacrament of Holy Orders is just for priests though, isn’t it?”

“Also for deacons and bishops. God calls some men to give their lives entirely to serve God. Jesus through the Church gives them authority to say Mass, to teach His words, to forgive sins in His name, and continue the mission He gave His apostles. The visible sign is when the bishop lays his hands on the head of the priest.”

“One more sacrament—the getting married and having children one. That’s called Matrimony, isn’t it?”

“That’s an important sacrament, Jeffrey. Just as God calls some men to be priests, so He calls some men and women to marry, to become partners for life, to build a family together, and raise children to follow Jesus. It takes a special grace and help and blessing from God to establish Christian homes. The sacramental sign is the promises the man and woman say to each other.”

“Is it because we can’t see Jesus in person now like people did two thousand years ago when He loved and actually touched people, so Jesus gave the Church the sacraments to show us Jesus’ love right now?

“That’s right. Sacraments are physical signs by which we receive Jesus’ love for us. They help us love God and others here on earth and someday in heaven. The deacons, priests, and bishops who give us the sacraments act for Jesus.”

“But it is really Jesus Who is celebrating the sacraments with us, isn’t it?”
****

1 comment:

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