The Hamster Wheel of Sacramental Routine:
The season of First Communions & Confirmations is over for some of us. The Baptisms and Marriages are ongoing.
I was interviewed for a Radio Documentary on First Communions months back. The interview amused me: The interviewer had a child for Communion and was very ambivalent but had been swayed by the enthusiasm of the child. The parents then felt rather hypocritical. My teasing presence was a little torment in the midst of such agonising. At least there were questions.
Our 56 celebrated last weekend. They were delightful. I am certain that if there was no Holy Communion – there is a need to have some ‘Rite of passage.’ The children are so spontaneous; so enthusiastic; so uninhibited; so open; It is Godly. I found this year’s group awesome. God had to be dancing in the aisles with them and with us. I had been a little fearful in recent months that they might have too much ‘religion’ as they joined us, weekly, for the Eucharist Their singing was inspirational. Their praying was rather thoughtful. Even the lost Malaysian plane was prayed for – when the News had forgotten about them.
Our Confirmation was celebrated on 11th April. We celebrate the Sacrament with no Mass. The lead-up was good. The special occasions during the year were good. Ray Field (as always) dealt with each child as if this was the only one in the world at the time. We made a big play on each child calling out their name – and the pride they had to have in their unique place in the world of God. The adults were quite good on the day. In the distant years when Mass accompanied the Celebration; the smokers were in and out during the Service and didn’t have the patience or interest or reverence to stay around. Our pruning of the Ceremony has helped. Confirmation day was Friday; none of the 65 was back on the Sunday!
Our Baptism Team work tirelessly with home visits; Meetings; as a familiar face on the day and with their involvement in the Ceremony. The babies are always great. We ensure that the adults pray most of the prayers and are drawn into the Ceremony. Sometimes crowd control takes over. The church part can be a sideshow. The ‘party’ is really the thing. However, if Francis thinks we should Christen even the Martians – who are we to question these special occasions?! However, we must be careful of magic- this is not Sacrament.
And then there are Weddings. There is a huge investment of energy and time with Marriage preparation. As with Baptism, Communion, Confirmation – where people aren’t in touch with Church; it takes much more effort in the need to get to know people and relax them. We do everything possible to make those profound moments a time where something of God is caught. Am I on my own? I find funerals easier! Wedding day comes and the day takes hours. The Bride has to be late – whatever that custom means. The day passes. There is very seldom any whisper back afterwards. In fact, I wonder most times – is the story of the ten lepers applicable. Where there is a lack of obvious gratitude or awareness; I worry for them.
I am musing over those special moments and wondering. What can we do about reverence? How can we create a sense of wonder? How can we help to let that world of God be glimpsed? Where are the hints and suggestions? These so called Sacramental moments – are they touching the God- world at all? Mary Oliver in her recent book (A Thousand mornings) says (I have been standing) – ‘does the cat pray; or the oak tree; or the wren……’ She finds God and Prayer and Wonder so naturally – how can ‘we’ spread such Good News?
And I wonder too – is our Mass a Prayer? (Is it wonderful?) Is the Scripture a Prayer? Are we praying when we gather in Worship? Has the literalism of our understanding not only diluted our sense of God but has it almost killed it? Or is it the philosophy of the age – the destructive element? We are consumed by the Now, the Immediate, the Obvious and the Particular. How can we break through that ‘sound barrier’ and hear the ‘rumours of angels’?
The Evangelisation spoken of by Francis – can’t be about bringing people back into what we have. We need a new imagination and a totally new creation. How can we go about it? Can this website help in bringing something of that new and essential world alive for us all?
Seamus Ahearne osa