Joseph Martos
Part Two of the Course, Fifth Assignment, Question 2
by Dr. Joe Martos - Friday, 17 February 2012, 1:51 AM
What directions do you see the Church's official and unofficial sacraments going in? How would you like to see them develop? What benefits and dangers do you see in this process?
Picture of Monica Okon
Re: Part Two of the Course, Fifth Assignment, Question 2
by Monica Okon - Monday, 16 July 2012, 8:09 PM
What direction do you see the church official sacrament going?

The Sacraments are the life blood of Catholic faith practice. However, things are no longer as they used to be. Beliefs and participation have changed or shifted over the years and generations in regards to Catholics understanding and celebration of the sacraments. Common religious practices like going to regular confession, penance and receiving the Eucharist thereafter are no longer what it used to be; this also has changed as attitudes have changed in the larger society. Some blame it on the prevalence of the ethics of relativism, others blame it on Vatican II, and some others see it as a natural evolution of our society away from past assumptions. Irrespective of what used to be, how it used to be, who is to blame for this or that, the reality remains that the sacraments are relevant to the Christian practice of the faith though many today question this truism.

I think it is difficult to differentiate between the behavior of a Christian and non Christians. In other words, there is no longer evidence or observable effects in some people who are baptized, married, confirmed and ordained. It seems there is a change in confession experience that make Christians not to long for the sacrament of confession anymore. In other words the church official sacraments have begun since the twentieth century to have a variety of interpretations. There have been comments, suggestions and criticism on the need for a revision or update on the sacraments in order to meet up with the growing need of various needs of different cultures and contemporary world. The major change in the twentieth century was a revision of the catechism of the Catholic Church.This document exists in the contest of sacraments as liturgical celebration (127), and in response to the changes that took place during the Vatican II council. The overall tone of the catechism of the Catholic Church insists on the traditional practices of sacramental theology. Another document that have the same approach to sacramental theology is canon law of 1983 (127) These method of responses to the need of pluralism in the Catholic sacramental theology have created room for contemporary interpretation to exist hand in hand with the traditional interpretation of the sacraments. According to Martos, “For the time being, however, Catholicism’s official sacraments still resemble one another around the world, and they all resemble more or less the sacramental rituals of the modern period. The revised rites have been translated into many languages but they are still translations of official Latin texts. Why there are disagreements in this translation is that it does not fit into some cultures. Some bishop would like to interpret it in the light of the cultural practices they find themselves. This is to say that, there is likely to be more autonomous interpretations, practice and development of sacramental theology. In other words, “diversity and pluralism have become permanent features on the Catholic landscape”(127).

How would I like to see the church official sacraments develop?

Training and education should be emphasized on grace, rituals, symbols, and signs of the sacraments. There is need for historical facts on the sacraments to be revisited. This may give a better appreciation and understanding of why Catholics do what they do and believe what they believe in the sacraments. Sacraments should develop into actions words and symbols that make meaning and attractive in a contemporary society such as the USA. I strongly believe in “On cultural adaptation for distict groups, within the pluralistic society,” (129) but this should be done under the supervision of the church authority.

Dangers and benefits:

The dangers may include over simplicity in practice of sacramental rituals. Loss of common identity as Roman Catholics beliefs and liturgical celebrations may be too diverse, just like the Protestantism keeps dividing itself to different branches of protestant churches, too many changes, and adaptations to different cultural demands may divide the church to what we least expected. Individualistic life may give rise to practice of magic and superstitious beliefs. On the other hand, if there are changes especially in the area of cultural adaptation, people sacramental rituals may be more meaningful, because sacramental rituals will enable people to worship and participate in a way that meet their needs.

It is clear that the sacraments are still important to Catholics; however the question remains as to how meaningful they are to the contemporary Catholic within the context of a continuously secularized society. Are the sacraments still what it used to be in essence and meaning? Are they still the engine the drives Catholic practice and participation or have they become so “symbolic” that they have lost their essence? What are the sacraments really? Has the Church changed the meaning of the sacraments by expanding the participation there from? These and other similar questions come to the fore on the relevance of the sacraments and their meaning today.

GRADE 4 (Thoughtful and perceptive.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Friday, 13 July 2012, 02:07 AM)

Joseph Martos
Re: Part Two of the Course, Fifth Assignment, Question 2
by Dr. Joe Martos - Monday, 16 July 2012, 8:12 PM
Sr. Monica, I am surprised that you did not mention possible future developments in Africa. Do you foresee the possibility of any non-European styles of ritual in Nigeria or elsewhere?
Picture of Eileen Rettig
Re: Part Two of the Course, Fifth Assignment, Question 2
by Eileen Rettig - Monday, 16 July 2012, 8:16 PM
We will continue to have just seven official sacraments. The number seven has mystical connotations and after eight hundred years it would probably be an exercise in futility to add or subtract from the official ecclesial number. That is not to say some changes may be seen in the actual rituals themselves.

Since the wholesale conversions of barbarian tribes and the introduction of infant baptism in the West or Latin rite, the sacrament of Confirmation has been divorced from its original place as the final laying on of hands after Baptism. A place needs to be found for this strengthening of faith. A concern I have is that in this archdiocese the age of confirmation has been raised to seventeen. Parishes must reach out to their high school students to keep them involved in the community of faith until they reach the required age. Catechesis will be extremely important. Unfortunately, it is difficult for many parishes to find youth ministers who are capable of maintaining the interests of young people during the teen years when so many secular attitudes and activities pull them away from church.

Catechesis will also become extremely important in helping young adults prepare for their role in life, be it as married couples or to the ministry. In the West we have developed the need for instant gratification. It has become increasingly difficult for young adults to understand the difference between infatuation and the emotions and compatibility that lay the groundwork for a solid marital relationship that can survive the storms that life brings. The same holds true for those who would choose ministry. I remember hearing a young priest lament that people tended to think of him as “a sacrament machine.” What I found ironic was that in many ways his lament was so similar to a young wife who complains about her husband’s expectations or a young husband’s complaints that he feels he is nothing more than a paycheck. The church community (laity and clergy) need to prepare our young people for the realities of life.

The rites themselves will change in some aspects. Gregory the Great when he sent missionaries to the barbarian tribes instructed them to use those aspects of the native culture that were not diametrically opposed to Christianity. It would seem some accommodation can be made for the Asian practice of honoring deceased family members (the ancestors). After all Catholics have ways of honoring our dead family members. The Church itself honors the Communion of Saints with both All Saints Day and All Souls Day. That is just an example of the inclusion of non-European cultural practices.

The unofficial sacraments have great potential for both good and bad. The charismatic groups, Cursillo and Focolare Movement can provide for Catholic Christians to develop a deeper sense of commitment to the community. The danger lies in these groups seeing the movements as ends unto themselves and not part a larger Christian community, not all of whom are part of any particular movement. For example the local Cursillo community meets monthly at various parishes in Mobile county. We generally start with Mass. But the Mass is a regularly scheduled Sunday vigil Mass. We are actively discouraged from having a private Mass just for the group except during the retreat weekend.

A good way to describe the potential problems with these movements within the Church is to describe what is actually happening at a neighboring parish. The Legion of Mary at this parish is going through a crisis. A legalistic member has divided the group and membership has dropped dramatically. A second group with a specific devotion to Our Lady has started to blossom in this parish, made up of some former members of the Legion of Mary. The two groups meet back to back and the animosity is palpable. I suspect the first group will die off because it is too rigid and it will be interesting to see just how the newer group will grow.

A final comment.

Growing up in a large city in the Northeast I had little exposure to African-American or Latin-American Catholics. Living now in the Deep South I am frequently amazed at the beauty these cultures have to offer. This universal church of mine needs to honor the differences God had given us.

GRADE 3 (Good thoughts, but they focus mainly on catechesis rather than on possible developments in the sacramental rites themselves.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Saturday, 14 July 2012, 01:54 AM)

Picture of Tim Talbott
Re: Part Two of the Course, Fifth Assignment, Question 2
by Tim Talbott - Monday, 16 July 2012, 8:20 PM

I see the Church’s official Sacraments staying the same in nearly every sense. To begin, I am positive that there will be no change in the number of the official Catholic Sacraments. In addition, I do not see any significant changes in the practice of the rituals either. As the text notes, as of now, the Sacraments are typically performed in the same manner around the world. I believe that the only differences would be perhaps from culture to culture, and maybe the timing of them, for example the age for Confirmation.

In regards to the unofficial sacraments, I believe that they will continue on the path that they are currently on. I would like more distinction between the varying types of the broad category we have entitled sacraments, simply so there is no miscommunication or misunderstanding. Traditional sacramental devotions such as the Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration are coming back with full force. I see this resurgence as a positive thing and a testament to how the majority of people feel. The other less popular sacramental practices, such as in the Pentecostal movement, will remain to be just that. I believe that certain fads that “speak” to certain eras, typically end with that era, generally speaking.

I personally would not like to see the Sacraments themselves develop. What I do appreciate and see as the biggest benefit of the text and the various other systems is that they do actually open up dialogue. This is in the arena of what I actually would like to see change and develop. There is so much ignorance about our Faith in general, and this is so sad because so many have the false impression that it is narrow. Nothing could be further from the truth. If people understood what was going on in the Catholic Sacraments, the faithful would increase exponentially. The problem as I see it is that when people fail to respond, some take it as there being a problem with the system or message. This is where such creative thinking comes in to play, in trying to help people to expand their minds in order to grasp the Truth, not trying to make the Truth small enough to fit into their minds.

The danger I see is when distinctions become blurred. I see this in the symptomatic ever-expanding relativism today. In a sense it could become, “Those are your Sacraments but these are mine.” just as some say “That is your truth but I have my own.” Can I say that this attitude is pervasive in a secular context as well? I see it in situations where perhaps on a high homecoming court there may be 15 people elected rather than 1, so that everyone who wants to “win” is allowed. For a kindergarten game, this certainly is appropriate. This is not how the world works, however, and it is not the truth. Every human person is created in God’s own image and in this has equal dignity. This does not mean that all things are equal, however. Men and women are different. Is one better than the other? Absolutely not. But are they the same? No. Attempting to blur distinctions causes much more grief than happiness and fulfillment. If something allows you to experience God more fully, and it is not out of line with acceptable practices, then who could question it.

GRADE 4 (Clear about the dangers of liturgical development, but unclear about the possible benefits.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Sunday, 15 July 2012, 05:50 PM)

Picture of Marvin Fitchett
Re: Part Two of the Course, Fifth Assignment, Question 2
by Marvin Fitchett - Sunday, 29 July 2012, 12:14 PM

The direction of churches’ official and unofficial sacramental shall take in the future is the way of a solid and promising foundation. The way of a solid and promising foundation includes personal Scriptural knowledge, maintaining the sacraments (ordinances) of the original church, and pursuing ecumenicism.

The theological arguments of Schillebeeckx and Rahner were commendable and opened the door to other philosophical fields to interpret the sacred reality or the sacraments from their perceptive. This invitation will allow a variety of philosophical views to be added to the official and unofficial sacraments. These varying philosophical thoughts possible are more humanist or heretical causing sacramental ineffectiveness. Therefore possessing personal scriptural knowledge of the official and unofficial sacraments (ordinances) and Acts of the Apostles will keep the individual and the community of faith in relation to the Trinity and one another.

Next, continue in the practice of the official and unofficial sacramental rite and rituals. In the past, present and in the future involvement in the sacramental rite and rituals have opened the door to the spiritual realm and have allowed the participants of the ceremonies to have a sacred experience. The official and unofficial sacraments and sacramental have benefited the Christian community. Specifically, giving emphasis to the established seven official sacrament (two ordinances), and accepted sacramental to the act and interaction of Christians that share in effects of social, charismatic, group, and individual experiential sacramentality. The established and the contemporary sacraments and sacramentals maintain the symbolic effectiveness in expressing the nature of the church, the revelation of the reality of Christ, and they communicates to the participants the sacred reality. They are the sign that shall continue to open the door to the sacred.

Finally, the acceptance of ecumenism or interfaith cooperation will benefit the official and unofficial sacraments. Ecumenism is a Christian movement that is slowly growing among denominational lines. What ecumenism offers the different Christian communities is the ability to identify their similarity as well as different worship style. However, the style is not what is important. The content or other way to say it is the subject or substance of the worship is the most important matter. Perhaps in the future the Christian community will embrace Ecumenism for this reason only. To slow down the effects of secularism, materialism, and pluralism by agreeing on the sacraments (ordinances), and sacramentals that shall be celebrated culturally and regionally that would naturally point to the sacred and present spiritual reality. Of course, they must maintain the integrity of the Jesus instituting the Baptism and Lord’s Supper (Eucharist), and the other apostolic sacraments. The Apostolic sacraments invite the present of the Holy Spirit into our sacred realities.

The direction of personal Scriptural knowledge, maintaining the sacraments (ordinances), and pursuing ecumenicism is a solid and promising foundation for the official and unofficial sacraments and sacramentals. Who we need to see, follow, and listen to is Christ. Christ mention in the Scripture, that his church is built on a solid foundation, and the gates of hell shall not prevail. His church will accomplish what he designed it for. So, the direction is a solid and promising one.

Grade 4 (Hopeful and imaginative.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Saturday, 28 July 2012, 06:33 PM)

Picture of arnetta sims
Re: Part Two of the Course, Fifth Assignment, Question 2
by arnetta sims - Thursday, 16 August 2012, 3:42 AM

The way in which we celebrate the sacraments today are different from the way we did prior to Vatican II. Now we understand the ways that the sacraments are celebrated where we fully express our experiences. The direction of the Church's official and unofficial development of the sacraments rely heavily on cultural influences.

Today in American society Catholic families have undergone changes. Families that once carried a uninterrupted lineage of Catholicism have been dismembered by affiliations to other non-Catholic religions. Another factor resulting in lost of interest are those who are "unchurched". A society that does not understand the practices of Catholicism presents a challenge with limited facts on the truths of the Catholic faith. It is necessary to continue implementing catechism of the sacraments as a means for salvation.

The official practices are not unattached from the institution of Catholicism, but expresses the ideology of a particular culture. They are practices of a religious experience that are sacred functions. We can borrow from Vatican II the term"vernacular", meaning incorporating ones culture to celebrate sacramental life. In my own experience the cultures that are apart of my life are: a culture of Catholicism, born into an African American culture and a French heritage of Catholicism. One would think with these mixtures it would be a conflict in the Catholic experience, but the official expression becomes central. The other elements were taughts to be means to enhance, grow and develop to celebrate sacramental life. I feel that the decline of African Americans into the Catholic Faith was because the "other elements" were alowed to obscure the rootness of the theology of Catholicism. The "knowing" is truth , but the "feeling" of cultural expression did not have substance and was ever changing. Therefore there was not a concrete indoctrination to the actual catechesis of the sacraments. I realize that this in itself seem confusing, but I have witnessed many fallen away African Amriecan Catholics who stated that they left because they did not get anything out of the Faith. This concerns me greatly because I know the historical truths that the sacraments hold. I can not say that it was the lack of formation, but no enough.The advantage that my family held were the values of a lived sacramental life. My father demanded that we know our Catholic faith because he felt that it would shape the ethical aspects of our lives. Many families did not recognize the importance of "knowing" the sacraments.

An item of concern in today's society is the use of rosary beads as a piece of jewelry adorn by anyone. This custom was developed from Catholics who used the rosary beads as protection of sickness. The rosaries were also used to ward off evil as a talisman or ammulet. This unofficial ritual has caused society to misuse this item of sacredness to a secular display. Examples such as these are a danger to the official expression of sacramentals.

I do see a decline in unofficial practices because society has become more intelligent and conforming to an official religion. I would like to see more catechesis, especially in the formation of the newly baptized or catechumente. On-going formation in parishes should be launched to promote further education of sacramental life. The theology of reverence of sacred items and rituals should be included in the New Evangelization. Each moment should be a teachable moment.

GRADE 3 (Writing and spelling issues keep it from having a top score.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Wednesday, 15 August 2012, 08:41 PM)