By Brian Pizzalato
The whole of Christian life is meant to be permeated and marked by the liturgy and the sacraments. The hallmark of the daily Catholic adult life should be that it is a liturgical life.
The reception of these sacraments commits us to live a liturgical life, and this does not mean just going to Mass on Sunday and going to Confession once a year. Each and every day is meant to be a living out of sacramental grace and actual grace. Each and every day there is a wealth of grace available because of the sacraments, and we must respond to them every moment of each day. The question is how this is to be done.
Living the Life
The first thing to realize is that, “the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life.” (CCC 1324) It is the source from which we get the power to live a daily sacramental life, and it is the summit toward which we move as Christians, namely to a more intimate union with Christ. The graces of the sacraments are always available and can be called upon constantly. We are all called to be saints, to be holy men and women. Who are the saints? They are those who responded daily to the graces they received, to God’s life in them.
To live a sacramental life also means to be immersed in the life and prayer of the church. The church’s liturgy is where this is most profoundly done. Full and active participation in the Mass is key. This means being there both in body and in spirit. We must understand where we are, what we are doing and what is really going on in the Mass.
The graces of the Mass are then supposed to be lived out throughout one’s life, as are the graces of all the other sacraments. We should even consider participating in daily Mass.
Liturgy of the Hours
Another way to continually live a sacramental life is to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. This prayer is no longer for priests and religious alone. The Second Vatican Council urged us all to pray this prayer of the church. These prayers connect us to the Mass and can help us to extend and respond to the graces received there.
Then there is an entering into liturgical year, which is meant to permeate every day of our lives. The Liturgy of the Hours, which follows the liturgical year, can help us to this.
Our prayer life should reflect our knowledge and participation in the liturgical year. On saints’ memorials, feast days and solemnities, we should ask these saints to intercede for us to help us to respond more fully to the gift of God’s life, which we possess through the sacraments. We need to reflect on the example they give us of responding to grace.
A further way of living this daily sacramental life is using sacramentals.
The church gives us holy water to remind of our baptism, holy candles to remind us that Christ is the light of the world, and the list could go on.
The devout use of sacramentals is meant to be signs of our worship, and they are meant to be indicative of our intention to receive actual graces and respond to sanctifying grace. So they must not be looked at as something magical, and we should not fall into superstitions with regard to them. For example, if you forget to bless yourself with holy water when you walk into church, it does not mean you are going to go to hell.
All of this means that there must be an intimate connection between our faith, our worship and our daily life. Our faith, worship and daily life must be both public and private, and all of it is meant to be a sacramental living out of our faith. We cannot allow a disconnect between these things. We need to live everyday like we are living in God’s life and responding to God’s life. To live any other way is to live a lie because once we have been baptized we have God’s life in us. To live as if we do not is a lie and a sacrilege.
God’s life in us
Once we have God’s life, it cannot even be taken back, even by God himself. He would not want to take it away; his plan all along was for us to have his life, and to respond to this life on a daily basis, on a moment by moment basis.
The hell of being in mortal sin is that we choose to reject God, yet God does not go anywhere. We decide we do not want God’s life, yet it cannot be erased.
“Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.” (Romans 5:20)
When we are sinning, God is continually calling us back to himself and giving us the grace we need to do so. Then when we receive the sacrament of reconciliation, our relationship with God is restored, and he increases the grace in us to not commit those very sins that were confessed.
Those who have received the sacrament of matrimony also need to daily ask God to help them respond to the grace of this sacrament. Things might not be made any easier, but there is the grace to persevere in times of difficulty. God has not left us orphans.
We need to learn to see life through the eyes of the church. This will occur as we devote time to personal prayer and as we form our minds and hearts with the Scriptures, Catholic teaching and the liturgical life of the Church.
Central to Christian maturity and this “sacramental outlook” is the renewal of our thinking and attitudes (cf. Romans 12:2). The more we see things as God sees them, the easier it is to recognize his will and follow it. As we pray, read the Sacred Scriptures and seek to live a sacramental life, the Holy Spirit will renew our minds and help us to see everything through the eyes of Christ and his church.
Printed with permission from the Northern Cross, Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.
Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate for the Diocese of Duluth. He is also a faculty member of the Theology and Philosophy departments of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England. He writes a monthly catechetical article for The Northern Cross, of the Diocese of Duluth, and is a contributing author to the Association for Catechumenal Ministry's R.C.I.A. Participants Book. Brian is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute and is also in the process of writing the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition program at the Maryvale Institute.
Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.