In my first blog post, I wrote about how taking notes on life helps me pay attention to life, that writing for me is a practice of taking notice and cultivating appreciation. I just finished reading a book for work (I’m a Youth Ministry Coordinator at a Catholic Church) that put my understanding of writing and my commitment to paying attention to life into spiritual terms.
The book that I read, What Makes Us Catholic: Eight Gifts for Life, by Thomas Groome devotes one chapter to the sacraments, talking about the seven specific rituals that play a significant role in the Church’s tradition and practice (baptism, reconciliation, eucharist, confirmation, matrimony, holy orders and anointing of the sick), and about sacramentality in general. He quotes Saint Augustine who defined a sacrament as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace” and describes sacramentality as the ability to see all of life as a visible sign of God’s grace and creative action in the world. He writes, “The sacramental principle means that God is present to human kind and we respond to God’s grace through the ordinary and everyday of life in the world” (84).
God is present in the ordinary — the food that we eat, the people we encounter, the books that we read, the movement of yoga poses, the scent of a candle — but if we don’t take notice, we won’t notice. In my writing and in my thinking, this is a theme for me right now. We have to pay attention in order to see God at work. We have to pay attention to know how to respond to that presence. We have to pay attention, period.
Groome calls this idea of sacramentality the most significant indicator of what makes us Catholic, writing, “It epitomizes a Catholic outlook on life in the world” (84). There are so many problems within the Catholic Church and so many times that I am hesitant to admit that I not only practice the faith of but also work for the Church that has caused so much pain. But the fact that the principle of sacramentality is central to the Catholic outlook makes me proud to call myself Catholic. I can stand behind the idea that God reveals Godself in all things and that all we have to do is look around and take it in.
I can stand behind the concept of sacramentality and let it settle into my bones and act as the lens through which I see the world.