Marriage as a Vocation, Wedding Traditions and Current Controversies

Over the past two articles, I have dealt with two key understandings regarding marriage. In the first column, the question of what makes a marriage a marriage was explored. Last issue, the question of what are impediments to a valid marriage was examined. Now, we examine, more broadly, matters related to marriage, notably, Marriage as a vocation, wedding traditions and current marriage controversies.

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An Introduction to the Seven Sacraments

We are happy to reproduce Father Lentini's articles on the Sacraments as originally published in The Dialog.

Sacraments 101

There was a book published in 1989 entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.” It was one of those self-help books, and it was wildly popular. I just checked Amazon.com today, and noticed that that book – after 23 years on the market – is still ranked among the top 100 sellers in America, and ranked #3 among business and investing reference books. The book invites its reader to adopt seven habits – seven behaviors – that allow people to transform their lives and achieve greatness.

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What is it that Prevents a Marriage from Being a Marriage?

In the previous article in this Sacraments series, the topic of Marriage was approached from the standpoint of addressing “What makes a marriage a marriage?” The answer was identified as consent freely given between one man and one woman, made before the Church’s minister and two witnesses. This article is going to address the inverse issue: What is it that prevents a marriage from being a marriage?

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Baptism, Part I

In 1970, the rock band Chicago sang “Only the beginning / of what I want to feel forever.” If a child or adult preparing for Baptism could sing a song about Baptism, that would be it; although some raucous crying cherubs might chime in with a chorus of “Splish-splash.” In any event Baptism is “only the beginning” of one being re-born into Christ. Baptism is, like all sacraments, a nexus of the natural and the supernatural; it is a moment when Christ is made palpably present to a person for the first time. More specifically, Baptism is the sacrament of spiritual rebirth: through the symbolic action of washing with water and the use of appropriate ritual words, the baptized person is cleansed of his sins and incorporated into Christ. But more details on all that next issue. For now, let’s get down to the Baptismal basics.

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Holy Matrimony: What Makes a Marriage a Marriage?

I don’t know if you like junk food, but I would dare say that I do enjoy it. Among one of my favorite gastronomic pleasures are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. These amazing little taste-treats are always in season for me. The essential ingredients involved the Peanut Butter Cups are: peanut butter and chocolate. Now, I have to say that I like peanut butter on its own, and I enjoy the taste of chocolate, but the combination of the two is incredible! Thus the Reese’s company takes chocolate, joins it together with peanut butter, and in doing so confects something that is better than the sum of its parts. It has taken two distinct creations and made them one, and while the distinction is still there (you can taste both peanut butter and chocolate) they are nonetheless united.

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Baptism, Part II

In our last column, I began going step by step through the Rite of Baptism. In this column, I will continue through the remainder of the rite.

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Holy Orders: Historical Origins, Development, and Institution by Christ

This article is the start of a series on the Sacrament of Holy Orders. I would like to spend time this issue focusing on the origins and historical development of the priesthood, and its institution by Christ in the form of the Sacrament of Holy Order. While some of this history may seem unrelated or arcane, it is not: It provides us a fuller understanding of the priesthood, which is made present by a special sacrament called Holy Orders.

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The Sacrament of Confirmation

Country singer Eddie Rabbit had a hit song some 30 years ago called “Step by Step” – it was a syrupy country-pop number that informed the listener that if you really wanted to properly woo the lady you love, there are three steps that must be undertaken. First step: take her out and treat her like a lady; second step: tell her she's the one you're dreaming of; and the third step: take her in your arms and never let her go. As I dig out from under the schmaltz, I am reminded that full initiation into the Catholic Church likewise has three steps (or better stated, three Sacraments of Initiation); namely, the first step: Baptism, second step: Confirmation and third step: the Eucharist.

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Anointing of the Sick

A number of years back there was a TV series on CBS called “Magnum P.I.” It was a huge hit – it featured a rough and tumble detective (Magnum) living in luxury in Hawaii and his refined friendly-nemesis, Higgins. Guys watched this show because it was full of action, car chases and gunplay. He drove the incredibly cool Ferrari 308 GTS! Now, women also watched the show in droves, very much so because it starred actor Tom Selleck. The show had many successful years, but at the end of season seven it looked like the end was near; ratings started to sag, and it looked like the show might be in danger of cancellation.

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More on Reconciliation

Last issue, I presented a general outline of the basic concepts of the Sacrament of Penance; in this issue, I want to pick up with what happens after the Sacrament of Penance is completed and then make note of other considerations about this Sacrament.

We completed the previous article with the penitent being absolved of his sins in the Sacrament of Penance. But, even after his sins are forgiven and absolved, there is also what the Church calls temporal punishment due for sin. You see, sins have consequences; they separate us from God and his Church – that is what Confession fixes, but a person’s sins have had ramifications beyond just that person. This means that although a person’s sins are forgiven, that person has committed sins which hurt the world and hurt Christ – they are the pains Christ suffered for us – and there are human consequences for those sins.

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The Eucharist

I want to take on a labor of love: expressing the Church’s mind and heart as regards the Eucharist. Often called the Most Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist is the Sacrament around which all of the other Sacrament circle, much like planets encircle a sun. Without a sun, planets -- their alignment and their placement -- become less certain, less clear; so too, it is in the Eucharist that our six other sacraments find their full meaning, and conversely, without the context of the Eucharist, the sacraments would lose that fullness of meaning.

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Sacrament of Reconciliation

In 1976, singer Elton John  had a big hit with the song, “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” – in which he laments, “It always seems to me that sorry seems to be the hardest word.” While that ballad was a big hit with record buyers, its message remains a challenge to us; because, indeed, many times, sorry does seem to be the hardest word to say. Think of things that you may have done to friends or family members during your lifetime that you wish you could apologize for, but pride or fear kept the word “sorry” from being uttered.

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Sacrament of the Eucharist: Essential Components

Last issue this column gave an overview of the general understanding and background on the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. In this issue, I will focus on the essential components of confecting the Sacrament and on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

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Eucharist, Holy Communion and Mass

As readers of this column have heard several times from me, I am a believer in the idea that words mean things. The language we use when talking about our faith needs to be precise. Regarding the Sacrament of the Eucharist, this is especially true. I am going to focus on three words/terms that are used commonly to apply to the Eucharist which are often used interchangeably, but are not in fact interchangeable terms; to wit: Eucharist, Holy Communion and Mass.

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