We started by defining the sacraments and then exploring the Sacraments of Initiation. We continued with a look at the Sacraments of Healing. Today, we will conclude our series on receiving the sacraments with intention and wonder by looking at the sacraments of mission: Holy Orders and Matrimony.

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Living the sacraments in our everyday mission

God calls all of us to holiness and gives us the grace of the sacraments to help us in life. All five of the sacraments described over the last two days (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick) are intended for each and every Catholic Christian. But two unique sacraments of vocation give us grace in specific missions in life.

The Sacraments of Mission

Holy Orders

In the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus traveled to various towns, He felt compassion for the huge crowds of people, because they were in such need of guidance and help. He thought of them like sheep without a shepherd, kind of just wandering around. He told His disciples that “the harvest indeed is great, but the laborers are few,” and He prayed for laborers (Mt. 9:35-38).

Jesus’ disciples were the first laborers He sent out to help His sheep who were in need. And today, He calls men to the priesthood to attend His flocks, giving them the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Through the grace of Holy Orders, Pope Francis, our bishops and our priests celebrate Mass, administer the sacraments, teach us the faith and give us good counsel. They are our shepherds.

In turn, we can pray for our priests, support them, and encourage vocations in the lives of our children and grandchildren. We also can remember to let them know we are grateful for their service. One simple act we can do this Holy Thursday is to give our priests a thank-you card (and maybe a homemade treat). Why on Holy Thursday? Because in addition to giving us the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday, Jesus also gave us the priesthood on that day. It’s nice to remember our priests on various holidays, especially on Holy Thursday.

Holy Matrimony

According to the Catechism, “Sacred Scripture begins with the creation of man and woman in the image and likeness of God and concludes with a vision of ‘the wedding feast of the Lamb’” (1602). God looks upon marriage with significant importance in the lives of His children. He established this holy and sacred relationship and granted it the high status of sacrament, because He allows it to be a path to holiness, a path to Him.

I was blessed to receive the sacrament of Holy Matrimony 13 years ago. And in that time, my husband Greg and I have faced many joys and many challenges: unemployment, financial difficulty, moving, birth, celebratory milestones, travel, sleepless nights, and family dilemmas. Good or bad, Greg and I have faced these things together, through the grace of Holy Matrimony.

When we were married five years, we had three little girls and found out we were expecting again. But we weren’t just expecting one more child; we were expecting two. Yes, twins! I will never forget the day I heard the news for the first time. I laughed at the absurdity, and I cried at the impossible. I asked God, “Don’t You know I am already at capacity? I can’t go to the grocery store with three children, how am I going to manage doing anything with five?”

The Catechism says, “Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.” In the same section, it says that procreation and education of children is the crowing glory of marriage! (1652; GS 48, 50)

Through the grace of Holy Matrimony, I discovered that having five children, 5 years old and younger, wasn’t about my own abilities, my own comfort level, my own anything. It was God’s plan to help me grow in holiness and earn a crown in Heaven someday.

How can we honor and reverence the sacrament of Holy Matrimony? On a daily basis, we can ask ourselves some simple questions: How did I speak to my husband today? Did I ask him about his day, or did I just go on and on about the children? Do my husband and I take a regular date night? If not, how can we make that happen more frequently?

Another idea is to mark the date of your anniversary on each month of your calendar. So, for example, let’s say you were married on Oct. 27, like I was. You can put a little heart on the 27th of each month to remind you to take some time to honor your marriage that day. You can send a special note to your husband or simply light a candle in your kitchen and pray for your marriage in a special way throughout the day.

How do I receive the sacraments with intention and wonder?

Reflecting upon what the sacraments are and what they mean helps to receive them with intention and wonder. However, it takes patience and practice.

Life gets busy. My mind often wanders, and sometimes I fall back into the habit of receiving the sacraments in a routine-like fashion that is too automated. But God’s grace reminds me to review the meaning of the sacraments often and regularly recall fond memories of how the sacraments have blessed my life. By doing this, I can return (again and again) to a more mindful way of receiving the sacraments.

“You are called to exercise the Spirit’s gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life. Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sports, music and art. Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the sacraments.” (Pope Benedict XVI, World Youth Day 2008)

Copyright 2014 Sarah Damm