Walking the Path

Formation programs are gearing up, and families are seeking sacraments for their children. Young adults, and not-so-young adults, are seeking preparation to celebrate sacraments, as well. Each of these individuals is usually looking for one, or both, of these things: a connection to a community of faith and/or the filling of a void in their lives. Here, we’ll take a look at both of these reasons for reaching out and the root of both: a desire to experience love.

The first reason for seeking sacraments, especially the sacraments of initiation (i.e., Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist), is to foster a connection to a community of faith. Young people often bring a fiancé to the OCIA program (formerly called RCIA) to have them initiated into the Church so they can be united in raising future children in the Church. They also know how important their participation is to their future spouse, and that their participation is likely to foster the love in their relationship, which is highly motivating. Parents bring their children because they want them to be able to participate in the sacraments, allowing them full expression of their faith and participation in the life of the parish. Beyond that, individuals often come to know that active participation in a faith community has the potential to foster friendships and a sense of belonging that can continue to grow throughout an individual’s lifetime. Active parishioners often say their church feels like “home,” and the members like “family.”

The other main reason for seeking formation and sacraments is to fill a void. It is a void that is often rooted in unanswered questions about the meaning of life and the floundering feeling of being a ship without a shore. St. Augustine said it best: “My heart is restless until it rests in thee.” In a world that is often devoid of any real meaning, people are looking for the anchoring principles that Jesus can give. What’s Jesus’ main message? It is to love others as he has loved us. It is a message that is simple, but not easy. Good formation is focused on Jesus and his message for our lives, such that they help us to find firm ground for moving forward as his disciples. The “frosting on the cake” is when individuals come to know the experience of God’s grace through celebration of the sacraments. Coming to an appreciation for Jesus’ message of love, and the knowledge that God is Love, can be deeply moving, but learning that we are directly connected to God through those grace-filled sacraments is life-giving.

As I said, when people seek formation in the faith, and sacraments, they are usually looking to connect with a community of faith and/or to fill a gap in their lives. What we hope they come away with isn’t a head full of facts, but, instead, a heart bursting with love. We hope we have been able to convey that God, who is Being itself, is everywhere, and in everything, such that they are immersed in God’s loving presence. That understanding can take us a long way in life…all the way to the day when we see God’s face and live.