A diminishing era of Sacramental Efficacy
Remember when your first child arrived, the task of finding a name that would please your parents, bringing everyone together, planning the baptism and choosing the godparents. Those were the days of simple family joy over a new arrival, gifts soon to be bought overwhelming your house, and seeing the smiles on all who attended the baptism of this new member of the family.
The one criterion was making certain the priest set the time for this sacrament and the godparents understood their role and its importance. Simple regulations then and now.
In order to prepare for the completion of this sacrament through confirmation several years later, it was and still is imperative to get this child to church with the parents, and prepare for the other sacrament of initiation, holy communion. There was a time when being efficacious in bringing a child up in the Catholic Church became the first priority of the parents. By the time that child reached puberty and was now a young man/woman the significance of church attendance and seeking more information about their faith was not a struggle. I personally saw a couple of families who spent time with their children investing time and understanding regarding the church and its sacraments. Both families had one son become ordained in the Church of Pittsburgh. One is a diocesan priest while a second is a Dominican priest.
Nothing with God is by chance, and here two families raising their sons in the church heard the call of God and sent to the Lord two men to continue the task of harvesting the grain of faith in many.
Lately, the news of some family members who have not only stopped attending Mass, but with one and some with more children have not even considered baptizing these children. As a deacon it hurts me to see the children, nieces and nephews who themselves were raised as Roman Catholics have disregarded the Church, sacraments, and have in some instances put the respect of the priesthood in a hole. Several of these occurred because of the scandal, but others have chosen the pandemic as a reason. Neither of these issues hold enough water to ensure their perspective of leaving the church. I am sure there are many families facing the same disappointments.
Can this diminishment exist due to scandals or disease in our world? Not likely! But there must be a deeper element that has infiltrated our vision of a faithful church and the continuing thrust of its members to keep the faith growing with our children.
Finding the solution may not lie with each of us, but trusting in God to guide our quest of becoming his apostles and sending us with the right weapons and when and where he wants to send us. Abraham was sent to an unknown place and without any specifics to his mission. Elijah also was sent to a widow in Zarephath without really knowing what the action would involve. The apostles were sent to distant lands to preach the gospel and baptize without any idea what the ultimate mission would entail. We as well will be sent if our trust in the Lord remains strong and he (the Holy Spirit) will show us to whom we must appear and what to say or minister with.
If my unknown mission was just for unbaptized it would be one issue, But at least two particular parties are turned away due to abusive circumstances to them or someone very close to them. The damage done to some has deeper roots than most understand. The harvest is ripe!
Ralph B. Hathaway