Witness to grace: Sacraments should involve the whole community
As I sat in the pew of the Chicago parish that I attend, I was blessed with a grace that I didn’t know I would receive when I walked into the church. With special permission from the bishop, our priest was able bestow baptismal rites on a young man who was unable to receive them during the Easter Vigil. All of us in the congregation witnessed and participated in this special day with him.
Thinking back, I couldn’t remember the last time I attended a regular Sunday Mass during which a sacrament was celebrated—other than the Eucharist, of course. How unfortunate, I remember thinking.
So many families nowadays prefer to keep the sacraments to themselves. The baptism of babies occurs after Masses for the immediate family only. Weddings are planned on Saturdays when the bride and groom share their special day with relatives who travel great distances to see them. Even when I was confirmed, we had a private Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul and only a few of my fellow parishioners who didn’t have a child being confirmed were there to see it.
Some parishes are good at including the community in the sacraments. In many cases, however, the family in Christ—those who will see the baby grow up in the parish pews, those who will watch the newlyweds attend Sunday Mass together week after week—are excluded from these life-changing events.
I’m not saying that all of the sacraments should be made public. I respect the privacy of the family for the anointing of the sick and the individual during confession. However, it was refreshing to be given the opportunity to bear witness to this man’s outward symbol of faith. Not only did it renew my own baptismal rites, I was also able to share my joy with the newly baptized as I welcomed him into the faith community.
In a Sounding Board last year, Scott Alessi argued that when a young couple decides to tie the knot, the entire parish community should be included on the guest list (“Say ‘I do’ at Sunday Mass,” September 2012). Of those surveyed, 64 percent would consider it a welcome surprise and be happy to witness these young people’s wedding. Sixty-one percent also think that parishes should not only encourage weddings but also baptisms and first communions during Sunday Masses as well.
What do you think? Should Catholics strive to have the sacraments be more community oriented or should they be left to the family for their privacy?