Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pointing Us in the Right Direction

If you know me, you'll notice that I can get pretty excited about certain things. Spider-man, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Lost, and Matt Maher's music are a few of the things that, although the years may pass, if you mention them, I'll start to go crazy. I'll analyze bass lines, re-enact scenes ("The Hobbits are going to Isengard!"), and pretend that I have a lightsaber. But another thing that I get all gung-ho for is my faith. Over the years, I have grown to become more emmersed in the beauty of the Catholic Church, and I try to bombard myself with this beauty as often I can.

But why?

Here's a fact: I possess a LOT of things that show that I am Catholic. I have a Vatican flag hanging from the ceiling of my room. I write down passages from scripture everywhere. I have a marian background for my google homepage. I have lots of spiritual books (including bibles and a catechism), I always have a rosary in my pocket, and the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is put a cross around my neck.

And I can understand if the initial reaction to reading the above is, "Uh, wow. Humility much?" Even a part of myself, writing this out and reading it over, feels like I am stepping out of line. But here's another fact: primarily, I do not do all these things, wear all these things or own all these things to show to others that I think I am next in line to be pope. We're all called to evangelize and show Christ through the way that we live. But I can't evangelize Christ unless I already have Christ in my heart - you can't give what you don't have. The statue of Mary on my desk and the amount of Matt Maher on my iPod are simply there to point me in the right direction.

These things help me to open up to the grace of God. They are a constant reminder of the reason for hope. They are God's armour in life that will help me fight the good fight and finish the race. I said above that they are there to point me in the right direction - to God. If I am truly focusing on God, then I will be prompted to respond in prayer; to praise, to thank, to ask, and to receive. But how often can I honestly say that I am focusing on God? So that's why I have all these items. It's not because I am so holy, or because I find living the faith particularly easy. I struggle all the time. Owning a bible or a few rosaries isn't hard.

Responding to these things is hard.

And in a day and age when we are so distracted that we will do anything else besides pray, maybe we all need more of these items than we think.

The Church defines sacramentals as things that "do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but...prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it" (CCC 1670). Statues, rosaries, even passages of scripture, on their own, cannot compete with the glory of Reconciliation or the Eucharist. They don't possess any grace in and of themselves. But they are prods, pokes, and maybe even shouts, telling us of the one that we should always be looking to, and of the eternal destination that we should always be striving for.

All the things that I mentioned are merely that: sacramentals. Obviously, it is possible to go overboard. I'm not going to start stocking my pantry only with baskets of bread and fish. But we all need more sacramentals in our lives. Some of them may be more universal, like a picture of a saint, and others may be more sentimental. But they can all help us. Being a faithful follower of Christ is hard in today's society. There are so many distractions, wrong turns, and dead ends. If we are honest with ourselves and look around, we'll see that, as the Catechism says, 

"there is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed towards the sanctification of men and the praise of God." 

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