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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Theology of Sacramental Bookkeeping

When I began this job as the Coordinator of Children's Catechesis for a large Catholic Parish in California, I had limited understanding of what my role would entail.  In fact, I had no idea what my job would be and since my hiring in April of this year I have learned more than I could have ever anticipated.  For the first time in many years I feel as though I am fully engaged in life - body, mind and soul.  I am working for The Church.  I make very little money.  It doesn't matter, because  every day I discover a deep and loving theology behind each of the tasks my job encompasses.  I am truly an important, though small, part of a great whole.

Recently we completed 'Sacramental Season'.  With the exception of a few little ones who will be receiving in August, the majority of our children received either their First Reconciliation (went to confession for the first time) or their First Holy Communion (received the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the first time in their lives!) during the past few weeks.

The First Holy Communion (FHC) kids looked so wonderful.  The girls, dressed in white dresses and veils resembled little brides - Brides of Jesus - while the boys looked so handsome in their formal attire.  I made it a point to tell all the boys that if men knew how darn handsome they all look when they are dressed in suits and ties they would wear them swimming just so they could always impress the girls.  They laughed, but I saw that some of them got what I was saying....every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

If all we had to do to make this occasion special was have them show up dressed to the nines, walk down the aisle and receive Our Lord my work would have been over the afternoon of June 10th, 2017.  However, that is only the beginning.  The real work begins after the Sacrament is received.  It is then that the information is entered into the Sacramental Registers for the Parish, certificates are created, seals are made on those certificates and they become ready for distribution to the Faithful children to keep forever.

I really did not know how important this work was but God provided me with an angel, a former RCIA Director who offered to come and help with the task.  This wonderful woman (a Persistent Widow, just like me) trained me, my Office Assistant and an eager volunteer in the task of Sacramental Bookkeeping.

There was more than training involved.  My Angel imparted to the three of us the importance of the work we were doing.  Covered specifically by Canon Law, the recording of Sacraments received must be done in a specific and special way.  The names must be correct.  The Baptismal information must be correct.  Without it, or if not correct, a person could be prevented from future Sacraments until the information is substantiated.

In March of 1995, the book How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill was published.  I purchased a copy for my father that year as a present for Father's Day.  In the book, Mr. Cahill argues that the Irish people, specifically Catholic Irish Monks, preserved information essential to the history of the people of Ireland, Scotland and the rest of Europe while Rome was being overrun and collapsing.  These devout and devoted men, in particular St Patrick, St Augustine of Canterbury and St Columba (of Loch Ness Monster sighting fame)  "single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent." (p. 4), according to Cahill.

This might not seem important to a lot of people today; to me, I see the significance because I often read on social media  an attempt by people with specific political agendas to re-write history.  Example: recently, a man I know insisted that Napoleon hired Michelangelo to paint over all the artwork that depicted Jesus as an African man.  The fact that the two men he wrote of lived close to 300 years apart does not deter him from his insistence that evil White European Men destroyed the 'truth' that Jesus Christ is a Black man, and that this was done in order to keep Africans down.  This is a result of either poor scholarship or way too much marijuana - either way, it shows me that there is importance to keeping accurate records.

This importance is more than simply historical.  There is a theology surrounding this task.  Each day I correct another certificate, each day my office assistant re-checks my work against our records or makes another phone call to verify spelling, we find ourselves caught up in the Sacredness of our task.  The beautiful volunteer right now stamping Father's signature on each completed certificate, and then sealing it with the Seal of The Church, is doing something holy.  We are the modern day version of those devout, Irish Catholic Monks.

We are living the teaching of The Church that all work is important.  All tasks done for the Glory of God mean something in His Kingdom.  We are not just 'the people in grey' like the Kinks sang about - we are doing something lovely and important and meaningful in God's House.  Our work matters - WE matter - and our determination to do it well and the lack of 'oh no not again why can't this be over' just indicates to me that the Holy Spirit has permeated our chores. 

We love what we are doing.

Most of my life I wanted to people, to my family, to my husband, to someone.  Today, because I took a chance and answered an ad in the Church Bulletin I get to be a small part of a greater whole.  I get to do something that was done with love and determination and a sense of higher purpose by Irish Monks and Missionaries and prisoners and Catholics hiding in Catacombs.  I get to preserve the information of the People of God.

Sacramental Bookkeeping - whether you are an ex-rock and roll wild child in California or in a monastery in Scotland, it means something.

I am so glad I get to be a part of this today.  I am forever grateful.

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