Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Seventy Sacraments of Ordinary Life

Guess you could say that I "don't know much about theology."

I do know that the Catholic Church acknowledges seven sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. (And I know this only because I consulted the Great Oracle, Wikipedia.)

No argument here. But I can't help thinking that the sacraments number closer to seventy than seven, that even ordinary, ho-hum life is brimming over with sacramental moments.

Like the sacrament of work. The work that sustains us is certainly a holy thing. The same God who said, "Remember the Sabbath" also said, "Six days you shall labor." The work of the farmer, the weaver, the grocer—the bank clerk, the janitor, the doctor—are they not all sacred and blessed when done well and with a grateful heart? When the dishes are cleaned until they shine, when the fence is mended to be strong and sturdy, surely this is sacramental.

I also find a sacrament in art—creating it, appreciating it, or helping someone else to create it or enjoy it. Bless that priesthood of piano teachers and grade school art teachers who open new windows to the spiritual for children. When the poem is pared until it sings, when the wet clay yields to the potter's hands, this is sacramental. 

And there's the sacrament of service. For all who lay aside, for an hour or a lifetime, their own plans to help someone else--the cake bakers and card senders, the volunteers at the soup kitchen, the guy who stops by the roadside to change your flat tire. Angels, every one.

But there are so many more. 

There's the sacrament of our senses--eyes that really see, ears that really hear--and a heart that counts its treasures in diamonds on morning grass and silver on the undersides of maple leaves. Surely, as a famous poem says, "The world is charged with the grandeur of God"--a beauty that radiates "like shining from shook foil." Gerard Manley Hopkins understood the sacrament of seeing.

I believe there's a sacrament of friendship and a sacrament of parenthood. I have a friend who has devoted years of her life to homeschooling her nephews and to helping them to be all they can be. Daughters, cousins, uncles, grandmothers, boyfriends, mentors, pet-owners -- shouldn't every relationship we have be infused with love, the very nature of God?

Add to these the sacraments of prayer and reflection, the sacraments of birth and of dying, and the simple sacraments of looking at the stars in wonder, or picking peaches from the trees and canning them in clear jars that sparkle in the sun. 

Truly the categories run together like colors in a sunset--until we have to admit that, even when no incense is burning and no choirs are singing, life is itself "an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace."

Seven sacraments? Seventy? Might as well count the sand on the seashore, for life is precious and amazing and delicious--a gift from God. And that's sacramental.


  1. "When the poem is pared until it sings." Beautifully said! Our very life is a sacrament! Thanks, friend!

  2. Sacramental sharing of thoughts on sacraments...expanding the whole concept exponentially...sacramental living in everything...may we all embrace this theology and live more fully. Wonderful. Thanks so much.

  3. Eloquent and Enlightening. Bless you, my friend!