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A Beacon Of Light… Divine Light Shines Through The Sacraments

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By FR. RICHARD D. BRETON JR.

(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He is currently the parochial vicar of St. Andrew Parish in Colchester and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Lebanon. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

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Today begins a series of articles on the seven sacraments and how each is a portal through which Divine Light shines!
What is a sacrament? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a sacrament is: “An efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the Holy Spirit.”
The sacraments are active encounters with Christ. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation (or Chrismation), the Eucharist, Reconciliation, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.
The seven sacraments touch all the important moments of Christian life. There is a certain connection between the stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life. To better understand this correlation, we will group the sacraments into a certain order.
First, we will examine each of the Sacraments of Initiation, namely, Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Second, we will examine each of the Sacraments of Healing: Penance and Anointing of the Sick. Last, we will examine each of the Sacraments of Service: Marriage and Holy Orders.
The sacraments are the vehicles through which we receive God’s grace. Grace is a gift God freely gives. Through the sacraments we receive sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace heals our human nature wounded by sin by giving us a share in the divine life of the Blessed Trinity.
In other words, the sacraments are God’s way of visibly expressing His love for us. Each sacrament expresses God’s love as we journey through life. Each sacrament uses signs and symbols to express God’s tangible love for us. Some of these include water to cleanse, oil to sanctify and heal, flesh and blood as food and service to each other and the Church. The sacraments pull us out of darkness and thrust us into the glory of Divine Light!
I really enjoy visiting churches because each church is unique in its expression of the faith. I especially enjoy looking at the stained-glass windows. Stained-glass windows are lessons in the faith. Each window teaches us something about the spiritual life. Some windows depict the mysteries of the rosaries and others the sacraments.
Stained-glass windows are also instrumental in teaching us about the lives of the saints. Whenever I look at a stained-glass window, I’m reminded of God’s grace. A stained-glass window has two sides. In the evening or night, we see the dark side; it’s hard to see as the colors are masked. In the light of day, we see the other side; the beauty of the stained glass. We see the beautiful colors and depictions of the faith radiant in the light of faith.
Whenever I look at a stained-glass window, I’m reminded of the life of a Christian. Prior to receiving the sacraments, we are shrouded in the darkness of sin, but after receiving the sacraments we bask in the light of glory! The sacraments enable us to know who God is! How is this possible? How can we know God?
St. Catherine of Siena, a doctor of the Church, is a saint who experienced visions of the Lord. In one of St. Catherine’s first visions at the age of six, Christ asked of her, “Do you know, daughter, who you are, and who I am? If you know these two things, you will be blessed. You are she who is not; whereas I am He who is.”
Through this vision of St. Catherine, we are reminded that without Christ we are nothing. Jesus reveals to St. Catherine that in order to know oneself, we must know who Christ is first. We come to know ourselves, through our encounter with Christ. This is profoundly present in the reception of the sacraments.
Who can administer the sacraments? In the divine plan of salvation, the Lord establishes the priestly order to assist Him in administering the sacraments. Bishops, priests, and deacons participate in conferring the sacraments of the Church. As a priest I have the great privilege of being one of these chosen ministers. From the moment of my Ordination I have cherished each sacrament I have celebrated. Whether it be Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage, or Holy Orders, each sacrament is a joyful moment in the life of the one who receives it.
Every time a sacrament is celebrated, Christ’s Divine Light shines through to embolden the soul! In Baptism, we hand on the faith and the person becomes a new creation. In Reconciliation, we are reunited with Christ and sin is forgiven. In Eucharist, we receive the food necessary on our journey of faith. In Confirmation, we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to assist us in our journey. In Anointing of the Sick, the hand of the divine physician touches us to heal us of mind, body, or soul. In Marriage, the unconditional love of Christ is shared between man and woman making them of one flesh. In Holy Orders, a young man is chosen by the Lord and is consecrated as an instrument through which God’s grace may flow.
As a priest I cherish every moment I celebrate the sacraments.
I love to baptize because I can almost see the transformation taking place within the baptized. I’m humbled in the Sacrament of Reconciliation because I am reminded of my own sinfulness and how I am an instrument of God’s mercy. Each time I celebrate the Eucharist, I hold the Lord in my hands, unworthy though I am, but chosen to distribute the food of everlasting life. In Confirmation, I call upon the Holy Spirit to be sealed with the strength needed to live our earthly life. In Marriage, I prepare and guide couples to the moment they proclaim vows and profess their love to each other. In the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, I bestow the healing grace of God’s love and compassion to the sick and their families in times of need.
For me the sacraments are cherished moments of grace! Grace for the recipient but also grace-filled moments for me the minister. Each time I celebrate the sacraments, I’m reminded of my own journey of faith. Like anyone else, I also need to be reminded of how precious the sacraments are. We must never take them for granted.

Know And Understand

Recently, I was asked to celebrate a wedding for friends of mine. It was supposed to be an extravagant celebration with many people invited. It was to be a destination wedding because it was happening in Newport, R.I. Due to the current COVID-19 restriction, this extravagant wedding became something very beautiful.
The list of 250 people who were invited was cut down to only 48. The elaborate reception to follow had to be postponed to next year. Through all the changes and difficulties, the bride and groom did not want to cancel their special day. This unique time had allowed them to refocus their intentions. They realized the marriage itself was more important than the celebrations that would have followed.
On June 20, 2020, I witnessed the marriage on a most beautiful couple truly united in love for each other. The celebration of this wedding brought tears to my eyes. Truly the light of Christ was shining brightly that day!
Sometimes we take the sacraments for granted. We receive them, but do we understand what we receive? What is Baptism? What is Reconciliation? What is Confirmation? What is Eucharist? What is Anointing of the Sick? What is Marriage? What are Holy Orders?
It is my hope and prayer by offering this series on the sacraments we will come to know and understand the sacraments and cherish the faith we have been given!

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