This is a regular feature highlighting some of the difficult questions experienced by catechists, teachers and parents who are put ‘on the spot’ by those they are teaching. How can an understanding of sacramentality help us when we are in dialogue with non-Catholic Christians who can find this central aspect of our faith bewildering?
She has been a member of the Church of England all her life – almost sixty years. As a young woman she experienced a conversion which enriched her faith, and since that time she has attended Sunday worship regularly and is deeply involved in many aspects of Anglican life, both spiritual and practical. We are able to speak of our faith to each other, albeit in either superficial or social terms, but I had assumed we stood on common ground in rather more areas than proved to be the case. In the course of a recent conversation in which I had mentioned some aspect of Church teaching on the Sacraments, she turned to me in utter confusion.
‘What’s a sacrament anyway?’ she asked. ‘I don’t understand what you mean by a sacrament.’
It seems that we do not always stand on solid ground when we assume other Christians understand what we mean by a sacrament, ‘sacramentality’ or the connection this effects between God and ourselves. Sacraments were dismissed at the Reformation as ‘dead works’ and seem to have an uncertain and ambiguous meaning for many of our fellow Christians – Christians who are part of our families, our schools and our daily lives.