The Catholic Faith is a sacramental life where everything and every thing is offered back to God as a sacrament of praise and thanksgiving. The profane is made sacred when it is recognized as a gift from God to draw our hearts and minds upward beyond the fray of the human condition. The Puritan mindset, a misguided fallout of the Protestant Movement's dissembling from the Catholic (Universal) Christian Faith, trends toward removing the practice of our faith in God from the beauty and goodness of his Creation.
The Sacred Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Faith marry Truth, Beauty and Goodness to our daily practice of our Faith. When considered in this light, one can appreciate our attention to every movement in the Mass and every devotional practice in our living. One such example is our veneration of the Crucifix. Misunderstood by those on the outside looking in partly due to the misunderstandings about how Catholics practice their Christian Faith. The familiar misunderstanding that we were once led to believe goes something like this: Catholics don't celebrate the resurrection, they think Christ sacrifice stopped at the Cross. That accusation is befuddling to us now as Catholic Christians because it couldn't be further from the truth of Catholic Christianity.
Sacramentals such as a Crucifix, Icon, statues of Mary, Joseph and the Saints, Holy Water and sacramental devotional practices such as praying the Rosary, pilgrimages, Eucharistic Adoration, making the Sign of the Cross are all intended to guide our lives as beloved sons and daughters as we grow into our Christian identity. They remind us of our created identity, our family Name, our ancestry, our inheritance... As we live our Sacramental Faith--every thing turns our hearts and minds upward to the ever-present reality of eternity where our true identity lies. Our Creator knows the heart of man and how easily our gaze is inward rather than upward. Living our Catholic Faith aligns our wandering hearts and minds, our prodigal proclivities--amending our lives for the glory of God.
Consider this: We have a framed photograph of Mom Keith in the last years of her life. A moment captured that embodies her entire life: She is carrying a tray of her homemade rolls to the family table where she happily gathered her family and many others with her love and acceptance of everyone. Mother was mercy, generosity and hospitality wrapped in a diseased body. We loved her for many reasons but it is her mercy, generosity and hospitality that we venerate (honor/remember) not her diseased body. She is now fully alive and more real than she ever was in this life--a mystery so profound and beyond human understanding, but true nevertheless. When I (Lois) look at that photograph there is a prayer that I breathe with her for my own life. "Mother, pray with me to our God that I may embody the mercy, generosity and hospitality that you lived so well."
Consider this: The Crucifix above the sanctuary, the Crucifix we have on the walls of our home or carry in our pockets or wear around our neck are all images that should cause us to pause and contemplate our Christian identity. The Crucifix is in a much larger reality what a photograph can be to a daughter or son who venerates the memory of a mother or father who were an inspiration in their life.
What could be inspired in us if we would only pause throughout each day to contemplate Christ's sacrifice for us remembered in the Crucifix? What would happen in our heart and mind if we fully embraced this Sacred Tradition using the prayers of the Saints who have gone before us? What could happen in our world if we attended to our Christian identity as much as we attend to the things that don't matter?
Beloved Jesus Crucified,
I offer you my heart.
I am sorry that it is broken.
It is the result, not of a soldier's lance, like yours,
but of my neglect of it--
not taking seriously my need for happiness, for true happiness.
I ignored my heart by my selfishness,
my "knowing better,"
my fascination with the ephemeral--pleasures that could never satisfy.
I let myself be infatuated with lesser things,
my willful ideas,
whims and imaginary worlds of my own making.
It broke when I broke from you and went astray.
And I am sorry.
I need to come back again.
Your outstretched arms are so much like the widespread welcome of the forgiving father open to the repentant prodigal son.
I come before your crucifix just like him:
poor in my foolishness,
laughable in my shame,
repugnant by every measure except yours.
Without your crucifix, where would I turn in my misery,
so abject, the prey of despair?
Bereft, beaten down, lacerated by my self-seeking,
I dare approach your ravaged image on the cross because
it reminds me of me.
But you are sinless.
Your self-offering takes away my sin.
As I gaze upon you crucified
may I see the love that moved you to sacrifice everything for me.
For my heart is made for you alone.
Your hands and your feet are held fast by nails
to teach me how much I need pain and suffering in my life
to be purified, set free, and saved from myself.
Your side-pierced, opened, and exposing your Sacred Heart--
calls to me as the place where I am to dwell.
The gift of your cross separates me
from everything that separates me from you.
O, let my heart be converted by looking upon you whom my sins have pierced.
--Father Peter John Cameron