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Godzdogz

The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

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Quodlibet 6 - Vows and Sacraments

Sunday, October 21, 2007
'Why is religious profession a sacramental and not a Sacrament? Similarly, a priest is eternally a priest...is a religious eternally a religious and why...is it because the vows are eternal and it is a realization of God's call, or is there some other reason?’

The simple answer to the first question is: because the Church has discerned that profession is not a sacrament. But this in itself can tell us a lot. The seven sacraments that have been defined by the Church deal with stages in our life as Christians, which, in a sense are not unconnected with the biological and psychological stages of our life. Our Baptism is the beginning of our Christian lives, Confirmation marks Christian maturity, the Eucharist nourishes us on our journey. When we are weakened in body or soul we receive strength and healing through Anointing of the Sick and Confession. All humans are made to seek God in communion with one another, and need to be guided and lead. For this we have Marriage and Holy Orders. The Church’s discernment is that these are the seven special gifts of Christ to the Church, by which the Church becomes more perfectly Christ-like, and that have permanent value in the Church.

Sacramentals, on the other hand, ‘bear a resemblance to the sacraments’ (CCC, 1667). Religious profession is a particular means of living out our baptism in such a way that we become conformed to Christ, but (and this may be shocking for religious amongst us) is not necessary for the survival of the Church in the way that sacraments are. It is a sobering thought that religious will continue to exist as long as they are useful to the Church in their prayer, witness and ministry. It is nevertheless a ‘gift from [the] Lord’ so that the Church can ‘show forth Christ and acknowledge her to be the Saviour’s bride’ (CCC, 926).

Robert Gay OP

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