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Arkansas Catholic
Little Rock, Arkansas
August 22, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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August 22, 1998

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AUgust 22, 1998 Page 5 An educational section of ARKANSAS CATHOLIC By Maureen McGuinness CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE ALI~&Ny, N.Y. -- As the hot sticky summer days turn people's thoughts to a nice cold dip in the backyard pool, atWnrun through a lawn sprinkler, or a leisurely boat ride a river or across a lake, Catholics should remember at those actions can be sacred. In fact, Elaine Ramshaw author of "I'he Godparent sL "A lot of people don't know what to do as godparents," , told The Evangelist, newspaper of the Albany Diocese. ~" ey don't know what kind of gifts to give that aren't tt e.or pious. You don't have to give praying dolls. You 2Just do something with them like go to a lake, river, r go through a car wash or blow bubbles." While doing one of these activities, she suggests, the g lparent should state that the reason they're doing the ac 'livity is tO celebrate the child's baptism. th.l'hose godparents who want to give presents might also ,Ink about water, Ramshaw said. Bath toys, beach or pool ays, animabshaped squirt toys, bubble bath or soap, or ernade washcloth puppets are all good ideas. f*l'eli your godchild that having fun with water is a way renaemberin our ba tism," she said g P " q ur those who think the swimming pool is not the Pace to remember an important sacrament, Ramshaw e~urages them to think differently. Q~ All of the things we do in the central rituals of the ~ttlrch are central human activities like bathing and .teals,. she said. q'he central things we do are not things A boy enjoys a water slide at an amusement park. Elaine Ramshaw, author of "The Godparent Book," suggests such an activity for a godparent and godchild to celebrate the anniversary of a child's baptism. that only specially initiated people can do. Everyday things are accessible to everybody. They become the place where God meets us." Ramshaw said it is understandable that people tend to think about the sacraments only while in a church build- ing and separating them from real-life experiences. "The connection is supposed to be there," she said. "In religious practice we tend to turn it into something cut off. It's a human tendency. Meals should be related to the Eucharist. Bathing, washing and swimming are all related to baptism." Cathy Ann Lavender, director of the Prayer and Wor- ship Office of the Albany Diocese, agreed on the impor- tance of these everyday activities. "I believe in the domes- tic church," she said. "We have the liturgy at church and the liturgy of real life." She shared a story from her own life where an everyday water activity became sacred. "I had a close fi-iend who went to Sierra Leone in the Peace Corps," she said. "She came back earlier than I expected and she snuck into my apartment while I was doing the dishes. We were so ex- cited we began throwing the dishwater at each other. We were loving each other with water." At the time, [avender said, she did not see the sacra- mental nature of this scene. ''We met at the Newman Center at college," she said of her friend. "In college we would have laughed at it being sacramental." Lavender challenged people to think of everyday activi- ties like bathing children or swimming as being sacred. "So much of what we do around water at this time of year is communal," she said. "It's a celebration of our Christian journey outside of the church." Since sacramental life parallels everyday lili it is no wonder that water plays an important role in liturgies. "It's a symbol that has a whole family of significance around it," said Father Thomas Richstatter, professor of liturgy and sacramental theology at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana. "It symbolizes life coming forth from the waters in the womb of mothers," he added. "It is quenching of thirst. It's all tied to the life-giving principle." Through the waters of baptism, Christians are reborn, Lavender said. '~ust as our gestation birth is through the waters of the womb, our rebirth from baptism is through water," she See Godparents page 8 ['Understanding Our Church I Lutheran-Catholic dialogue based on Scripture interpretations quent condemnations thrown back and forth by both the eyes of others while their hearts remained closed. A Word on Scripture and ,Sacred Tradition Msgr. Richard Oswald are the chances that a foursome, with not a priest or deacon among them, would spend their between greens and tees discussing a document by the Pontifical Council for Promotion Unity? It happened last month. I learned tt When one of them came to me last month full of and observations. reaction was surprise approaching disbelief. gave way to delight when I heard that the for the discussion was a report in Arkansas In fact, I was doubly pleased. I was glad to that folks are reading our diocesan newspaper gladder still to hear of their interest in important about ecumenical dialogue and cooperation. news was the publication of a joint declaration by the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches a "consensus on basic truths concerning of justification." It is important because in 16th century opposing interpretations ofjustifica- the way in which we pass from the condition of to a right relationship with God, were the principal of the division of the Church and the subse- slavery. Some smugly celebrated their achievements in Church in Rogers. sides. Some lived every day in dread that, in their weakness, In its simplest form, the question was reduced to an they could never do enough to merit heaven. argument about the value and effect of faith and works. Today, as we remember, we are called anew to reject The reformers accused Catholics of relying totally on any temptation to believe that we can demand or con- works, of believing that we can make ourselves accept- trol that which is always God's gracious gift to us. Nor able to God through our own efforts and merits. The can we take all the credit for who we are and what we reformers were convinced that Catholics thought that do. If we grow in faith and holiness, it is because of the they achieved their salvation through prayer, good deeds new life that is ours through God's forgiving grace and and the celebration of the sacraments, the power of the Holy Spirit who activates us. We can Catholics, in turn, accused the reformers of holding either cooperate with or reject God's gift of salvation. that the human decisions and actions have no meaning God will not save us against our will. But we must relative to our salvation, that cooperation with God's remember that even our consent is "an effect of grace, grace is impossible. For 400 years the debate over faith not an action arising from innate human abilities." and work continued. We should also note and celebrate that those who In our time, however, Roman Catholics and Lutherans have participated in the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue have joined in ecumenical dialogue to listen to the word over the past 30 years make it clear that the founda- of GOd in sacred Scripture and have discovered a re- tion for this agreement is their prayerful listening to markable convergence concerning the understanding of the word of God. justification. The Vatican II Constitution on Divine Revelation The new declaration says, "rogether we confess: by teaches that the Church "is not above the word of grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts and explaining it faithfully by divine commission with while equipping us for good works." the help of the Holy Spirit." The declaration also says, "We confess together that Fidelity to this truth, held by both Roman Catholics good works -- a Christian life lived in faith, hope and and Lutherans, had led to this agreement. We can love --- follow justification and are its fruits." trust that it will lead to further dialogue and coopera- This agreement is a cause for celebration, for offering don and enrich the life and teachings of both churches. praise and thanksgiving to God. It is also an occasion for We can even continue the dialogue on the golf Roman Catholics to reflect on the abuses and false spiri- course assured that we are God's daughters and sons tualities that precipitated the reaction of the reformers through grace and faith in Christ. Unfortunately, our in the 16th century. Indulgences were indeed sold. Many game will always depend on how hard we work. We were convinced that their chance for salvation depended will still have to earn it the hard way. on the actions of their priests leading a form of spiritual Msgr. Richard Oswald is pastor of St. Vincent de Paul