A Sacramental Worldview

“Creation of Adam” (detail) by Michelangelo

When film or television programs want to portray Catholics, how do they portray us? They depict things like statues, rosaries, candles, and crucifixes. These are what set us apart as Catholics to the world. And for good reason. These things are outward manifestations of a Catholic understanding of the world—our sacramental worldview.

As Catholics, our Faith is sacramental.  This does not just refer to the fact that we believe in seven sacraments.  It refers to the way we view the entire world.

We understand that material creation is good. The Book of Genesis tells us that all God created was good. But Lucifer and the other demons, and Adam, Eve, and mankind after them, used their free will to reject the good. Material creation is not evil; our abuse of that creation is. Man and woman desecrated what God had called “good,” and we continue to do so, as we abuse ourselves, each other, and the earth.

The heart of a sacramental worldview is the Incarnation. The Incarnation is the most complete and final revelation of God to mankind.  The very fact of the Incarnation tells us that the material world is not evil. On the contrary, it is the means by which God chooses to share His life with us. He chooses to touch us.

When the Word became flesh, the Immortal, Invisible took on the limits of our human nature, entered time and space, and thus sanctified the material creation He had created at the beginning of time. Jesus Christ came to save the flesh through His flesh.  He saved mankind with His blood: matter.  He came to save us through the wood of the cross: matter.  He healed with mud. He changed water into wine. He multiplied bread. And he instituted sacraments that would bring grace to us through material creation (bread, wine, oil, water, the human voice).

A sacramental worldview perceives the mysteries of God hidden in material creation.

It is at the crux of our Catholic Faith. We can see this clearly in the Eucharist, where  we enter into Trinitarian Communion through the consecration of human gifts of bread and wine, transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ. God not only works through the finite, created matter of this world… He is present in the finite, created matter of this world.

The Church reminds us that we access the fountain of God’s grace through the sacraments and sacramentals instituted by Christ and His Church. “There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God.” (Sacrosanctam concilium 61).

That’s a pretty amazing statement. The material things of our lives should lead us to holiness. It means our lives can be integrated—we aren’t just religious when we are in a church building doing church things. We aren’t just Catholic on Sunday. Everything we do can—and should be—for the praise of God. It’s why Catholics can play bingo and drink beer!

It’s a reminder to us that God uses ordinary things to do extraordinary things. First and foremost, He uses us. He chooses to work through us to advance His plan. He chooses to use us instruments to sanctify others.

A sacramental worldview explains why we believe in the dignity of work and the worker. Work is not just about making money or a living for ourselves but is one way we imitate God as Creator. God has chosen to make us co-creators, and we honor Him when we accomplish our work well, for His praise and glory.

A sacramental worldview sees the present moment as a time of grace. It understands that God desires to work in our world, to answer our prayers, and use the things of our lives for good.

Our understanding of sacramental flows out of this sacramental worldview. Next week, with this in mind, we will look at what a sacramental is and how they can help us integrate our lives.

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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College, and the Diocese of Nashville. She is currently a full-time Catholic speaker and writer. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her nine nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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