by Kathryn Lieder
On Monday, October 19, John F. Baldovin, S.J. and David F. Turnbloom presented their new book Catholic Sacraments: A Rich Sources of Blessings, which they co-edited.
John Baldwin, head editor of the book and professor of historical and liturgical philosophy at the School of Theology and Ministry, wrote a book published in 2008 titled Reforming the Liturgy: A Response to the Critics in which he turns to the evolution of the meaning and purpose behind liturgical reform over the last fifty years in assessing the arguments of its critics.
Assistant editor David Turnbloom is an assistant professor of Theology at the University of Portland who received his doctorate at Boston College in Liturgical Theology and Theological Ethics and wrote his dissertation on celebrating the Eucharist as a subject of charity.
The book is a compilation of the works of some of the most celebrated and noteworthy liturgists and sacramental theologians which engages aspects of the church’s liturgy in conversation with contemporary writing in the hope of helping readers reach a deeper understanding of the sacraments. The text is broken up into sections with one for each sacrament, and includes quotes from the Catechism, quotes from the Catholic liturgy itself, as well as essays written by theologians reflecting on particular sacraments and their relevance to a particular theme or issue central to the Church.
Baldovin, S.J. points out the current contention over the right of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics as emblematic of how deeply embedded the sacraments are in the lives and opinions of ordinary Catholics.
In his introductory piece, Baldovin refers to the Eucharist as “a many-faceted jewel.” He expresses that just as when you look at a jewel “from a different angle and different light [you] see something different, something richer… that’s true of the sacraments of the Church.”
The book delves into the exploration of the gifts of the sacraments, reaching beyond simply examining their validity, to explore “what they mean to us and how they engage our lives” as Baldovin points out.
Looking beyond the abstractions associated with The Kingdom of God, it comes down to mean, “‘How does God want the world to look?’ and the liturgy and sacraments are meant to mirror that as heaven on earth.”
“What we celebrate in the liturgy is in a ritual way what our lives are about… The liturgy is supposed to require us to live what we celebrate,” he continues.
The unity with Christ that is embodied in our celebration of the Eucharist “should be characteristic of the way we live the rest of our lives,” Baldovin emphasizes.
Turnbloom looks at the text itself as “Practice in Conversation.” He hopes that the book will ignite meaningful conversation on the sacraments and their central role in the lives of practicing Catholics. The original meaning of “converse,” as he points out, is to “live together or to share a life.” The idea of “sharing a life” is fundamental to the Christian faith and the sacraments are, essentially, “the life of the church being shared.”
Baldovin cites the Latin law “lex orandi, lex credendi,” meaning “the rule of prayer, the rule of belief,” which led into a discussion of the intimate relationship between what we do and how we believe.
The sacraments are centered around the incarnational principle, meaning that “the incarnation, God becoming one of us, is God’s irrevocable commitment to us…to never abandon us,” Baldovin shared.
“So often…people try to escape, they think real religion, real spirituality is an escape from this world, the sacraments are always a counter to that…. through the bread and wine, through human touch, through the sacrament of marriage… we experience God and God communicates Himself to us,” Baldovin explains.
Turnbloom draws attention to the importance of looking at the sacraments as locations of revelation. Through Aquinas’ eyes, the sacraments are places of grace, and as Turnbloom expressed, “[they are] God’s gift to us so that in conversation with God we might share in the divine life.”