|Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries|
The sacramental crisis of the title has two interrelated aspects:
- A “radical drop in the numbers of those who still bother to approach the sacraments.”
- “[T]he apparent lack of sacramental fruitfulness in the lives of many who still partake of the sacraments.”
Obviously, an unreceived sacrament is a fruitless sacrament, but if a sacrament is not fruitful, why bother to receive it in the first place?
The key section of the essay is a discussion on making reception of the sacraments more fruitful, in light of St. Thomas’s teaching on adult baptism. Specifically, Martin recommends recovering a balance in sacramental preparation, reflected in St. Thomas’s writings, that was thrown off after the Protestant revolution:
The reaction to the theology of the Protestant reformers produced in the Catholic Church what could be regarded as an overemphasis on the ex opere operato (by the fact of the action being performed) aspect of the sacraments working, to the neglect of the practical importance of the ex opere operantis (from the action of the doer) aspect. The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms the importance of both aspects:
From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.
While no one would intentionally ignore the disposition of the one in sacramental preparation — I use “no one” in a rhetorical sense here; empirically, people are capable of anything — it’s not only inadequate to argue that the sacrament itself will make up for what is lacking in the recipient, it’s flat-out contrary to what the Church teaches. If “Ex opere operato” is how a given sacramental preparation program addresses the question of subjective disposition, then, objectively, that sacramental preparation program doesn’t address the question of subjective disposition.
Martin quotes St. Thomas’s article on “Whether sinners should be baptized” to explain why subjective disposition needs to be addressed in the sacramental preparation of adults:
Read the rest here: http://disputations.blogspot.com/2013/08/fruitful-sacramental-preparation.html