One of my deepest held beliefs stems from my Catholic faith: the sacramentality of all creation: the foundational belief that all creation is imbued with God’s presence (“The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” God’s Grandeur, Gerard Manley Hopkins), and as such, can be viewed and experienced as a sign / symbol of God’s goodness and grace. I like the way this belief blurs the line between sacred and profane: everything becomes a potential vehicle for an encounter with the Divine, whether that “everything” is time, space, stories, rituals, beings, or objects.
Specifically from a Catholic point of view, it helps ground our sacraments in the sense that sacraments turn ritual, objects, time and space into encounters that both point to God’s presence and help manifest God’s presence. Those sacraments, in turn, are only sacramental as the Church both points to and manifests the presence of Jesus, who in turn both points to and manifests the presence of the Godhead. This vision of reality points to a way of treating self and others (important in and of themselves and as signs/symbols of Jesus), of treating creation (which Pope Francis stresses quite a bit), and of engaging with the Divine through both traditional Catholic avenues, but also through the practices and rituals of other religious traditions, for if all of creation is a sacrament of the Divine, than these other paths to the Divine are also worthy of respect, study, and practice.
Another deeply held religious belief that pairs nicely with a sacramental worldview (and which also stems from my Catholic faith) is that of mystery. Far from being a question to be answered or a case to be solved (a la Scooby Doo or Supernatural), a mystery in this sense is something that calls us back to continual reflection; something that will always teach me something new, or further my understanding of something already known, based on the circumstances of my life: my age, ministry, current situation, new knowledge I’ve gained, etc. The Trinity, Jesus, the Gospel, the Communion of Saints, transubstantiation – in my own tradition, these are some of the foundational mysteries that continue to help me grow in wisdom and grace.
Outside of specific religious traditions and teachings, other parts of life are mystery as well: my relationship with my spouse (almost 26 years married now); my relationship with my adult son (24, working on his master’s, not living at home); my continual spiritual and religious search for meaning – all of these are mystery – all of these will never be fully answered or understood while I’m limited by time and space – only when we no longer see as through a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12) (it’s the King James translation – don’t tell my priest or principal!) and all things are revealed will mystery fade to be replaced by supernatural certainty.
I like that one of my favorite ways of prayer, lectio divina (sacred reading; a way of sitting with small portions of Scripture that dates back to the Desert Fathers & Mothers), incorporates both beliefs. I attended a day and a half retreat (around 12-15 years ago) that was more on the contemplative side – that was my first real practice of lectio, as opposed to just reading about it as an academic matter. The retreat master had us do lectio with a few Scripture passages, but then had us do the same with music, with art, and then sent us home to “lectio the rest of the evening.” It was a transformational moment for me that helped cement both sacramentality and mystery as important, and as grounds upon which to base my own Catholicity, and it continues to ground and inspire me as I continue to work on being able to hear that still, small voice of God in my family, my students, my community, and in the digital and analog world around me.
Blessings & Peace,