Back to basics: remembering and appreciating the little things in the Catholic faith


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I was a Totus Tuus teacher this summer in the Grand Island Diocese of Nebraska. One of my favorite moments was at Christ the King Church in Cozad, Nebraska.

I was leading Mass prep, which is when the team brings all the kids into the church and we discuss the Mass. I was talking about why we as Catholics dip our fingers in holy water and make the sign of the cross and explained how it was done in remembrance of our baptism, which is a sacrament. I asked the kids if they could name any other sacraments.

It was a speech I had delivered multiple times over the summer. Talking in front of the kids was second nature at this point. I knew what answers to expect.

A few of the kids connected that receiving communion and reconciliation were sacraments because we had already participated in them that week. I challenged them to find a few more hinting that one of the sacraments is one in which their parents have participated (marriage), and another is one in which their parish priest has participated (holy orders).

In the last pew, a confident little hand shot up into the air. Little Regan knew the answer; she had it down. I called on her, and in an eager voice, she exclaimed, “Retirement!”

Of course all the adults in the room lost a lung to laughter that day. That particular parish had just welcomed a new priest after its old one decided to retire. Needless to say, I think I’m going to write Pope Francis to acknowledge the eighth sacrament of retirement. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is very present when someone retires.

This summer was a reminder for me to go back to the basics of the church. Franciscan University is wonderful because we ponder all of this high moral theology that most lifelong Catholics struggle to wrap their heads around, but why aren’t we pondering the little things in the church that have become second nature?

On which knee are we supposed to genuflect and why do we lower ourselves on that knee in particular? What is the significance of every article of the vestments the priest wears during Mass?

These things become second nature. We push it to the back of our minds; however, I don’t want any aspect of tradition or the faith to become something I see but in which I find no meaning. Everything within the church is done for a reason and we need to be educated on that.

From personal experience, it’s refreshing to know the little things about the church that we take for granted. It gives a new perspective to the sacraments. The resources are out there on blogs and websites, but we just don’t think to look.