Have have several friends who have long been Catholic but are slowly drifting away. First they stop going to confession, then they stop going to Mass every Sunday, and eventually they attend less and less often. But it does not stop there. Eventually, some of them have made contact with Protestant sects such as the Mormons or Jehovahs Witnesses and are even thinking of joining. When asked why they are going it, the answer that tends to come back is, "What does it matter so long as you love the Lord?".
This raises important issues, the key one of which was addressed at a meeting I went to this evening. The Catholic church is the channel of God's grace, through its sacraments, which are the work of the Lord Himself. So if one really loves the Lord one will, first of all, make it one's business to receive the sacraments of Confession and Communion regularly.
A fundamental point about the sacraments is that they are ex opere operato. The grace of a sacrament
is always conferred by the sacrament itself. Ex opere operato literally
means “from the work performed.” Provided that the Catholic receiving the sacrament freely chooses to receive
its graces, the grace conferred by the sacrament will be efficacious (effective). It is not that the sacrament is a mere sign that the grace has already been
given, or that the virtue of the priest or recipient determines the grace. Rather,
Christ works through the sacrament itself.
It follows from this that even if the priests and clergy are wicked men and the liturgy is performed carelessly, the sacraments remain effective.
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