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Father Chamberland examines the sacramental life at Church on Fire lecture

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In the latest installment of the Church on Fire lecture series presented by Blessed Sacrament Church in Buffalo, Father Ross Chamberland, OFM, Ed.D., spoke on the topic of living sacramentally and our imagination as he presented, “St. Francis of Assisi – Then and Today: ‘Rebuild My Church.’”

Father Ross Chamberland. OFM, vice president of Student Affairs at St. Bonaventure University, speaks on St. Francis of Assisi and living sacramentally today. (Photo by Joe Martone)

“Sacraments are the most holy entity in the Catholic faith,” Father Chamberland explained, “and St. Francis was asked by God to rebuild my church and he originally understood it to be his physical church, but then realized it was the universal church that the Lord was asking him to rebuild.

Francesco di Bernardone, later known to the world as St. Francis, founded the Franciscan order in 1209. The order, committed to living very simply, was in sharp contrast to the Catholic Church at the time that suffered from excess wealth and power. 

“One person makes the difference,” Father Chamberland said. “And sacraments are a way of pursuing reality.”

He continued, in the lecture series sponsored by Catherine M. and Paul W. Beltz, that we need to see the world with sacramental eyes to see what is invisible in the visible. 

We experience God as bread and wine, explained the associate vice president for student affairs at St. Bonaventure University, and as we see the world with sacramental eyes, it touches our hearts and then inspires our imagination 

The friar spoke of the story of “The Little Prince” – who meets with the fox and the fox teaches him to see with one’s heart instead of just one’s eyes. The prince is changed by sacramental imagination, he explained. 

“We see the world with sacramental eyes when we experience love,” Father Chamberland explained. “What happens when someone you love … dies? That relationship doesn’t end.”

He explained that when his close friend Roger passed away, his family gave Father Chamberland Roger’s treasured coat. Every time he sees that coat, he is reminded of his close friend.  

“Beyond our brokenness and pain there is something more,” he continued. “We are told we are not alone.”

“God comes to us in mediation, and every experience with God is mediated.” 

He explained that in celebrating the seven sacraments we become transported. As disciples of Christ, we need to see that the sacraments are more than ritual performance, and our lives are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“We need to see divinity and humility, and give God the access codes to our hearts,” he explained, “and lay bare our hearts – dependent on God’s mercy.”

Father Chamberland said that in life we all need a lifesaver, and that lifesaver is penance.

“We need to do it, and the church needs to do it,” he continued. 

In penance, he explained, we are celebrating God’s love and forgiveness as well as ours. To be vulnerable and to speak “our stuff” is very healing 

To be saintly and holy is to be set apart, Father Chamberland said. “And what sets them apart is their simple acceptance of God.”

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