"What must we do?"

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I usually limit myself to the Spirituality Forum and threads having to do with Mary, but reading the Commentary for today’s Gospel readings I am compelled to share this:

Easter Saturday
Commentary of the day
Blessed John-Paul II, Pope from 1978 to 2005
Apostolic Letter for the new millennium « Novo millennio ineunte », §29 (trans. © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

« The Lord Jesus… was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them» (Mk 16,19-20)

“I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28,20). This assurance, dear brothers and sisters, has accompanied the Church for two thousand years… From it we must gain new impetus in Christian living, making it the force which inspires our journey of faith. Conscious of the Risen Lord’s presence among us, we ask ourselves today the same question put to Peter in Jerusalem immediately after his Pentecost speech: “What must we do?” (Acts 2,37).

We put the question with trusting optimism, but without underestimating the problems we face. We are certainly not seduced by the naive expectation that, faced with the great challenges of our time, we shall find some magic formula. No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person, and the assurance which he gives us: “I am with you!”

It is not therefore a matter of inventing a new program. The program already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition; it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its center in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfillment in the heavenly Jerusalem… It must be translated into pastoral initiatives adapted to the circumstances of each community… It is in the local churches that the specific features of a detailed pastoral plan can be identified… which will enable the proclamation of Christ to reach people, mold communities, and have a deep and incisive influence in bringing Gospel values to bear in society and culture… What awaits us therefore is an exciting work of pastoral revitalization — a work involving all of us.

As some of you know my husband and I continue seeking to serve as lay persons, “consecrated by our Baptism” in the Catholic Church. We have a website HERE and two Blogs: one for believers HERE and one for non-believers inspired by Pope Emeritus’ initiative “Court of the Gentiles” which can be read HERE

Our focus has been for some years now on “Adult Formation” which is so sorely lacking especially on the parish level. As I recently shared with another parishioner, “so many of our parish activities are tuned inward to serve ourselves” and the going forward out to others in bringing the Gospel is all but ignored. What is is going to take to rouse the “drowsy disciples” as Pope Emeritus wrote about in Vol. 2 of Jesus of Nazareth? What will it take to awake the Catholic Church in the world and for us in the USA? Prayer of course but prayer and faith which moves us to seek those who do not know Christ and to share with them the Good News. Please, let us all begin again to ask ourselves, “What must we do?” in our own hearts and in our own parishes.

This is a good question.

I think personal outreach can be effective. There was an article in our local paper a week or two ago (startribune.com) about a Catholic parish which was reaching out to the surrounding Latino neighborhoods. One of the priests spoke fluent Spanish and he and a Latino parishioner visited people in their homes, prayed for them, and invited them to church. Their Masses, many conducted in Spanish, were often standing room only.

There are also initiatives like Catholics Come Home to get inactive Catholics to come back to the church. I have seen ads for them and a book by them.

I saw an ad in the local newspaper by one of the Minneapolis Catholic churches (as part of the Easter services) for a program to help Catholics come back.

I have gone to church with people when they have invited me, and I have also invited others to come to church.

Maria,

I took a look at your websites. I love your idea of halfway houses - places we can take those inquiring about the faith other than Mass. Did you ever developed the idea farther or if you gave it a try as a practical matter?

Thanks,
Billy

Dear Billy,

Thanks for visiting our websites. We did explore some possibilities, especially the idea of a Christian Art Gallery. Our thought was that people may be attracted by the beauty of Christian art as manifested in photography for instance. You may have seen some of my husband’s photography on our blog ; HERE or HERE. This second photo is really beautiful in black and white, and is one of my favorites. We have it framed and hanging in our dining area.

We looked at some property near us, but in places where we would have good parking and easy “walk -in access”, the prices were very high for rent or lease. We thought about asking help as to donors and people to help man the gallery. We even looked at some property that had living possibilities upstairs, so that we would be able to sell our house and move in, according us 24/7 care and protection of the property. We could not sustain two homes – financially or physically.

We did not find many people interested in the concept so we put it on a back burner. We haven’t given up, but for now we are concentrating on our two Sunday Bible Studies, and our “Returning Catholics’ series” offered at our parish, I saw an ad that I want to suggest to our Pastor and our "Returning Catholics’ team of 4 lay parishioners and two deacons: see HERE. I wonder why it did not occur to any of us before to see this link between Divine Mercy and “Returning Catholics”.

Well, let me close for now. Do you have any ideas for a “half-way” house? I am a member of the Legion of Mary and the founder Servant of God Frank Duff did something in Ireland by way of establishing hostels. The Legion of Mary is an excellent Lay Organization for Evangelization though I think it needs renewal as do so many facets of our Church – deep, and true spiritual re-evangelization is needed within the Church as well as continuing to go out seeking those who are in such need of Christ. Thanks again for your interest. Hope to hear from you again - either on this thread or on any of the blog entries. :slight_smile:

You can also check out Alpha. It started as a program for Protestant churches to reach out to non-Christian seekers, but they now have a program called Alpha for Catholics. I attended an Alpha program at a Lutheran church and it was very good. It featured food, a speaker, time for questions, small groups, books, multi-media, and a retreat.

Alpha’s website is alpha.org

Dear Lisa,

Thanks again for this, your second reply! I had replied to your first one but I “previewed” and then must have forgotten to “submit” my reply. So sorry about that. I discovered it was missing when I replied to Billy, but didn’t have time to re-do it, then, so here I am responding to both of your posts today. :slight_smile:

In your first reply, you mentioned “personal contacts” and I agree that can be very effective. As a member of the Legion of Mary, I am grateful for the charism of the Servant of God Frank Duff who founded the Legion in Ireland in 1921. It is the Catholic Church’s largest lay organization now with an estimated 10 million members, including “auxiliary members” who pray a Rosary and a small leaflet of Legion prayers daily, and the “active members” who meet weekly to pray together and to share reports on their various works of evangelization. For more info on the Legion see HERE

Our parish Legion of Mary is few in active members but has ten times more auxiliaries, which is true of the Legion worldwide. Many are unable to commit to weekly meetings and the weekly work requirement, but I continue to believe it is one of the best ways lay people can live their baptismal consecration. You may be familiar with St. Louis de Montfort’s Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary, as explained in his small book “True Devotion”. St. Louis calls this Act of Consecration the perfect renewal of our baptismal promises. Frank Duff read True Devotion several times at the urging of a priest -friend before he came to realize just how “True” it is! He and a group of parishioners met with their pastor to determine how they might live that Consecration they had prayed, and the result was the “birth” of the Legion of Mary. St. Louis wrote in the 1700’s. Bl. John Paul II read this book and testified it was a turning point in his young life. We all know how JPII’s devotion to Jesus and Mary grew!

The encyclical by Bl. John Paul II from which I took the quote for this thread. “On the Beginning of the New Millenium” is such a powerful one. As he wrote, we do not need a new “program” we need the Person of Jesus, alive in us, and in our parishes. We need as he said:

…pastoral revitalization — a work involving all of us.

One of the deacons in our parish has looked into the Alpha program. He told my husband that he wanted to speak to the Pastor about it. I’m not sure if he has as yet. We haven’t heard anything more about it from him or the pastor. We did attend a ChritLife conference which is similar to Alpha, and it did have some good components but I think Bl. John Paul II is urging all of us to ask ourselves, “What must we do?” in order to go more deeply into our personal relationship with Christ. He is the One we need to know, love and serve in order to bring His Good News to others. Without Him we can do nothing (John 15). Thanks again Lisa for your replies.

Maria,

I see you have given some very serious and thoughtful consideration to the idea of halfway houses. It’s very impressive. I’m afraid I haven’t gone so far but a couple of things have struck me.

There was an article I saw some time ago about evangelization efforts in Europe. My foggy recollection is that these were specifically Protestant groups but I hope you’ll agree that doesn’t matter. Europe, as you probably know, has become essentially post Christian. So, there are smaller Christian groups there that don’t have any kind of place to meet. So, they’ve taken to meeting in coffee houses. I love this because of the way they are “bootstrapping” themselves. Part of the story of Amazon.com was that in its very early days Jeff Bezos would actually hold interviews in Barnes & Noble coffeeshops and of course he has no need to do that these days.

All of that is to say that it would be great to have some kind of facility - an actual halfway house - but I don’t think that would necessarily get in the way of the charism of providing that halfway house function.

I’ve also heard a story about people showing up at a Trappist monastery to ask for directions to the Buddhist center! I feel like that sometimes too. We have these great treasures, free and available for the asking, and people contort themselves searching for the truth and an authentic spirituality, when it probably can be found a very short distance from where they currently live. Still, you need to be able to find those people or have them find you. If you had an actual halfway house, I could see that part of your business plan would be advertising and promotion. I wonder what else could be done for an approach that is light on real estate (like a coffee house approach) or one that uses the meeting spaces with which our parishes are so often blessed.

Thanks again for your thoughtful reply and for the chance to think out loud.

Billy

Dear Billy,

Thanks for your reply and your “thinking out loud” :slight_smile:

Our thoughts on a Christian Art Gallery included some comfortable chairs, tables and a “coffee house” atmosphere as well. Art can be a starting point or a half-way point for someone who is looking for something (ultimately Someone) to satisfy a “hungry heart”.

As I said, we have simply put our search for such a place on a back-burner for now as we continue to concentrate on some “hungry hearts” in the pews of our own parish. Our Bible Studies on Sunday have about 15 in the morning and 15 in the afternoon sessions. People are grateful to be nourished by God’s Word and are growing in their relationship with God through His Word. Perhaps this is God’s way: He teaches us and then we become His “half-way house” for others. Each one in our Bible Study becomes a personal dwelling of God in which others can find Him. Every family it seems has members separated from the Church, some have gone into Deism or atheism or any number of “detours”. So many of us have “prodigals” in our families, and among friends and neighbors, who have squandered our Father’s inheritance, and need to come home. Each of us can be a “halfway house” for someone, perhaps. Just another idea as we seek to be open to God’s Grace and His urging to go and make disciples…(Mt 28)

Maria— Love your blog!

Two critical things I believe we must do to spread the light through our parishes into our communities:

  1. establish perpetual adoration so the miraculous presence of Christ can work 24/7

  2. encourage priests/deacons to use homilies to literally preach the Gospel by digging into the Scripture readings more directly and relevantly (“traditional” monotone “indirect” homilies don’t work!)-- in other words, focus on the Liturgy of the Word as a powerful means for parishoners to be transformed

Romans 10:17-- “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

John 20:31-- “But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name.”

Romans 1:16-- “…for [the gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”

Not sure if you’ve read Sherry Wedell’s Forming Intentional Disciples, but her workshops sound great, too…

Peace in Him!

+++
Lord, please help our priests to see the power in preaching His word and adoring His presence!

Thanks for your reply and for visiting our blog. My husband does most of the writing, for the blog; I’m occasionally a co-author, but most often simply write comments. :slight_smile:

Concerning your two points:

  1. Our parish has perpetual adoration 24/7 but…while I believe in God’s power to transform us by His Eucharistic Presence, He still requires each of us to do our part. It can be a great “comfort” to sit in His Presence and read spiritual books, but if we never learn from Him truly, to be meek and humble of heart and obey His Command to “Go and make disciples” (Mt 28) – then what?

  2. I agree with you heartily on the Power of God’s Word to transform us. Here again, however, it requires our cooperation with His Grace. It is very difficult, as a lay person, to speak to ordained clergy (both deacons and priests) about the quality of their homilies, unless one is offering them a compliment. Have you ever tried ?

My husband and I have a Bible Study each Sunday morning between the two Sunday Masses to listen to, and discuss, the Mass Readings. That has been a blessing for us and for others.

Thanks again, for your reply.

Hello may_they_be_one,

I appreciate your thoughts on the problem and solution. If I may try to extrapolate beyond your actual words a bit:

  1. We need to develop, deepen and strengthen the interior life of Catholics - we have a precious few “Marys”, many many “Marthas”, and far too many who are so lukewarm as to be neither Mary nor Martha. It goes without saying that we all need the grace of God to advance one millimeter towards HIm! Yet in the Holy Mass we have a torrent of grace outpoured - which too many among us are unable to receive as we ought, with eager and open and willing hearts, so as to bear fruit.

The main problem as I see it is a lack of proper formation among Catholic adults, who don’t know how to grow in prayer and don’t know that there is such a thing as growing in prayer and don’t know that they ought to be concerned about that. Which brings us the second point:

  1. Yes, our homilies are lacking - but more than that all formation for Catholic adults is lacking (or, typically, completely absent). I continue to hear among the priorities recognized, these usual ones: we need to be more friendly, we need better youth programs, we need more Spanish programs, we need an attractive Mission speaker, we need more money for the budget. Somehow, “the one thing necessary” never makes it to the table, because there is the great presumption that “we” all already have THAT! Of course! God help us.
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