LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
A woman is given a Bible as a Christmas gift. Minutes after opening the extravagant wrappings of red ribbon and elegant paper, a man who was looking on asked: "May I see your Bible? I would like to read the psalms."
What should the woman have done? Should she have said: "I'm sorry. No. I won't share The Word with you; even though I recognize your need. I can't. The book is valuable and somewhat fragile and must be preserved. I will take it home and put it in a place of honor...perhaps my coffee table." Or this: "By all means! Let's turn to the psalms right now. Take the Bible and read it. Keep it as long as you need to. I am happy to share The Word with you...."
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One of the most difficult challenges we Catholics are faced with is bringing about conversion in a world where many People don't believe that God exists at all. It is probably more difficult to evangelize in this day and age than when Jesus' original 12 disciples were sent out to spread the Good News of The Gospel. The fact is that in the beginning of the Christ phenomenon, the majority of people did believed in a god - in one form or another. And, it was their willingness to believe, and the gift of Faith, that motivated their quest for the Truth.
That being said, I believe one of the most demanding parts of our mission, when answering The Call to the New Evangelization, is to convert those people who already think that they are Catholic to (real or true) Catholicism. They are the people who vaguely remember their childhood catechism, who trip over the words of familiar prayers, and who bury a statue of Saint Joseph upside down in their backyard, or carry a Knight's of Columbus card in their wallets as though it were a "get out of jail free" card. They are the ones who say: I got my own thing going on with God.
How can we reach these folks? How do we encourage people - who think they are already Catholic - to redefine their experience so that Christianity (or being a true Christian?) informs their lives and guides their hearts? How do we convince the ones who do not see the need for, because they feel that they have already "jumped through the hoops" required of them by, the Catholic Church (being Baptized, attending Sunday Mass, and receiving an occasional sacrament ) that there is more to being a Catholic Christian than arbitrarily fulfilling the basic requirements of the Church? How do we help people find delight and amazement inside the framework of their Lives of Faith?
Christianity must return to that place in people's lives where it governs the way they see the world and it governs the way they live their lives and respond to one another. The problem is: No one enjoys being governed! So now what? In a culture where people have become their own god, how might we encourage them to eliminate that false idol so that one day they might turn and say: " My Lord and my God", and not be looking in the mirror?
Christianity is: The love of God and the love of neighbor.
What Christianity isn't...is the love of self.
Recently, I learned about "Pray 60", a campaign to encourage schools, leagues, and coaches to not schedule games or practices for kids until after 1pm on Sundays. (This is a play on the National Football Leagues "Play 60" exercise campaign for children.) I love the sentiment behind the efforts of this Grass Roots movement! I love how "Pray 60" wants to change the world one kid at a time by pushing back at the attempt to push God aside. I love how there are Believers out there willing to do all they can to stop the erosion of Faith. I love the energy and commitment Coach Thomas Cronin (of St. Joseph's Parish, Greenfield Center, NY) has shown in establishing this ministry. And I am offering this personal testimony on behalf of Cronin's declaration: "We love sports, but we love God more!"
When I was a young parent, if asked: What do I want most in the world? My answer was always: That my child be healthy and HAPPY!
That is not an unusual response for a mother to have. Most parents, if they truly embrace their role, model a happy life worth living. After all, we are our children's first teachers. Right? But this inexperienced mom of the 90's, despite the "How To" self help books, knows now that hell is paved with good intentions and that I had somehow missed the forest for the trees.
I was a huge proponent of the arts, education and of course sports! (I myself played basketball in school and later coached a Travel Basketball team.) Those activities were, I believed, a prescription for healthy childhood development. My 26 year old daughter has been the benefactor of Maria Montessori (Montessori School) and Rudolph Steiner's
Waldorf School) ideology on learning. She attended one of the best private high schools in the northeast...and she can say she keeps company with our nation's first Catholic president; his name appearing in her high school's alumni catalog. She was a Scout, played basketball, soccer, was captain of her lacrosse team and had a chestnut gelding that she rode regularly. I had embraced the 90's cultural sense of what good parenting involved: Keep the kid as active as possible to build a solid college application and in the mean time... keep her too busy to get in trouble.
So are you wondering where God was in all that?
Actually, we were so busy there wasn't time for God.
Yes, He was mentioned occasionally as an expletive. He made a cameo appearance at supper time; He came to comfort us at our bedside when saying a brief: Now I lay me down to sleep.... And we visited Him a couple of Sundays a month. 'Not a perfect Mass attendance, but at least we did what we could. I was satisfied with just satisfying the bare requirements of our Catholic faith.
What I didn't realize was that our obligatory, spotty Sunday visits to church and CCD classes were too little exposure to the source of happiness I had hoped for my daughter. I didn't really show her how to have a relationship with God because I didn't understand how to have one with Him myself. And I was too busy and she was too busy. So it seems that I failed to live up to my responsibility as a Catholic parent and to the promise I made at her Baptism. I didn't get it. I didn't know that her Baptismal promise ought to have been taken as seriously as wedding vows.
The Good News is that this doesn't have to become a common story. Every Sunday, in one form or another, the invitation to become a part of the parish body...Christ's body is extended. So trust the invitation, make time for God... set aside what you think you know is good for you and invite Jesus into the heart of your family. Learn how to pray. Pray without ceasing and don't permit outside sources to distract you from the time you and your family can spend learning about and giving thanks to God.
A hundred years from now... no one will care how your child's team made the playoffs. A hundred years from now your grandchildren will enjoy the benefits of the Legacy of Faith you worked hard to preserve. And both God and you will be pleased as you gaze down on them from Heaven.