Recently someone commented to me that people in our Diocese were confused as to what they should be focussing on in the parish. There are so many themes being thrown at them: On Good Soil, the New Evangelization, the Year of Faith, the Fiftieth Anniversary of Vatican II, and the Universal Call to Holiness, all with an emphasis on family catechesis, are only a few.
In typing just the names of these themes, I myself am overwhelmed by the magnitude of these topics and can only imagine how others, who don’t have adult faith education as a vocation, must feel when they read this list.
All of these themes are related to each other; the common element in each of them is the Christian faith and our response to it.
In proclaiming the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict invites Catholics to use this time as an opportunity to turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with Him. The ‘door of faith’ is opened at one’s baptism, but during this year, Catholics are called to open it again, walk through it to rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and his Church.
Realizing that many Catholics have not continued to mature in their faith since receiving Confirmation and First Eucharist and therefore no longer make a deliberate attempt to relate their Catholic Christianity to the way they lead their lives, the Church has called for a New Evangelization of its members—including those who attend Mass every Sunday. As with the Year of Faith, the New Evangelization is an invitation for Catholics to ‘turn back to Jesus and enter into a deeper relationship with him.’
On Good Soil is a response by the Canadian bishops to the call for a new evangelization of Canadian Catholics. The way the good news of Christ is proclaimed and the means by which people enter into a deeper relationship with Him depends on the local context. In other words, for it to have any meaning, the Gospel must be shared in ways that meet people ‘where they are at.’ These ways will be many and varied, differing according to personal situations and circumstances. One size does not fit all when it comes to sharing the faith. On Good Soil seeks to assist people in understanding the contexts in which they live in order to find practical ways to share the faith effectively in their families, parishes, and communities.
In this regard, the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II is timely. This Council saw that the Church was making little attempt to reach out to the world ‘where it was at.’ In its documents, the Council fathers make every attempt to meet the world on its own turf, without compromising the Catholic faith, in order to proclaim God’s love to all in ways that it could be heard and received. The New Evangelization and On Good Soil are simply ways of carrying on the mission outlined by the Pope and bishops in council at Vatican II on the diocesan, parish and personal levels.
The Universal Call to Holiness is simply a reminder that every Christian, by virtue of baptism, has the responsibility and obligation to grow in faith during the entire course of their life and to strive to mirror that faith if what they say and do. This is another form of the invitation given by Pope Benedict in proclaiming the Year of Faith.
All that having been said, how does one even begin to deal with all of these themes?
A few suggestions:
- Take a few moments to think about who passed on the faith to you. Who told you about God’s love for you? Who taught you about what it means to live as someone who is loved by God and who loves Him in return? Your parents? Grandparents? Pastor? Teacher? Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the wonderful gift you have been given in those people.
- Use the opportunities you have to grow in faith. Be faithful in making use of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. In listening to a homily, ask how the point the preacher is making relates to how you live each day. The same question may be asked when reading a passage of Scripture or meditating one of the Mysteries of the Rosary.
- Develop a discipline of setting aside time (even a short one!) each week, if not daily, for prayer, Scripture study and other spiritual reading, again trying to discover how to use what you have learned in your daily life.
- If you don’t understand some aspect of the faith, or find it confusing or troubling, take the time to find answers. Ask your priest, your adult faith leaders or another wise person you know, find a book, or contact someone in the Diocesan Resource Centre or the Adult Faith Education Office. Jesus teaches us that whoever seeks will find. If we want answers, we have to look for them—and keep asking until you find them.
- Be sensitive to the pastoral needs of those around you. Who do you know that could use ‘good news’ in their life? Care enough about them to find a way to reach out to them, where they are, to show them that you do care about them, praying that they may also see behind what you do that God loves them, too.
Although these suggestions have been made with individual people in mind, they can also be applied to parish groups and to the parish as a whole. So, for example:
- Who has passed on the faith to us as members of the CWL, Knights of Columbus, Parish Pastoral Council (and even the Finance Council!), &c.?
- How do we as a CWL a Knights of Columbus Council, &c. make use of opportunities to grow in faith? Ask questions?
- How are we as a group sensitive to the needs of those around us, not only in our parish but in the wider community? How do we as a group reach out to others?
Is there still too much on our plates? Maybe so, but remember how one eats an elephant—one bite at a time. Take one suggestion at a time, and place your emphasis on it. Christendom did not develop overnight, but it did start with less than a dozen people on fire with what they had experienced of God’s love, which they were sent to share with all people. They changed the world, and so can we.
Questions or comments may be directed to:
Rev. Matthew Nguyen, Office of Adult Faith Education
firstname.lastname@example.org or 306-763-2319