Posted by: Thomas Richard | December 17, 2009

What then is the Church to do?

Over the past few years, I have had some experience with churches struggling with budget issues. How are we to meet Budget? Yes, somehow the word itself deserves special print – in bold, in italics, somehow it must get special prominence, since so much time and attention is paid to it. “Budget.” Inside I weep, when staff meetings take up this inevitable topic. Anger is not far from the deep sadness in me.

The Church was given a mission, and yet she seems to find a thousand diversions instead. She was given a mission, a destination and a work to do, yet she wanders through other concerns like a tourist on vacation, and not the apostle on his mission that she should be.

Every church I become involved with seems to think it has not enough money. I submit they all have had too much money, and the problem has been the absence of right priorities in using it. Local churches major on the minors, and overlook that which is essential. Much time and money is spent on externals, to the neglect of the necessary interior and spiritual needs of God’s people. The Church has one central mission given her by Christ: make disciples.

What happens when the people are not led to become strong disciples of Jesus? What happens when they are not led to grow in Christ, so as to come to know Him more truly, so as to love Him more fervently, so as to follow Him more faithfully and so as to be Church in the secular world? What happens is, the people become weaker and weaker in Christ, and more and more like the world they are sent to evangelize. The people of God become evangelized by the world, instead of evangelizers for Christ in the world.

And why should worldly people give to an ineffectual church? It does very little for them, so why should they (in the “wisdom” of the world) support it generously?

Suppose, instead, we were talking about churches filled with strong, faithful and zealous Catholic believers whose entire lives were focused on living the Catholic Faith! Do you think the parish would be lacking in means to fund programs that would exist for one reason: to evangelize, to make disciples, to live the mission given by Jesus? I say they would have no problems funding any program that deserved and needed to be funded!

My passion – which I believe I share with the Lord, and which I believe was given me by the Lord – my passion is for adult education and formation in the Catholic Faith.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Mt 28:19-20)

The US Bishops have, on paper, written that adult formation holds a high priority in the work of catechesis in the Church. Here are some portions from their document, “Our Hearts were Burning Within Us,” which focused on the need for solid, on-going and lifelong adult formation in the Faith.

§ 5 §    Adult faith formation, by which people consciously grow in the life of Christ through experience, reflection, prayer, and study, must be “the central task in [this] catechetical enterprise,” becoming “the axis around which revolves the catechesis of childhood and adolescence as well as that of old age.” This can be done specifically through developing in adults a better understanding of and participation in the full sacramental life of the Church.

§ 6 §    To make this vision a reality, we, as the Catholic bishops of the United States, call the Church in our country to a renewed commitment to adult faith formation, positioning it at the heart of our catechetical vision and practice. We pledge to support adult faith formation without weakening our commitment to our other essential educational ministries.

§ 13 §    Such lifelong formation is always needed and must be a priority in the Church’s catechetical ministry; moreover, it must “be considered the chief form of catechesis. All the other forms, which are indeed always necessary, are in some way oriented to it.”

Describing what ought to be the norm for a catechizing parish:

§ 129 §    The pastor establishes parish policies and procedures that give priority to the vision and practice of adult faith formation.
§ 130 §    Other parish staff members promote and support the faith formation of adults, and they encourage parish adults to participate in basic and continuous education in the faith.
§ 131 §    The parish places adult catechesis at the center of its stated mission and goals, and it promotes the importance of adult faith formation at every opportunity.
§ 132 §    The parish gives adult faith formation a priority in the allocation of financial resources, in providing learning space, and in parish scheduling.

How we need parishes to put these fine words into practice! How we need pastors who take seriously the need and the priority of adult faith formation! May the Lord awaken us all to the obligations of the life He has entrusted to us.

I pray that the Lord will rouse and awaken the Church here in America, before paganism (or Islam) totally overruns the last remnants of Christianity here. Christ is the one light that can save us from the darkness that is growing around us.


Responses

  1. “My passion – which I believe I share with the Lord, and which I believe was given me by the Lord – my passion is for adult education and formation in the Catholic Faith”.

    Dear Thomas,

    I too believe that this passion was given to you by our Beloved Jesus. Many of us share the same pain, deep in our hearts. Perhaps our Beloved Lord is telling us to trust, to do our very best today and He will accomplish the rest ‘tomorrow’.

    Let us join our hearts in prayer so the doors of many Churches will be open and will welcome something, that perhaps seems difficult today.

    Lucyna

  2. All I can say to this post is Amen Thomas! Amen!

    Reading these blogs just reminds me of how much you and my husband have in common. Both passionate about what we believe is right and wrong in all aspects of faith and conduct. I hope someday he will stop letting it discourage him from his faith. Today he is doing well in it. But he struggles and it is mostly because of his feelings about where the priorities of the church are or where the priorities of the parishioners are. He has very strong feelings about it. I understand where he is coming from, I am just sad that he sometimes lets it get him down. We who believe in what the church stands for have to be the ones who rise up and say, NO MORE SUNDAY CHRISTIANS…and….FORGET THE BUILDING, BUILD THE CHURCH!

    If we don’t focus more on the education of our parishioners, and on doing all that we can to make sure they know their faith, how can we expect them to
    1. Defend their faith
    2. Know what they believe
    3. Follow their faith and
    4. make disciples of Christ by spreading what they know and are passionate about?

    Sunday Catholics scare me. I have to say, it may sound harsh, but I also think something should be done about priests who tell people certain things are okay when they are against church teaching. We should not be changing the rules for the people, the people should be changing themselves to follow the rules, they are there for a reason. How can we say we love and respect our God but…I don’t really think that rule is for me. Do we let our children tell us “you know mom, I know you said to be home by 9pm but…..that doesn’t really work for me” NO!!! It shouldn’t be done to God either!

  3. Hello Brittany,

    Thank you for your post. I know that there are troubling realities among the People of God – such as you wrote: parishioners and leaders who seem to be too concerned with the “externals” of the Church, and negligent of the “internals”, the interior state of soul of the members. And there are some leaders who are misleading of really important matters – matters of morality, and of doctrine. All this is grievous, deeply troubling, and can present a serious and dangerous temptation for the sensitive and zealous Christian.

    All of us are being tested in these times. Priests and bishops are being tested. Laity are being tested. Tests are good, when they uncover things in us that we would rather keep covered even from ourselves. We need to grow in true self-knowledge; we need to come to know ourselves as God knows us!

    We all need this, in order to repent and come to believe, ever more completely, the whole Gospel. We are all called to holiness – real, authentic, soul-soaked through-and-through holiness.

    So we need to pray and trust, trust and pray, and when and if God presents us with an opportunity that we can answer, we speak the truth in love. Only we must let Him lead, always. His timing is perfect; ours is not, and may well be premature and counterproductive! The Cross is not easy.

    Thomas

  4. Dear Thomas,

    Your final words challenge us:

    …” May the Lord awaken us all to the obligations of the life He has entrusted to us.

    … Christ is the one light that can save us from the darkness that is growing around us.”

    The challenges I hear:

    1. Am I awake or at least willing to be awakened? If I am, then what am I doing or going to do in the waking hours left to me?

    2. How can I come into deeper communion with Christ, and help others to come into communion with Him, that our light may shine with His into the growing darkness?

    Our answers are always in Christ, the beginning and the end of our salvation. He is our Way, our Truth, and our Life but He cannot remain mere words to us, or good intentions and resolutions left undone. We must begin to live in Him.

    We must, all of us, lay and clergy and religious, begin to pray earnestly, as Jesus taught us: “Our Father…” We must listen to each word and truly give ourselves to His Holy Spirit as Mary did.

    Then simply, as Mary and Joseph, and all the saints have done, we must DO the TRUTH Lovingly. Like the little boy in the Gospel who brought his loaves and fish that Jesus might feed the crowd, so we must give ourselves to knowing and loving and serving Him in this world that He might give us, joined to Himself, as One Glorious Light in the present darkness.

    Brothers and sisters, let us at last BEGIN.


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