Twenty-five years ago, a Catholic parish in Arizona had a conundrum serving its mostly immigrant farm-working community. As the immigrants travel the circuit, their children are not in place long enough to be properly educated, including religious education. Two nuns asked a local farmer for permission to use his barn to give religion class to the children while their parents worked, to which he agreed. It eventually morphed to nuns coming back in the evenings to catechize the adults as well. This is the way of proper Catholic action, people helping one another. We have lost sight of this as our vision is distracted by a polarized mentality fueled by the media. It is a heritage and a freedom we risk losing altogether.
It is important that we take part in public discourse promoting the intrinsic value of life at all stages and ages from conception to natural death. However, that discourse needs to be the outcome of a lived faith. A lived faith is one that changes us, the believers.
In December we awaited the Christ Child. On Gaudete Sunday we shouted rejoice! On Christmas day He arrived, and we celebrated for an octave. Christmas is now behind us and we are well into the new year. Jesus continues to give us the gift of His Spirit in every breath; the love between Him and His Father animating our very being. He continues to give His Sacred humanity to us in the Sacraments. The best New Year’s resolutions will be those that serve to focus us on this very reality every day. Review and revise those resolutions so they can bring you more deeply into relationship with Him, and through that bring His love into your relationships with others. Then, take concrete steps to extend that love to others.
In 2021, share the gift of you.
With all good intentions we seek the path to sanctity, doing whatever we can fit into the day: fasting, rosaries, novenas, good deeds to others. But the path to sanctity isn’t in the ‘doing’. It is in surrendering to God. It is out of surrender that ‘doing’ comes. In the not-too-distant past, people could recognize a Catholic not by the clothes or crucifixes worn but by how they think, shown by how they speak and act. A Catholic mind is formed by God and so holds no duplicity.
Can people recognize you as Catholic not by label (pro-life, pro-marriage) but rather simply by your way of being?
We are presently in a Church, and a country, in turmoil where many opinions are spewed but very little Truth spoken. In Advent, we awaited Truth to be born in our hearts. In every age God has left a remnant of people to carry on the Faith (ROM 11:5-6). This remnant are the righteous not the self-righteous; the surrendered not the self-empowered. They are seekers of Truth aware that it comes in uncomfortable ‘packages’ like a baby being born in a cave and a 33-year old man in his prime suffering unimaginable humiliation, torture and death. Advent was our time to say ‘yes’ to trusting in Him so that He can become incarnate in us. Now is our time to grow in this.
Churches are open in most states of our country, yet seats remain empty in the pews. It isn’t God’s voice telling people they do not need the mass. God isn’t saying “I am having my priest celebrate the sacrifice at the altar for everyone else, but do not want you to attend”. In nine months, only a handful of priests across the entire country have contracted Covid-19. No Covid cases have been traced back to attending a Catholic mass. The Catholic sanctuary is the safest public place we can be. The only way to dispel the demons who place thoughts of discord and lies into our minds is to break the mental barrier and attend the mass.
The pandemic isolation eats away at the heart. Fortunately, as Christians, we have the gift of Faith and the very real people of the scriptures who model for us living in any circumstances. The Advent story is our story and the ‘characters’ are our people speaking to us through God’s Word. Unfortunately, in our times of fear and isolation, dangerous risks masked as ‘good’ tempt us from this especially by the media. Aroused in our passions of anger or fear, this often creates a false sense of security and inclusion with others. Some urge us to rage with them. Others to escape into visionaries and claims of supernatural protection. Either becomes a type of refuge.
Having the right opinion doesn’t get us into Heaven; having the right disposition does. Are we ready to ‘take the risk’ of following Jesus 100% and let go of these attachments?