Come, thou Father of the poor!

pentecostVenusti

Happy Pentecost! May the Holy Spirit transform our hearts and therefore our Church this day. For those of you who, like me, are reading (or have read) Weigel’s Evangelical Catholicism, his words and his thesis are very relevant today:

“lukewarm Catholicism has no future: submitting to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit is no longer optional” p. 20

The Holy Spirit has come today, which is a source of wonderful joy for us, since he is our interior Master, our consolation, our solace, the One who burns with purifying fire to configure us to Jesus… Let’s draw close to Him frequently.

Pentecost confronts me, if I’m honest, with the question of discouragement – particularly if we feel utterly submerged in, and surrounded by, on all sides, lukewarm Catholicism, as Weigel terms it. What is lukewarm Catholicism? It’s Catholicism which isn’t doing what it’s meant to do – penetrate all the nooks and crannies of the world with Christ’s Love, by forming intentional disciples and sending them out.

Are you in that boat? I think most of us are. I asked a group of seminarians what percentage of people they would say were “intentional disciples” in the last parish they were in. “Probably around two,” one offered. “Okay – two percent – probably your average British parish,” I responded. “No,” he said, “not two percent – two people.” We laughed over that one, but I wonder how many parishes that is true for, and if so, the vast majority of us experience lukewarm Catholicism as our Sunday reality – maybe we don’t even realise that’s what it is.

Discouragement comes to mind because around us we may see the Church and its impact far, far from where it should be. Last week many friends were at the HTB leadership conference in the Royal Albert Hall. It’s safe to say that the percentage of intentional disciples in evangelical congregations are far, far greater than in our own Catholic parishes. And this is without the grace and power of the sacraments. Some days the thought floats through my mind that, counting the number of ‘intentional disciples’ I’ve met in my new context on one hand, it may be worth popping into the local evangelical church to find people in love with Christ and committed to evangelisation. (I haven’t done this… yet!)

A day like today – Pentecost – reminds me that the Holy Spirit wants to take this reality and transform it in his power; that God desires on-fire disciples infinitely more than I do; that every prayer I pray that he would raise up many people to be his disciples in the world does not go unanswered.

So, making an act of faith that this is true, we need to think about how we deal with the discouragement that does sneak up now and then:

  • The devil loves more than anything for us to be discouraged. Let’s send negative thoughts packing
  • The moment we turn to our Father with our best efforts – how can we not come away realising how much he loves his son or daughter? How much he blesses our miniscule efforts? How much, how abundantly, he wishes to bless us the more we come to him
  • What situations cause us discouragement? Let’s avoid them if we can (unless we have a responsibility there that no one else can do). No point in attending well-intentioned parish meetings if you leave more discouraged than you arrived
  • What events / movements in the Church increase our hope and console us? Where do we find strength and receive joy? Let’s attend these more frequently
  • In discouragement we see the sad reality of a situation which can then spur us to more prayer and more mortification. We can more earnestly pray our intentions in our Holy Communions / Thanksgiving after Mass / novena… And we can forego the biscuit with our coffee, the chance to put ourselves forward, the ‘smart alec’ remark… mortifications greatly increase the power of our prayers. (I am just writing this here because we rarely hear this)

Today, as we return into Ordinary Time, let us increase our hope and prayer to the Holy Spirit to pour water wherever in our Church he finds parched earth.

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul’s delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet;
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

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About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

4 responses to “Come, thou Father of the poor!

  • Christine Byrne

    Hi Hannah,
    Really relate to this post. I was at HTB for the leadership conference – enormous signs of hope there – I was uplifted and encouraged. Other movements where I find hope, joy, strength and consolation are:

    events run by the Cor et Lumen Christi Community such as the Catholic Miracle Rally, Called to Glory and Living Word conferences. This community is soon to run another Charism School in Birmingham – an opportunity that should not be missed by anyone who desires to experience how the Holy Spirit wants to give us His gifts and to enter into or extend the exercise of the charisms in their lives. See website http://www.coretlumenchristi.org for more details.

    events run by Little Way Healing Ministries where people are being healed, transformed, enlivened and drawn into meaningful service in the Church. Bishop Egan’s encouragement for LWHM has been greatly appreciated.

    my Catechesis of the Good Shepherd group where children as young as 3 are given an opportunity to fall in love with the Good Shepherd. After visiting the original CGS group in Rome, JPII described his experience of observing how the children interacted with the materials as ‘the best homily I ever heard’ and the Missionaries of Charity have adopted this as their primary form of catechesis beacuse of its ‘capacity for contemplation’. They intend to train their 3000 sisters in the method and they use it in their novitiate to form novices. A rare opportunity to access the Level I training for this catechesis is coming up in Chertsey 12-17 August. More info: christinedeigratia@gmail.com

    Big Church Day Out – this May Bank Holiday weekend at Wiston House, Sussex. Fun for all the family, great atmosphere, a wide variety of Christian music for all tastes.

    Events such as those described above provide the joy, nourishment and sustenance I need to bring to the parish and the Lord is blessing relationships in the parish and bringing transformation in people’s lives because I make every effort to go out to find what I need where the Holy Spirit is moving in power.

  • Tonia

    Lukewarmness is worrying but so is passionate and unorthodox. Meeting people in the parish who are in key roles but can’t wait to bang on about women priests discourages me more than those who are only there to meet their friends!

    I think where these people are concerned it’s better to go along to their discussions and put forward other opinions rather than leave the flock in their care.

    • Paul Rodden

      Hi Tonia.
      I’m with you on this!

      That said, I did as you suggested at an ‘RCIA’ group before I’d studied the psychology of this stuff. It was being run by a very vocal ex-Anglican woman and nearly every session became polarised. I discovered the problem is psychological resistance, no matter how gently someone’s ‘corrected’.

      However mild one is (I recommended a book in the last post called ‘Tactics’ which is great for managing potentially volatile situations in a winsome manner) they smell the resistance, and so the situation becomes polarised rapidly. So, from my experience, they simply dig their heels in and entrench their position.

      In that book, the author has a section called, ‘Never argue with the man with the mic’, or something similar. In other words, if you’re not the leader or speaker (i.e., the one with the microphone), you’ll simply be seen as a heckler. As a result, it’s hard to get buy-in from the other participants, even if your position is more reasonable or correct: and even if you point to the black-and-white in the catechism!
      It just causes bad feeling, and by undermining the leader,one will put the enquirers/catechumens on edge, not knowing whom to take seriously and it can do immeasurable damage. (Mea culpa!)

      But don’t worry if you find yourself doing it under the emotion of the situation – it happens to us all!

      One of the worst ‘sinners’ in this department – from the opposite direction – are what could be called ‘traddie’ priests. They (ab)use their ‘man with the mic’ status to batter these people who need real love, not whipping.

      A point the author stresses is that if tempers get frayed – in either direction! – or you use your status against your interlocutor – you lose – even if you win the argument. A very true, and wise, point, I think.

      The ‘tactic’ I’ve found works best, is to (try to) tackle them, gently, ‘off stage’ – maybe in a coffee shop (and where it’s clear I’m paying) – so they don’t lose face and I’m actively trying to ‘woo’ them towards the truth using the ‘Columbo Tactic’.

      Hope that helps.

  • Paul Rodden

    This is wonderfully encouraging piece for the discouraged! Thank you.

    Being a ‘revert’ but still working very closely with Evangelicals, I am cautious about assuming many Evangelicals are what we would call intentional disciples. Evangelical pietism is not the same as intentional discipleship. It just looks like it.

    Msgr Ronald Knox gives examples of pietism in his writings – a well-known one being in his ‘Creed in Slow Motion’ – and Fr Dwight Longenecker sums it up, here:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2011/12/personal-flotsam-or-the-barque-of-peter.html

    Membership of any congregation or denomination is conditional upon how successful it is at ‘meeting my need’. When it ceases to do that, I shop round for another, more holy, congregation (one that agrees with me). The most galling thing is the objectification of persons where the congregation is merely a vehicle or expression of like minds, and when it ceases to fufil that utilitarian end, my so-called ‘friends’ are discarded like sweet wrappers: ‘the Lord led me out of that fellowship’.

    However, it is unquestionable that their desire for going to church any time there’s an opportunity to do so (twice on a Sunday in many congregations), Bible Study and Prayer, social action, and that they look for any opportunity to talk about Jesus as much as they can, puts us to shame…

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