Tag Archives: communion

Quick Takes

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin c. 1842

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Well, everyone, welcome to Holy Week. Some words before the Palm Sunday Procession today struck me:

“Let us commemorate the Lord’s entry into the city for our salvation, following in his footsteps, so that, being made by his grace partakers of the Cross, we may have a share also in his Resurrection…”

What struck me is that, if we are baptised, we are – in our very being, by grace – “partakers of the Cross”. This week, we are invited once again to enter into the Paschal Mystery and make it more deeply our own. If we are baptised, the Paschal Mystery is what characterises us. Therefore, it is almost a contradiction not to enter fully into Holy Week, not to celebrate “in our depths” the liturgies of this Week – this is “who” we are. So, let’s go with the Lord to the Cross this week, and say “yes” to the path of giving ourselves completely to the Father…

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On a slightly lighter note: let me introduce you to one of my sisters, Tess 🙂 (This photo was taken many moons ago…) She has recently started her own blog, At the Heart of the Home, which I encourage you to go and see. Lots of cute baby photos of my little nephew and thoughts and reflections on being a new wife and mother…

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Recently, I was reminded of a wonderful phrase (from de Lubac), “the Eucharist makes the Church”. It made me stop and wonder: how important this is when we think of evangelisation, when we think of drawing people into the Church. It is the Eucharist that points to, and also makes real, the communion between us. It is the Eucharist that effects the communion with God and each other that we all long for.

Mgr Kelly, in The Mystery We Proclaim, speaks of one of the goals of catechesis as community, or perhaps better to say, communion. Communion reminds us that we are called into the communion of the Blessed Trinity, which lifts our fellowship with others to a level of grace. This is the miracle of the Church! I often wonder at all the deep friendships I have in the Church, and think that I would not ‘naturally’ be friends with many of these people – but in the Church, through the Eucharist, we share a oneness and closeness that I don’t share with others who are perhaps more ‘naturally’ my friends.

This just reminds me that the Eucharist should be at the very heart of all our evangelising and catechising efforts. After all – everyone’s favourite! – CT, 5: “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.”

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Evangelising the culture is all about seizing on opportunities, being creative, and thinking outside the box… A good friend of mine lives and works in Poland, and they are doing just that for the upcoming canonisation of John Paul II: I just love some of these fab ideas: In addition to concerts, exhibitions, debates, and a documentary film, they are launching a JP2 app, an outdoor game (involving places all over the city visited by John Paul II), a JP2 wikipedia (“WikiJP2”), a 26-day spiritual workout Facebook initiative, and ‘I ❤ JP2’ luggage stickers to be distributed at airports! Fab, huh?! What a wonderful opportunity to evangelise in the public square.

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Finally, if you haven’t done so already, sign up for the Called and Gifted workshop (first one to happen in the UK!) which will be led by Sherry Weddell from 27-28 June. You can sign up here (please note the option for those who live outside the Diocese of Portsmouth).

 


Warming Hearts in the Family of the Church

family love

Pope Francis spoke recently on priestly formation. This is off-topic for this blog, but a lot of what he said has meaning for all of us in the Church. Pope Francis painted a picture of a seminary that has become a cold, loveless place. Instead, the Holy Father said, the task should be to “form hearts”. 

Hearts cannot be formed without love, without warmth, without family spirit. How important this is for the whole Church. At times, the Church – our parishes – can be cold places. Any place that is merely a service-provider will inevitably be cold. Only when a church is a place where people want to be, not to get something, but to be themselves and with others, will the heart of the parish be love, a place that can start “forming hearts”.

This Christmas, I spent quite a long time at home with my family. A lot of us were there for several days together, and it was an extremely joyful time. Long hours were spent in front of the fire, not doing very much, simply being together. There was lots of laughter, jokes about each of our own weirdnesses, funny games, endless chatting and sharing our thoughts, and love and forgiveness. I found myself asking, “Why isn’t the Church more like this?” It seems obvious – the Church is the “gathering together” of everyone into the Father’s house. It should be the place, par excellence, where we want to hang out, rejuvenate ourselves, before going back out into the mission. It should be the place where we joyfully spend time together, not out of duty, but because we love and energise each other. This seems to be a reality within new movements (e.g. Youth 2000, Communion & Liberation, Neo-Catechumenal Way) and in good university chaplaincies (I feel blessed that my own faith was nourished in a brilliant chaplaincy). Our joyful family life (where we are blessed to experience this) should be a reflection of the warmth and joy in the heart of the communion of the Church. But often this community in the Church is a rare exception rather than the rule.

Then I asked myself, “How can the Church be more like this?” Clearly, it is down to each of us. Pope Francis has been asking us endlessly to “warm hearts”, and there are a million ways we can each do this, according to our own charisms. One thing we can do is encourage “family spirit” especially among our peers in our parish communities. Make time to meet someone for a coffee if they are going through a hard time. Be interested in people’s lives, pray for their worries, go out of our way to tend to their concerns.

Above all, we need to care for our priests. I am sure crisis in the priesthood is down to loneliness. How can it be good if one of our “Fathers” spends most of his days alone? Who can exist without love, let alone give of themselves? (Blessed John Paul II said in Redemptor Hominis, 10, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”) Priests especially should be surrounded by love, drawn into our families, have a special place in our daily prayers. 

The renewal of the Church will come from “raising the spiritual temperature” of our parishes with acts of love. As we know, St John the Apostle repeated often, “Little children, love one another.”

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” (1 Jn 4:7-11)


Catechetical Communion

My parish :)

My parish 🙂

I find that, when you are teaching the Faith in catechesis, because you are transmitting the Person of Christ, not just propositions about him, you share from the depths of your being with those you catechise, from your own reality as a ‘new creature’, as one redeemed in Christ’s blood. You are teaching very deeply from your own heart (the deepest centre of the person), from your own relationship with Christ. This in itself draws you very close to those you teach. They see you witness to them, opening yourself, and they tend to offer the same back to you. They share their lives deeply with you. The communion that catechesis creates, therefore, in the heart of the Blessed Trinity, is very beautiful and sacred.

I love this little chunk from the Lineamente (para 12) for the Synod that happened last October:

What is not believed or lived cannot be transmitted… The Gospel can only be transmitted on the basis of ‘being’ with Jesus and living with Jesus the experience of the Father, in the Spirit; and, in a corresponding way, of ‘feeling’ compelled to proclaim and share what is lived as a good and something positive and beautiful”

This week, my last in the parish, I feel very surrounded by this communion. Goodbyes are poignant but full of hope, too, at what God is doing. I have felt a torrent of love and received so many flowers, at one stage I was heaping them in my kitchen sink as I didn’t have enough vases. This time next week when I am actually moving I will probably be having a mascara-fest at the sadness of taking myself away from so much love and stepping into the unknown.

One of the things I will miss most of all is giving catechesis in a parish setting:

  • The joy of teaching and leading people through the RCIA process and seeing the Holy Spirit transform them;
  • I’ll especially miss the one-to-ones with people which always gives the opportunity of conversing more deeply and personally to the individual’s situation;
  • The excitement and creativity of a roomful of teenagers keeping you on your toes – the adventure of a constant attempt to let the message break through to them in new ways;
  • Sharing the highs and lows of teenagers – I find you can’t help loving them even when they, more than anyone else you catechise, will push you beyond what you thought were your limits;
  • Guiding my little group of 7-year-olds towards silent prayer in Come Follow Me and seeing them develop an interior life;
  • Nothing beats a hall packed with adults, excited and hungry to be nourished with Christ’s life-giving teaching;
  • Spending six evenings last term giving formation to new catechists was such a gift – what can be better than transmitting all that you have learnt which has formed you as a catechist with others?
  • All the difficult and messy situations which I’ve witness being transformed with prayer and the Holy Spirit’s power – small conversions, reconciliations, changes of heart;
  • Finally, all the ‘catechetical friendships’ in my parish and beyond – the blessing of many, many friendships forged in the mission of giving catechesis together

Thank you, Lord!

I could not have dreamt for myself a better job than I have been privileged to do these last three years. A little piece of my heart will always be here.


Consumerism vs Communion

It goes without saying that our outlook on life is generally consumeristic, because we have been conditioned to think in this way. And for much of our life it works: which option is best value for money? am I getting as much out of this service as I can / as I am paying for? getting something for nothing is always a bonus…even if you don’t really need it. We are consumers! Even with regards to time: we micro-manage our lives to be as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

I’ve noticed there can be (naturally perhaps) a tendency in us to approach the Church in this way, too. At the moment in out parish it is the time of year when school references need to be signed by the parish priest. In our parish, you only get a reference if you have signed in on the census at Sunday Mass over a certain percentage of the time. People have tried every trick in the book to get round it – trying to fill in a form and deliver it during the week; getting grandparents to fill it in for them. It reveals (to an extreme extent) the ‘consumerist’ attitude we can have towards the Church. What can I get out of the Church? Education is definitely up there on some people’s lists. Our parish priest referred to a mums’ online discussion forum for our local area which gave away tips for getting into Catholic schools – invite the priest round for dinner, say that you are a reader at Mass. Well, I’m afraid if you’re living around here, you’ll have a hard time getting past our parish priest…

This is obviously an extreme example. There are other, more subtle, examples though. It is something that is in our mentality. In London there are so many different Catholic activities and events to attend, we can approach the ‘Catholic scene’ in a consumeristic way: what can I get out of this? What does it offer me? If it no longer succeeds in satisfying me, I’ll stop going. We shop around a bit – different spiritualities, different groups, charisms…

Are we ever able to give ourselves to something completely?

Giving ourselves completely to something or someone is the opposite of consumerism: it is not like a mobile phone contract where you finish with one company when you get a better offer from another. Christianity invites us to something completely other and radical: to give ourselves completely to something. I’ve heard it said that, when you make your vows – either in marriage or as a religious or as a priest – you are gathering your whole self up – including your future which you don’t even know yet – and pledging yourself…completely. This is communion because it is the image of God’s own life. Eternal self-giving within the communion of Persons.

How much is our life in the Church determined by consumerism and how much by communion? This is a question I ask myself too. When sports come before children’s sacramental preparation, or when a parent has to decide whether their daughter does ballet or First Communion classes this year – I think we are acting like consumers. Similarly, when people ‘shop around’ attending every Catholic event in London but never manage to give themselves completely to something – this seems to me to be consumeristic too.

It is a big challenge for each of us because of how ‘infected’ our minds and hearts are with this outlook on life. But I know that, bit by bit, God is calling us to forego “keeping our options open” and to give ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.

“After I recognised that there is a God, it was impossible for me not to live for him alone.” Bl. Charles de Foucauld