Tag Archives: mission

The Church and Discipleship

I came across this video earlier this week. Obviously, it comes from a Protestant context (so their concept of worship is not ours), but essentially, it is saying exactly the same thing that we Catholics have been hearing time and time again recently. Here are just a couple of examples from Evangelii Gaudium (that we by now know pretty well):

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. (EV, 27)

We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented. (EV, 28)

However, this video raises some questions for me. The experience of a typical English parish is precisely not an overload of programmes or events. If only! From my experience of average parishes, you’d be lucky to turn up on a given evening and find anything going on. (Recently, I heard of a man (not a Catholic) who contacted the local parish of a town he was staying in overnight with business. He wanted to know if there was a prayer meeting, or something else he could attend in the church that evening. The response he received from the parish secretary? “Sorry, nothing’s going on.” How sad! What a missed opportunity.)

It only makes sense to send out disciples to evangelise. After all, “A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, will convince nobody” (EV, 266).

So the call of this video (and to some extent, Pope Francis’s call, too) seems only to make sense to a parish community which already has disciples –  which provides formation, has a sense of purpose and mission among even a small percentage of its parishioners.

Earlier in the week, a post from an evangelical Christian friend of mine appeared on my newsfeed. He spoke about how his church has grown over the last two years: they have built a community projects building which houses projects such as a food bank, money advice, child bereavement support, and youth and children’s ministry. He finished by saying how his church is reaching 600 members on a Sunday. 600! This is what they have achieved with up to 600 disciples. Sadly, how many Catholic parishes of 1000+ parishioners could claim anything like this?

The reality of most parishes is that we’re at ground-zero, and you’d be fortunate to find your church even open during the day, let alone to stumble across a core group of disciples. It’s not possible to send out Mass-going Catholics who are not disciples to proclaim the Gospel. What will they be calling people to? To be a part of a cultural ‘club’, rather than a life-giving relationship with Jesus? Unless we are disciples “in love” with the Lord, we will evangelise no one.

My response to this video, then, is that, for a first step at least, there’s a need to concentrate on programmes and events, of awakening within the baptised their call to holiness and evangelisation, before it is possible for people to be sent, to “go out”.

 

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Encouragement for the Mission…

southsea storm

Right now, we all seem to be “battening down the hatches” in the face of this bad weather that’s hit. The storm raging outside makes me want to go back a week or so ago, to cosy Christmas family time around the fire… But I can’t seem to get Bert from Mary Poppins out of my head, “Winds in the east, mist coming in. / Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.” Haha! So, to take our minds away from sandbags and continuously refreshing the weather warning page (people, I do live right on the coast…) now might be a great time to reflect on the year ahead, what encourages us in the mission right now, what excites us about what God is doing, what hopes we have for the months ahead… Please share your thoughts in the comments! Let’s encourage and inspire each other, and glorify God in what he is doing…

For me, there are two particular aspects of the mission where I am really encouraged. When I arrived in Portsmouth last February, I struggled to find other young adults, let alone ‘intentional disciples’. Nine months later, shortly before Christmas, we had the launch event of a Frassati Society. (And here’s the Frassati Society we started in Balham three years ago, which I also wrote about here…) Frassati is a fantastic model for young adult ministry (twenties and thirties) as it is rooted in fellowship (including hiking and service of the poor) and yet combines other dimensions of Christian life, too (formation, liturgy and prayer). The idea behind Frassati is to be super relaxed and friendly, so that people can invite their non-Catholic friends. In Balham, there were many fruits: deepening conversions, a culture of evangelisation, and even a marriage! At the first event here in Portsmouth, we were absolutely blown away when nearly thirty young people showed up, many of them students. Much prayer and apostolic work is now needed to fan into a flame this little spark that’s been ignited…

The second thing I am excited about here in Portsmouth is The Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Following Jeff Cavins’ visit, we are delighted to be running ‘A Quick Journey through the Bible’ eight-session course beginning on 20th January. My mission over the next few weeks is to pray for the Lord to gather many, many people to this Bible Study, that it may be a place where people meet Him.

What I would add about both of these apostolates, is that they are not being launched out of the blue. Maybe this is something for another post, but what I have learnt being here for nearly a year, is that a large foundation of prayer, sacrifice, careful discernment and personal one-to-one apostolate is needed before any event or group can begin. In some sense, these always flow organically. We have to work with the Holy Spirit, not ahead of him.

Please pray for these apostolic intentions – and share yours below!