Tag Archives: parish

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”.

 

Advertisements

Quick Takes…

Praising God - Youth 2000

Praising God – Youth 2000

~1~

Wow – I have a whole new empathy with all who volunteer in the Church. In catechesis, evangelisation projects, outreach, or whatever. It is one thing when it is your job, and you have all day to work at it, but quite another when you’re drafting an email late at night, or snatching a few moments in your lunch hour to sort some arrangements. This is what life is like now, as I am beginning to help out with a few things in my parish. I now realise what a luxury it was to do this work full-time! I am wondering how on earth the mums with full-time jobs in my last parish also helped with catechesis – I suspected they were super-women and I was probably right…

~2~

One of my projects at the moment is writing a chapter on Bl John Paul II and catechesis, in a book for young people (18-25). Although it is not an academic chapter, and there won’t be much space to discuss foundations of his thought, it has been really interesting to research this a little bit. I would be fascinated to know what you think: what do you think was Bl John Paul II’s greatest impact on the catechetical world? I am still working out how I would respond to this question, but would love to hear your thoughts.

~3~

In a week’s time, we will begin ‘A Quick Journey through the Bible’, the introduction to the Bible Timeline from Ascension Press. At the moment, we have around half the number of people registered that I am hoping for, but you always find that most people sign up last minute. I always think it is a good idea to begin an adult formation session with a proper time of prayer. By ‘proper’ I mean not a quick, rushed prayer concluded with an Our Father. I think it’s good to have music if possible, a Scripture passage, a short time of silence. I really like this guide that Joe Paprocki has put together – a helpful resource.

~4~

Finally, I leave you with the video message of our wonderful bishop’s Pastoral Letter, issued today. It’s great stuff. On the written version there are plenty of footnotes to reflect on at home.


Planning Ahead

Now is the time of year we make next year’s plans. Already we have umpteen First Communion, Confirmation and RCIA dates in the diary. We’re creating programmes for formation of parents next year. We’re scheduling a “vision evening” for catechists to impart the vision for our parish’s catechesis for the year ahead.

Can I be really honest here? I hate scheduling dates. It is such a complicated process. First, you check the liturgical year. Next, you’ve got all the school holidays, half-terms, inset days. I find myself flicking between three different school websites. Then, you have to work out, like a crazily complex jigsaw, which programme will fit on which night, given available venues and catechist availability. Then you discover you’ve booked two parents’ sessions for two different programmes on the same night. A certain speaker you would like for one night can only make the following month when you’ve already booked someone else. Even when everything is finally set in stone, and you come closer to the different dates you set, people will drop out with a little bit of notice, even though you scheduled the date a decade ago.

There’s a difficult balance to strike. On the one hand, parents need all dates well in advance. On the other hand, I think that too much planning can stifle the real work that is going on here, the action of the Holy Spirit. Do we schedule multiple meetings for RCIA sponsors, or do we wait until it seems it would be fruitful for everyone to get together? How do we safeguard as much as possible the precious time of our volunteers?

Mundane and tedious questions, perhaps, but I think this is an important area to get right, if we really value those who serve in our parish. Through our natural gifts and human wisdom, the Holy Spirit can work by bestowing supernatural gifts and fruitfulness. Yet, while we use our human gifts to the best of our ability, we have to give space for the Holy Spirit to work. Perhaps our RCIA candidates will not be ready to become Catholic by next Lent, and we will have no one go through the liturgical rites. Who knows?! We cannot forecast too precisely how the Holy Spirit will work in our parish this year… Are we open to what he will do?