These questions have baffled me over the years. How is it that so many baptized Catholics do not hold on to their faith? How is it that more than half of our registered parishioners do not come to church for Mass or participate in any way? How is it that even some of those who come to Sunday Mass, feel no qualms about missing Mass every now and then? Why do we take for granted our Catholic faith which is the most important gift we have been given?
The simple answers go like this. We have become so self-absorbed that if something does not fit into my schedule or inconveniences me, I will not do it. Some others say it is because we have lost trust and faith in all institutions – the government, education and even Church. Still others opine that we are living in Postmodernism wherein all the meta- narratives – the overarching views of our existence – have been discredited. People now live in the moment. Others aver that we have routinized and institutionalized the “Jesus experience” so much that people are no longer moved by it.
I do admit that all these reasons make sense, but only partially. If they are the valid reasons, how come people do not inconvenience themselves standing in line for hours to buy tickets to “Hamilton”? Why do people spend the night waiting outside an Apple Store to purchase the new iPhone? I do believe there is a more profound reason. Let me explain.
There are two verbs used in pastoral work – “to evangelize” and “to catechize.” To evangelize means to preach the Good News so that people will believe in the gospel, fall in love with Jesus and give themselves completely over to Him. To catechize speaks of the efforts we make to pass on the content of the faith. My claim is that in the Catholic Church we have emphasized catechizing so much that we have neglected to evangelize. We have tried to catechize people without evangelizing them. We need to help our Catholics to fall in love with Jesus and surrender themselves to Him before we can teach them all the details of our catechism.
How did the Church develop and grow? What did Jesus do? In the Gospel of John, two disciples of John the Baptist – namely John and Andrew – follow Jesus. The Master stops and asks them, “What do you seek?” They reply, “Master, where do you live?” Jesus invites them, “Come and see.” They went and saw. They never left His side after that. All the apostles and early disciples experienced Jesus personally. They heard Him, they saw Him, they witnessed the amazing things He did, and they were moved by His words. They fell in love with Him. Even though they faltered a little during His time of suffering, they returned after the resurrection and fortified by the gifts of the Spirit, went on to conquer the world for Jesus. They even laid down their lives for Him.
This is what we need to do in the Church and in our parish. If we are in love with the Lord, everything will come automatically. If spouses focus only on the duties and sacrifices of marriage, married life would become a heavy burden. Unfortunately we have emphasized the challenges of the gospel instead of the great love this Lord has for each of us. We know from experience that if someone is in love, they will go to any lengths to make their relationship work.
Padre Arrupe, a former Superior General of the Jesuits, has relevant words in this regard:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.
My mission as a priest is merely this: to help everyone fall in love with Jesus. At the end of my priestly ministry I hope people will say that this was my life’s work – to get people fall in love with the Master, to be fascinated by Him, and to surrender their lives completely to Him. This is what I would like to do for all of you, my parishioners.
As you are aware, we have completed several important capital projects over the last year. The upper church and the Holy Family Chapel look beautiful and reverent. We have done several other things to improve our facilities and our campus. Now a bigger project remains. We need to enhance our spirit. We need to deepen our faith and commitment to the Lord.
To this end, I would like to invite all our parishioners, especially those in any type of ministry or leadership in the parish, to participate in “Parish Transformation.” This is an initiative started by the archdiocese originally to help parishes that were in deep trouble, financially or otherwise. We are not in any kind of trouble. Instead this initiative is geared towards helping us become “intentional disciples.” We want to embrace fully our baptism and commit ourselves wholly to Jesus. I am inviting you to a series of parish-wide meetings that will be held in the Holy Family Chapel on Wednesdays starting on September 21st.
Please keep the parish in your prayers. I am praying that all of us will fall in love with Jesus.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...