Lairs, Nests, Catholic Parishes
"Foxes have lairs, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." -St. Matthew 8:20
"I wonder sometimes how many times we despise good people in our hearts, good people who praise the Lord as it comes to them, so spontaneously, because they are not cultured, because they do not follow the formalities? [I mean really] despise [them]?" -Pope Francis
Yesterday's conversation presented as a solution to the dying Catholic parishes in the United States the evangelization of those under 40 in a manner similar to what is being successfully accomplished at the local non-Catholic, Christian megachurches. One part of that solution was the inclusion of weekly praise and worship services that include upbeat, uplifting, orthodox teachings on the core tenants of the Catholic faith. Another part of this solution that must be in place, when the praise and worship services begin is the opportunities for these under-40 Christians to ACTIVELY live out the faith they love so dearly. The witness of our Christian brethren offers pretty convincing evidence that praising and worshiping God tends to compel Christians to live a much more authentic Christianity. After all, the Holy Spirit does not come where He is not wanted, but when He does come, get ready!
Remember, the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity, who moves us to Christian action. In the very first chapter of the New Testament the Holy Spirit moves Mary to accept being the mother of Christ, then strengthens her to live out those 33 years in the most intimate union with her son, her Savior. St. John the Baptist declares that Jesus will baptize "with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16). Later, Jesus cries out, "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Luke 12:49). Obviously, neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit consider their fire to be a passive fire safely contained within the stones of a fireplace. After all, our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). The Acts of the Apostles chronicles the Holy Spirit moving the early Christians to action: founding churches, raising money for neighboring churches, caring for the orphans and widows, living in community and working together bringing about the kingdom of God. They did all of this out of a profound and sincere love for Christ that tore away their self-consciousness and their self-centerdness and left them open to embrace lepers and beggars and to build an universal Church in a time without electricity or tablets.
Like those presented to us in the Acts, this JPII generation, these Catholics under 40, are filled with the Holy Spirit and need to live out their faith in concrete and active ways. They are not satisfied with sitting in the pews and safely writing checks to missionaries in countries they'll never see, while ignoring the bums they pass on their way to the rest of their lives. Being ignorant of their faith, because no one was there to teach it to them, they saw Saint John Paul II and St. Theresa of Calcutta as the two people in the world, who were actively doing what their own hearts burned to do, but never made the connection between the witness of these two saints and the Catholic faith that was the foundation and food of their work. Back home, they knew they could not be the kinds of Christians their parents had been. Instead, they have flooded these non-denominational and evangelical megachurches, precisely because these megachurches provide them with the opportunities to join in with ongoing works of evangelization and mercy or, even, head up their own efforts.
If Catholic parishes do not want to be closed, if they want to engage the young adults and the teens, they probably need to look past CYO and young adult coffee nights and get them working in the fields. Listen to the words of our God,
Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for harvest. He who reaps receives the wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together" (St. John 4:34-36).The words I emphasized in the above citation were true in Christ's life. How much more true must they be today? Yet, we Catholics are so far away from the field, we can't even smell the grain anymore. And we are so bitter about it, that we tend to ridicule and tear down those who want us to get back into it. But this lazy and complacent insularity is killing us and driving away the very people we need, if we are to thrive in the midst of what's coming down the pike.
Saint John Paul II called for a new evangelization that was new in methods and outlook. I really don't believe he meant that only those who have radio or TV shows or write a lot of books are going to change the Church. Each has done great work, but neither EWTN nor the books of Scott Hahn are bringing those under 40 to Mass. His Holiness meant for us average lay Catholics in the pews to break out of our fat complacency and self-righteous Catholicism and make a home for the Holy Spirit in our hearts, so we can make our parishes homes for our younger brothers and sisters in the faith. Then together, we can build up the Body of Christ by physically going out to our neighbors and loving them into the Church through works of mercy and evangelization. Is this so hard?
O Holy Spirit, enkindle in our hearts the fire of Thy Love!