Bearing Witness to an Unpopular Message

Posted on June 30, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, July 5, 2015, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Icon of the Holy Family.I remember a time when the world was changing very rapidly indeed. It was the late 80s and much of the change was centralized in Europe with the Solidarity movement in Poland, Perestroika and Glasnost in Russia, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The change was inspiring and suddenly you believed that anything was possible. I remember hearing the words of the Jesus Jones song, “Right Here, Right Now” and thinking how accurate they were: Right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history.

In the past weeks our country has changed quite a bit, and it is hard to remember so much change here so quickly. From Supreme Court rulings to debates on race, it would appear that our nation is different today than just a few weeks ago. Some of the changes are cause for joy, while others challenge our very Catholic beliefs. As these changes occur, some debate and others hate. Catholics on separate sides of issues raise voices in support or condemnation, oftentimes acting like they have all the answers. But as we spend much time and breath on these societal developments, we fail to see that our own house needs some real order and reform.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate recently issued some of its findings on the spiritual health of Catholic families. The results are sobering. Only 22% of Catholic families attend Mass every Sunday. The number decreases by 3 percentage points for those families with infants. A measly 32% of children in Catholic families attend some form of religious formation, whether it’s a Catholic school or a parish faith formation program. Nearly 60% of those children in families that attend Mass do not attend any religious education program.

As we sometimes stand too ready to offer opinions on how non-Catholics should live their lives, too many of us are not in reality living out our faith in the first place. For too long our attention has been focused outwardly while we suffer inwardly. Perhaps we could truly be a greater influence on our culture if we stood on firmer ground with a solid faith in Jesus Christ and a greater belief in the body of Christ. Perhaps many of our examples of family fall well short of being a light to those who cannot see.

But there is always hope! In many corners of the church we have begun our waking up to history. People like Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples, are leading the way to a Catholic discipleship that is more than a label. For too long a cultural Catholicism has reduced our testimonies and witnessing to rather meaningless stories of Catholic school shenanigans and CYO basketball games. It is not the same to be Catholic as it is to be Italian, German, Irish, or Hispanic. One label is given to us without choice; the other requires a serious choice every day of our lives.

Now is the time for those in the church who have become intentional disciples and everyday stewards to reach out to those who share our faith in name only. We need to do it in a loving manner. Our goal is to witness to them the richness of a life truly committed to Jesus Christ. Before we lament about how the world is turning from the Gospel, let us make sure we are turned toward the Gospel as a people of God and that it makes a difference.

The World Meeting of Families is not far away. I suspect that not only will the event be a source of great joy, but it will also become a target for those who do not understand. The experiences of Ezekiel, Paul, and Jesus himself, in the readings for this coming Sunday, will hopefully give the prophets of our day a resolve to stay the course. I wish I could say that truth spoken in love was easier for people to receive. But many times the opposite is reality. The readings for this Sunday remind us of that reality. As soon as the Gospel message presented is of conflict to no one, chances are, the message is not the Gospel at all.

Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS

Author’s Note: These issues are more than political or moral issues, these are “people” issues. With all things, love must always guide our way. As the discussion continues, here are some thoughtful responses. You may not agree with all of what you read, but as we inform ourselves, we must be willing to listen.

USCCB Press Release

After Obergefell v. Hodges: Now What? 

Article from Pew Research Center 

Simcha Fisher’s Blog: I Have to Sit Down

Laura Norris on the Conciliar Post

Fr. Robert Barron

PRAYER

Audrey Assad, the Catholic singer and songwriter, wrote on her Facebook page in the midst of all the events of the past couple weeks: “If I took the trouble and time to whisper this prayer before every conversation the world would be a much better place for it.”

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
—Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.

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Heartache and Hope in the Aftermath of Charleston

Posted on June 30, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

Charleston CoverIn the wake of the tragic shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston on June 17th, LPi created a complimentary bulletin cover and prayer card to encourage prayers and reflection. The Catholic Community of St. Jude in DeWitt, MA received our email sharing the bulletin and prayer card artwork files and wanted to express their community’s prayers.

In addition to placing the bulletin cover in their June 27 Sunday bulletin, they wanted to make an eight-foot banner for all of their parishioners to sign on Sunday and send the banner to Emanuel African Methodist Church. To make this happen, the church needed a larger logo for the banner.

SC Tragedy Sticker

They reached out to LPi to ask for a larger image of the logo “Remembering Our Brothers & Sisters in Faith” to place on their banner. LPi was able to accommodate their request quickly so the Catholic Community of St Jude  was able to accomplish their project this past Sunday.

Signing

Evangelize Your Parish In All Your Communications

Posted on June 24, 2015 by - Vibrant Parish Toolkit

St. John Vianney Catholic Parish is a welcoming Catholic faith community with a dedication to lifelong faith formation of its parishioners. It has numerous ministries, an active school and parish community, as well asan engaging website. The goal of this makeover was to help the parish fully utilize the power of its weekly print bulletin to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.

 

Original and Redesigned Bulletin

Using the entire space for staff information prevented the parish from using its bulletin cover for the faith formation of its parishioners. The solid block of color with white type reversed out was hard to read. Moving this information to pages 2-3 opened up space to feature the church photo from its website home page and to highlight the weekend’s Gospel reading. The parish mission statement was hidden away on page 7; now featured on the cover each week, it will get more attention.

Highlights from the makeover of the interior pages

Colors drawn from the parish website tie it to the bulletin, photos and graphics make the pages pop, and background images and shading separate articles without harsh lines.

Interior Pages

Original bulletin

Mostly colorless and unformatted, these inside bulletin pages don’t use the white space effectively and leave large gaps between items.

Original Bulletin

For more inspiration and design ideas for all your parish communications, click here to discover more Bright Ideas.

Water in the Desert

Posted on June 22, 2015 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, June 28, 2015, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Biblical Tamar Park in the Arava desert, Israel.The Arava Desert is the northeastern portion of the Negev Desert in Israel. It is arid, rocky, and hot. This is where I am for three months of volunteer work at Biblical Tamar Park. There is a tel here (archeological site), going back to the time of Abraham. This oasis in the desert has been a stopping place for centuries. King Solomon built a fortress here named after his sister, Tamar. Conqueror after conqueror has established an outpost here, one on top of the ruins of the last. The Israeli Antiquities Authority is working together with Blossoming Rose, a nonprofit organization in Michigan, to oversee, restore, and maintain this fifty-five-acre site. In plain English, to keep life flourishing here in the desert.

That’s quite a project! Physical life is a challenge here. Yesterday, the power went off for over an hour. We said to each other, “Don’t open the refrigerator! Don’t open the door … our cool air will escape!” We asked, “Can we survive in heat well over a hundred degrees without A/C?” Almost every green thing living here has to be watered. The timed irrigation systems are on backup batteries. We wondered, “Are those batteries all working? How long can they last?” Without water, just about everything on these fifty-five acres will die, except some of the weeds! Without water being pumped to us, will we die? As we were discussing all these questions and possibilities, there was a beep. The A/C was back on … just in time to start cooking lunch. Life had returned!

This weekend’s readings are about life and the threats to it. In Mark’s Gospel, we are still close to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Mark wants to make sure that we realize the message of Jesus. He has come to bring life in all its fullness.

Hopefully, our presiders will read the total Gospel passage, rather than the abbreviated version. The story of the hemorrhaging woman illumines a situation many people experience in our society today, the situation of isolation. According to Jewish law, no one was allowed to touch a woman with an issue of blood, whether monthly or continuous. This particular woman had not been touched for twelve years! Why else would she weave through the crowd and sneak up behind Jesus? If he was a keeper of the law, he would not have touched her without becoming ritually unclean. Even in the “pressing” crowd, had she been discovered, she would have been excluded. This woman was living in solitary confinement in the midst of society, an untouchable … so thirsty for human interaction!

Her faith gives her the courage to reach out a finger, a finger seeking healing, seeking new life. That faith is rewarded. She feels wholeness within herself. The flow of blood dries up. The water of wholeness floods her being. Her desert life blossoms! Jesus brings her out of isolation and into the family of faith, calling her, “Daughter.” She belongs once again.

Many in our society wither in isolation. Standing in a crowd, living in a neighborhood, or even sitting in a pew, some are deeply lonely, touched by no one. Why? Many reasons can isolate. Among them might be a difference in language, education, social status, physical looks, age, health, race, marital situations, even religion. All or any of these factors can isolate a person from the living waters of human kindness and love.

We, as the living Christ in our world, turn to these hurting ones and say the word of relationship … friend, neighbor, my sister, my brother in Christ. Isolation flees.

The situation could be reversed. I could be the isolated one, whether self-imposed or situational. I may be the one who needs to imperceptibly work my way through the crowd until I can reach out in faith seeking healing. I may be the one who thirsts for relationships with others. I may be the one who hasn’t been touched for years. Can I build up my faith and courage, just as this nameless woman did, and reach out to be healed?

Many people are dying of thirst in our world today. Through the power of Jesus, life-giving water is available to all. Can we reach out to give another a drink? Can we reach out to receive the water of life ourselves? Faith is the wellspring of courage, courage to seek what is needed for life. The words from the Book of Wisdom need to be planted deeply in our hearts. “God did not make death.” “God formed man to be imperishable.” God brings water to the desert of our souls that we may live and live fully!

Patricia DeGroot, OblSB

PRAYER

A psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
I
O God, you are my God—
it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless,
and without water.
I look to you in the sanctuary
to see your power and glory.
For your love is better than life;
my lips shall ever praise you!

II
I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.
My soul shall be sated as with choice food,
with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!
I think of you upon my bed,
I remember you through the watches of the night
You indeed are my savior,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.

—Excerpt from Psalm 63. Scripture texts in this work are taken from the NABRE © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 CCD, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the NAB may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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