Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pursuit of the lost - The NEW Evangelization!

During this "Year of Faith" as declared by the Pope - What exactly does that mean?  If you've been somewhat paying attention to any Catholic media, you're probably wondering what this "New Evangelization" is all about.  First I'd like to start out with the idea of Evangelization. 

As a Catholic, for years, our churches have been full of practicing Catholics.  I don't know if there was a sense or a need to "evangelize" as the majority of Christians around the world were Catholic.  As we've moved into an era where Catholicism appears to be "just another flavor" to choose from, and the many options out there offer a belief system catered to you and your own wants, our Catholic cultural identity seems to be diminishing.  The Largest religion in the world is practicing Catholics, while the second largest is non-practicing Catholics. 
54.8 Million Catholics in the USA
22.5 Million Lapsed Catholics in the USA
15.1 Southern Baptists

Why are they leaving?  After reading several blogs, studies, statements, and visiting with people personally, here are the top 5 reasons I feel Catholics are leaving the Church.

#5 - Lack of Personalization - When someone went to ask questions, someone was too busy, or didn't have the time to really sit down with them and answer their questions.  Maybe they were struggling, and they were expected to "come to a program" instead of the support going out to them.  Feeling as "just another face in the crowd" did not meet their needs, so they went where others came to them. 

#4 - They were offended - a priest, staff member, or even just a fellow parishioner probably said something that offended them, or didn't give them what they wanted.  Instead of seeking the reasons "why" they left.  Instead of seeking reconciliation and peace, they chose to stay angry.  Instead of resolving the issue, they ran away. 

#3 - Programs offered at the church just weren't "fun".  Down the street, they invested in a brand new building with a coffee shop, and free food every Thursday night.  You can take your coffee into the service, wear your sweat pants, and if you don't like a teaching, you can complain and the whole system of belief will find a way that you can practice any way you want as long as you love Jesus and read the bible.  If you ask questions, you can expect that at least 4 words in the bible will prove the other point enough to satisfy the concern and justify any cause. 

#2 - The Church was misprotrayed, and they were not catechized well enough to see the flaws in the argument, and then offered a church that fits their wants, needs and desires.  If someone outside of the church said that as a Catholic, you're not Christian and you're going to hell...  If you didn't know any better, you might agree and shrug your shoulders and move on thinking about the fact that you aren't a Christian, and the bible says you must be saved to get to Heaven by accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.  Those who do not know their faith may not realize that we ARE CHRISTIAN, in fact, we're the FIRST Christians, and we were "saved" at our baptism, and we're living each day as a follower of Christ, following his commandments and spending time reflecting on his word and his will. 

#1 - The poor example set by family, friends, and the community - If church isn't a priority of your parents, why should it be yours?  If catechises isn't a priority of your parents, why should it be yours?  If prayer is demonstrated as something left only for Sunday at mass, why should you ever do it any other time?  The poor examples demonstrated by each other - and the lack of support towards a life of faith has been the single greatest reason the future generations are failing to develop their faith.  #2-5 are the reasons so many adults have become disinterested. 

SO -
What is this "New evangelization" all about?  It's really about addressing those 5 things...

#5 - Personalization
The Church SHOULD BE PERSONAL!  As the ministry of the Church, those who are left as "another face in the crowd" should be PURSUED!  Think of the power of that word... Pursue....  To be sought after...  to be wanted...  For someone to go after those who are lost, broken or hurt...  For someone to be walked with, led and directed instead of just given the map for them to find their own way.  We as Catholics can reach out to our peers!  We can find those who have been hurt, and try and repair those wounds.  We as Catholics can go door to door and finding those folks who have left, give them the answers they were looking for, and invite them back into the church.  We can listen to them, hear their needs and pray with them.  There are things we can do, but we all must contribute to this ministry of making our faith personal.  THIS IS DISCIPLESHIP!!!  This is what Jesus asks us to do!  We should go 2 by 2, with courage and love.  We must step out of our comfort zone, away from our fear and find within us the strength to be fearless.  He WILL equip you with all that you need. 

#4 - As a member of a parish staff, even I have not been able to meet everyone's expectations.  Occasionally, I have to keep things fair and consistent and by doing that, I might have to postpone a sacrament because a student isn't prepared.  In my communication with parents, I could say "well too bad - you should have turned in your stuff earlier", or "you haven't made any effort what so ever, so why do you even want to be confirmed"....  That isn't helpful, that isn't loving, that isn't supportive.  Maybe they aren't ready, and should wait until the next year - but if concession can be made, we'll try to make it.  If a solution can be found, we should try and find it.  If there are no solutions, and no concessions - we must approach the situation with love, compassion, understanding and take the time to explain and encourage.  If someone claims that I said something offensive to them, it's my job to apologize for the way my words or actions offended them, and bring peace back into their relationship with the church.  If you've been offended by the church, and the priest, staff or parishioner isn't accepting responsibility for their actions, recognize that that is not the response of the Church - rather it's a response of a human person with human pride and fallibility. 

#3 - Church isn't about entertainment - it's about worshiping our Lord!  The worship of our Lord is anything but casual... Our time with our Lord is SACRED!  You can have a bible study in your sweat pants...  you can go to the coffee shop and have some great discussion about faith, but Mass - when the Eucharist is consecrated - the time and place is sacred.  HOWEVER - there is a difference between entertainment and engagement.  Every priest, reader, choir member, usher, Eucharistic minister, & parishioner sitting in the pew- should ALL re-evaluate the way they participate in the liturgy.  If they're doing the same ol thing, the same ol way - it becomes monotonous.  We must ALL find ways to make the mass more engaging. 
Here are some tips for you as a parishioner...
1.  Read the scripture ahead of time.
2.  Purchase "the word among us" and pray it as a family
3.  Before going to mass, decide what you're going to offer up at mass - and when the gifts are being brought up, offer that prayer at that time as its being placed on the alter. 
4.  Close your eyes and imagine Jesus being present, and truly listen to the words of the prayers. 
5.  Use your gifts - if you're a great reader, go through training and read during mass.  Be an usher, or a Eucharistic minister. 

#2 - LEARN YOUR FAITH!  How can you defend your faith if you don't know it?  How can you teach others if you don't know it?  What if the teachings you "thought" you knew are different now?  A lot has changed in the last 30 years, so if you haven't been staying up with things, maybe you should take a class, or read some books to get caught up?  If you knew your faith, not only would you be helping your family, and your friends, but  you'd be growing deeply in love with Christ and his church.  You might even help others convert when they realize what the teach ACTUALLY TEACHES!  So many times, others outside of the church think something is weird and silly unless they actually learn about it from someone who knows their faith.  All the sudden, it all makes sense! 
If you're looking for a resource that is easy to read, and will truly bring you into great understanding of our faith, read this!  The Catholicism Answer Book.  You can find it on amazon for $12.  Read it - Catholic or not - and just see what the church teaches.  You'll understand our faith SO MUCH MORE. 

#1 Read Matthew 18

Here are some pieces I've chosen

At that time the disciples 2 approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, 3 you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. "Whoever causes one of these little ones 5 who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!

What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

Then Peter approaching asked him, "Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.

In conclusion, I leave you with this...
1Corinthians 10  Here are some pieces

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea,aand all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.bAll ate the same spiritual food,and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them,* and the rock was the Christ.cYet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.dThese things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did

Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.*No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.

“Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial.* “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds up. No one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor.

If an unbeliever invites you and you want to go, eat whatever is placed before you, without raising questions on grounds of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This was offered in sacrifice,” do not eat it on account of the one who called attention to it and on account of conscience; I mean not your own conscience, but the other’s. For why should my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience? So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.* Avoid giving offense, whether to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved.
Mark Knox

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