As we start the new parish year, let me ask a question: What do you want the parish to do for you over these next twelve months?
I hope your answer will be something like this – and include all four parts:
You probably didn’t use the same words I just did here, but I hope these desires are why you’re a part of Our Lady of Grace; and I can tell you that, if you’re here for another reason, you’ll probably be disappointed. These four tasks are so urgent, for our souls and for our society, that we can’t afford to be distracted into anything else. Some of us grew up in times when parishes could be like social clubs, with recreation and social gatherings for all ages. That may have been appropriate in the past (it may also have “worked,” in the sense that you’re a disciple today because you grew up in such a parish); but it doesn’t work today. People – especially young people – no longer live in only a single “world,” such as the parish of the past tried to be. We can’t recreate that – and if that sort of social setting is what you’re seeking, you’ll be disappointed.
You’ll also be disappointed if you’re here “only for the kids.” It’s not uncommon for parents – naturally and correctly wanting the best for their children – to think that parish activities (at the least, “getting their sacraments”) is something they should do “for the kids” – although not for themselves. You should know this about trying that approach: It. Doesn’t. Work. Research shows – and the experience of parents and pastors bears it out – that religious commitment and moral values are in fact transmitted to young people from the church – but only through a parent who practices the faith. (Fathers seem to be a more powerful force than mothers in this transmission.) In short, if you want your children to be moral people and good Christians, first work on becoming such a person yourself – and the parish is here to help you with that.
What about if you’re here because you simply “like something about” us? Or if a need – great sorrow or loss, addiction, or the like – has driven you here as a last resort? What if you can’t put into words why you’re here, but it just seems like the right place for you to be? Let me say, then, you’re on the right track and you’re certainly welcome. If you stay connected here – worship, a bit of volunteering if that’s possible for you, making friends – you’ll find that, over time, you’ll come to see that the four things I mentioned above are in fact not only what you’ve been looking for – they’re the most important things in the world: they’re what God made you for. Until next week, peace.
1 As a refresher, or in case you’ve never heard this, the church teaches that there are fourteen works of mercy – seven “corporal,” and seven “spiritual.” Here they are:
|• To feed the hungry
• To give drink to the thirsty
• To clothe the naked
• To shelter the homeless
• To visit the sick
• To visit the imprisoned
• To bury the dead
|• To comfort the afflicted
• To instruct the ignorant
• To counsel the doubtful
• To admonish sinners
• To bear wrongs patiently
• To forgive all injuries
• To pray for the living and the dead