Either I should read more books, or the ones I’m reading are really good. I’ve experiences some reawakening following my read of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope by Austen Ivereigh. My read of his book, coincided well with my anniversary of ordination. The timing also fell along with our annual Priest Unity Days and our Diocese of La Crosse priesthood ordinations. All of that lead in is to suggest that I’ve been reflecting upon 18 years of priesthood and even back into the 8 years of studies before being ordained. And, to push back a little further, I’ve been reflecting upon my experience of American Catholicism throughout my life. I join many people in realizing that our Church has changed; and will continue to change. Each of us ought to be asking the question about how we are also changing and being faithful to the one who called us from our Baptism.
As Catholics, we do spend a significant amount of time quantifying things. Numbers of students in our Catholic schools or religious education programs, how many people attend Mass, how much money we have and the like. Often, we engage in minimal conversation about the person of our faith, rather than the information about our faith.
Some of our Catholic influence comes from the leadership of two of the three most recent popes, namely Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They seemed to lead from a centralized concept of Church which placed a lot of emphasis on the rituals and regulations of Catholicism; the Holy Spirit knew that's what the Church needed. In contrast, Pope Francis, who, incidentally was a major contender in the last two conclaves, looks at the Church coming from the people and how we all need to encounter Christ personally, and among one another. The Cardinals, in both of the last two conclaves, are being attentive to the Holy Spirit who seems to be moving the Church in the direction of focusing on Christ among us. The Cardinals have chosen Francis to be the one who will assist us in heading in this nuanced direction. So, for us in Southern Buffalo County, Wisconsin, USA, we continue to be attentive to what we are rather than what we are not. Sure, we wish we were a lot of things, but we aren't. There are many things we wish we had, but we don't. Our call is to be realistic and honest in the spirit of the Holy Spirit who speaks through the Cardinals, and now through Pope Francis.
The nuanced direction of the Church reminds us that we have been called first, by Jesus. He has taken the first steps toward us, we are invited to reply to His voice. Are you? That response is not a once in a lifetime experience, we are invited each day to encounter Jesus and act in accordance to His call. The nuanced direction of the Church reminds us to identify the poor (not always materially poor) among us and discover the face of Jesus among them. Are you? In other words, we are to continually seek out ways in which we can be of service to one another; not just Catholics. Consider the relatives, neighbors, strangers, children who have been neglected by their loved ones. Our attention to them, even if seemingly insignificant, can go a long way in helping them discover the presence of God in their lives.
To describe our sense of Church in another way, the Cardinals suggest that we are to become Catholics of action. We have allowed ourselves to become passive, often looking for the next way that the Church, or its leadership or members, are going to offend us through words, policies or actions. That passive posture places us in a mentality where we are looking for the next negative thing. Sometimes that is who we are as Catholics. Being Catholics of action means that we intentionally pray, alone and in community. By our choices to have encounters with Jesus, we are taking an active role in responding to Him; seeking His presence in our lives. By taking action, we will become more alert to His voice. By looking for Him, we will become more of what Church has always been, finding the lost and bringing them to Jesus.
Each of us has been given the gift of Jesus at our Baptism, and hopefully countless encounters with Him throughout our lives. Knowing the Lord will continue to inspire us to deepen our response to Him, and in turn deepen our relationship with Him. His desire is that we always draw near, His desire is that we are continually looking for His presence. In our choice to respond to His voice, we depart from who we are and become who we are not. And so we journey with Him, together, to be Church among us through our witness to Him in our daily lives. ice, we depart from who we are and become who we are not. And so we journey with Him, together, to be Church among us through ouBACK TO LIST