Monday, June 13, 2016

Fathers as Missionaries of Mercy

Fathers of families are

"the great adventurers
of the modern world."

+Charles Peguy

Merciful fathers have become so because they have been on the receiving end of the Father's mercy. They have dared to darken the door of a confessional--making the Sacrament of Mercy a regular resource in their spiritual tool boxes.

Merciful fathers know that they have been forgiven much, hence they show much love. They are patient because they have borne the weight of their own impatience; they are kind because they have seen the damage wrought by their own unkindness.

Merciful fathers have short memories because they know that the Father of Mercies does not hold a grudge. They strive to live in the flow of divine grace--receive; share; repeat--because they know that the ambivalent alternative is not a neutral path, but is a dangerous meandering on the wide road of destruction.

Whether or not the Father's love was reflected through their own earthly fathers as perfectly as they would have liked, today's merciful fathers have allowed themselves to be reformed by the steady hand of the Wounded Healer. They have even grown to look upon their own fathers with the face of mercy.

Merciful fathers know what it is like to be carried safely home on the shoulder of a friend or a brother--be it physically or spiritually, literally or metaphorically.  Therefore, they are more than happy to lift up those they meet. Especially those the world deems "undeserving" or "unfit" or "unwanted."

As the modern world's great adventurers, fathers of families dare to share, not hoard, a love of life. They choose to radiate, not restrict, authentic compassion.  They decide to live each day more for others than for self.

It's the least they can do, in response to the Father whom they have not yet seen face to face, but who has claimed them as sons forever.


P.S.  For a refresher on resources and suggestions for finishing the Jubilee Year of Mercy on a strong note, check out this array of ideas from the USCCB.

Monday, June 6, 2016

RENEWing Parish Life

Renew International's Process for Pastoral Planning

Given the challenges of the day, wouldn't it be great if there were a turn-key process to help infuse new life into your parish? Or, how about a practical program for making Pope Francis' call for a pastoral and missionary conversion of the Church come to life?

Inspired by The Joy of the Gospel, Renew International has prepared just such a resource.  Its core planning process for pastors and parish leaders includes video learning modules and guides on the following themes:
  • Sunday Matters: To the extent that people are still connected to the Church, then Sunday is clearly the best day to connect with them. Wouldn't it be nice to help parish leaders as they look for ways to reinvigorate outreach opportunities on Sunday?
  • Welcome Matters: Let's face it, we all know what "unwelcome" looks and feels like--and no one likes it. Since the world already delivering more than enough incivility and indifference, how about if our parishes were known for flipping the script?
  • Belonging Matters: Many commentators have noted that the old model for parish life was "Behave-Believe-Belong"; that is, if we acted like Christians, it would strengthen our faith and would result in us understanding to Whom we belonged (both personally and communally). Today, the post-modern approach is "Belong-Believe-Behave": that is, most people seek first a sense of belonging, and then their commitment to the Christian faith and way of life flow out from this experience. Given that Christians specialize in the communal life, isn't it time we find new ways to share this experience in a world that is so un-grounded and up-rooted?
  • Witness Matters: Nothing is more powerful than personal testimony about how the Lord has been active and present in the real details of a person's life; God is no abstraction, and the Resurrection is no mere symbol.  Wouldn't it be nice if we grew more comfortable about sharing our experience of his Presence and the "irresistible force" of the Resurrection (Pope Francis, EG, n. 276)?!
  • Mission Matters: For those of us who might be a bit "churchy" and/or fairly comfortable with our faith life, it is time to "go forth" from our comfort zones. After all, the Church exists not to provide contentment to those who happen to show up, but to nudge the core out the door.  Wouldn't it be great if the world was once again drawn to the light of the Gospel by the mighty works of mercy wrought by her members?