Are you comfortable in your Christian life? If so, then are you fulfilling what God Commands us to do through His Word as it says in Mathew, "Now someone approached him and said, "Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?"He answered him, "Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments...Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to (the) poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions." (Mathew Chapter 19:16-22). When was the last time you truly put yourself out in service of others? None of us should be comfortable with these questions because few of us fulfill what is the Mission of every Catholic. To make known our Faith with a burning but gentle zealousness. We do this not by merely 'preaching' empty words at people who's hearts are far from God or to those who have never known love. How can we preach kindness to the broken hearted or those who's hearts and stomachs are empty? As St Francis of Assisi puts it quite succinctly, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching." Is your heart filled with a burning desire to help the needy or is it a case of 'I'm ok who cares about the rest'?
During the time of the RCIA many Parishes eagerly anticipate new-comers who wish to learn and then become baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church the One True Church of which the Apostles speak. Many parishes also have RCIA team members and Sponsors to help and encourage those who are going through this learning process.
At first the Catechumens are welcomed and embraced as they journey together and learn about the depth and richness of the Catholic Faith and its Teachings. This is a special time for all concerned as the Catechumens reach out to the unknown with a willing heart and spirit, and they are encouraged by the RCIA team members who with real warmth and compassion share their faith with love and a spirit of community.
Come Easter and these Catechumens are joyfully baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church. Then suddenly the meetings stop, the fuzzy warmness disappears as a chill enters the heart. What had happened to community spirit? Many new Catholics soon find themselves sitting in pews on their own as friends and family members remain ensconced within their own safe environment. In many cases is it that the RCIA members have done their duty and now the new Catholics are on their own, literally?
If you are thinking that this does not resemble your parish community then ask yourself how many RCIA members still attend Mass? Or have they left and no-one missed their absence?
Are some of these empty pews due to the fact that in many parishes there are no community projects, no community prayer groups or Bible studies? When God first touches a heart He fills that heart with an unquenchable longing for meaning and a thirst to grow closer to this unknown God who's depths man cannot pierce. So the new Catholic ventures forth to fulfill this unquenchable thirst only to find that many Catholics merely want to 'go through the motions'.
Perhaps it is a case that many Catholics can learn from the newer members of their parish who's love is still fresh. Yet do the Priests and parishioners listen or are they content with the status quo? Have many Catholic parishes turned into a community clubs which has very little to do with Reverent Worship and more like catching up with old friends? Is it a case that many within Catholic parishes treat their faith as if it were a members only elitist club which only the few can join. As St. Anthony of Padua wrote, "Consider every day that you are then for the first time--as it were--beginning; and always act with the same fervor as on the first day you began." Is your faith still a burning passion or a burnt out flame which does not wished to be roused from its slumber? Once again it states in Mathew, "What you do to the least of my brothers, that you do to me" (Mt 25,40). Also the wise words of St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga reminds the faithful, "As I leave to return to God, my Father, permit me to confide to you one last desire: that you strive to create a climate of true love and respect for the poor because the poor man is Christ." Often it is a case that those who join our Catholic parishes though not monetarily poor are in need of companionship and acceptance by their fellow Catholics, do they receive this though? Or is the party over.
Next time when you attend Mass look for former RCIA catechumens and see how many still attend Mass. If there are none then how was their absence not noticed? God has noticed, were you blind or simply too busy?
Souls are precious to God they should be equally precious to each of us who have the fullness of Truth.
The challenge is what will you do about those empty pews?
Peace of Christ to you ALL
Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.