Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reaping What Others Sowed: I Like It

Sometimes when I would walk around the church of my former parish, I would think how awesome it must have been to be the pastor who built that church.  It is a magnificent and beautiful structure.  He and his parishioners built something that generations later still causes awe. To their credit, the priests who were there over the years never did any real damage to the original building.  Sure, there were some innovations during the 1970's, but none of them destroyed the beauty of that church.  The other thing that was obvious from being pastor there was that the people of that parish had been well-served over the course of time.  They were a devout people and a faithful people.

Sometimes, it is obvious when you walk into a Catholic community that the community has suffered a long time from poor liturgical practice, weak formation, and unsound doctrine.  The results are abundantly evident in all aspects of the community's life.  And, making changes can require a herculean  effort.

A few months ago, I began work at the Newman House at Boston University.  All of the time, I find myself filled with gratitude for the people who have shaped this place for the past decade or so.  The evidence of their hard work is visible everywhere.  The young people who populate the Newman House, first of all, know how to pray.  I am always moved to hear them begin or end a meeting with a very beautiful and personalized prayer.  It is clear when one of them prays aloud that he or she is somebody who is experienced in prayer.  This is just so beautiful.  The only way that the young people there know how to pray is because the Newman House has a culture of prayer.  Over the course of time, people there learned how to pray and then taught others by their example.

They are devoted to the Mass and to the Sacraments.  When you are at Mass with these young people, you know that they believe.  Again, this is because over the course of time, they have been educated and formed in the sacramental life of the Church.  There is a sacramental culture.

They not only pray together, but they sing together, read the scriptures together, and discuss the Faith with each other.  They live a friendship together.  This friendship is rooted in Christ and is clearly the work of good formation.  It is all very beautiful.

Not only are these young people the recipients of what was previously built up at the Newman Center, but they are also the beneficiaries of strong Catholic upbringings in their families and in their home parishes.  Our goal, of course, at the Newman House is to draw in EVERYBODY to life in Christ and His Church.  But, not everyone who comes to the Newman House is new to the Catholic life.  Many of these young people have already received strong formation from their parents and from their parish priests and youth ministers.

Sometimes in the life of the Church, a priest arrives to find a mess and has to set about cleaning it up.  And, truth to be told, we priests like to tell war stories.  We like to be the guy who saved it all.  But, this time around, I showed up at a place where I have to be grateful for the spiritual leadership that preceded me.  Any priest who walked into this place could clearly tell that good spiritual formation has deep roots here.

Sure, there are probably things that I will change along the way and things that I might do differently.  But, those are all small things.  In a place where Catholic Faith is weak, the small things become major things.  In a place where Catholic Faith is strong, the small things take care of themselves over time.

So, what's the real point of this rambling blogpost?  The real point is that sometimes, we plant and another reaps.  But, right now, I'm reaping where others have planted.  What makes this place so extraordinary?  In so many ways, what makes this place so strong is that many others have worked hard over the years.  Someone took the time to teach people how to pray.  Someone took time to teach people the importance of confession.  Someone took time to witness to Christ.  Someone exemplified true friendship.

These "someones" were priests and religious (both at the Newman House and in the home parishes of the students here), parents, fellow students, interns, and FOCUS Missionaries.  All of these people worked hard and built something over the course of time.  Now, I show up and am grateful that these people all took seriously their mission.  Because they lived the mission that God had given to them, I get to witness something very beautiful.

If we are faithful to what Christ entrusts to us, we have to trust that He will use it to create an abundant harvest.  To all who are faithful workers, I'm grateful to you.  I'm the recipient of your labors.  And, for those who might feel overwhelmed by your mission or dissatisfied by your mission, I just want to encourage you.  Doing what Jesus asks, bears fruit.  I'm surrounded by a great harvest that grew through the dedication and fidelity of others.

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