Thursday, April 28, 2016

What's A Ten Letter Word For Growing the Church?

It happens the same way all the time. It mightn't seem like much in the beginning. Maybe a meal or some friendly banter. Maybe some Frisbee or a beer. Maybe it's a cup of coffee or a Holy Hour.  This year at the BU Catholic Center, somehow it became the Crossword Puzzle.  At first, it began with two or three of us doing the Wall Street Journal Crossword together.  Nothing official. Not a program. Just a friendly distraction.  Gradually, one copy of the puzzle wasn't enough. Two copies were made.  People looking over shoulders, shouting out answers. People agonizing over an "eight letter word that is blank, blank, L, O, blank, blank, S" or whatever. Each person contributing some particular area of knowledge. Everyone participates in some way, even if some people participate only by mocking those of us who are totally invested in the puzzle. Is it a waste of time? Couldn't we be doing something more productive?  

I'm sure that there are any number of ways to build up a Catholic Community. I don't mean to disparage any of them. I only want to speak from my experience. For me, what seems to work best is friendship. It's slow. It's deliberate. It isn't plotted, planned, or orchestrated. It's human. And, when it is lived within the context of the Church, it is far superior to any natural friendship. Throughout the Easter Season, the Church has been reading through the Acts of the Apostles.  It is clear that the early Church was a friendship whereby the community of disciples was of one mind and one heart. They were living something new together, something transformative, and something supernatural. They were experiencing the love of God in and through the communion of the Church.

What happened in the early Church continues to be present in the life of the Church. I experience it at the BU Catholic Center on a daily basis.  How does it happen? Is it complicated? Is it the result of a strategic plan? Is it the result of a manual?  No. Certainly plans and programs can flow from it. But, plans and programs cannot start it.  It begins in friendship, is sustained in friendship, and grows through friendship.  What do I see on a daily basis?

People meet each other for meals. People meet on a weekly basis in discipleship to help each other grow in their following of Christ and in their evangelization efforts. People attend bible studies together and go to the movies together. We pray Holy Hours, the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Rosary together. People encourage one another to receive the Sacraments frequently and pray together. People come to spiritual direction. People do Crossword Puzzles together, penances together, serve the homeless together, reach out to other students on campus, play sports together, and encourage one another.  Our life together is marked by a lot of laughter and by a profound recognition that Christ is in our midst and doing something tremendous among us. When a Catholic community becomes a place of profound charity and friendship, it necessarily longs to invite others to share in its joy.

I've got to admit, it is a bit maddening because it's not something you can package and sell as a program to other parishes. It's not something we create. It's something that is totally dependent upon Christ and the Holy Spirit. It depends on our willingness to cooperate and to love one another. It depends upon our placing our human capacities into the hands of Christ and allowing him to transform them by his grace.  It requires that we follow. When it happens, you know it. You know it because you feel as though you are living inside the Acts of the Apostles. You experience communion, charity, concern for the poor, a rich prayer life, growth in virtue, increased devotion to the Eucharist, devotion to the Sacrament of Penance, evangelization, joy, and peace.

What's a ten letter word for growing the Church? Friendship.

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