I’ve been in Chicago, since Monday (flying in from Tampa), hence the lack of blogging. In Chicago I was attending the International Catholic Stewardship Council’s annual conference. The theme of the conference this year linked Saint Paul, evangelization with the idea of stewardship. It was in a conversation with a pastor of a large church that a new insight hit me that was connected with the overall theme of the conference.
We were talking about marriage preparation and this pastor’s frustration with mandates from his diocese that certian topics be taught before marriage–of great interest to me, since I have oversight of this area in the diocese where I am. Listening to the pastor, who I would have little agreement with on the topic we were discussing–a revelation of sorts came to me: When we have the opportunity to win people back to Christ–whose faith isn’t the strongest, what do we present them with at that moment when they are coming to the church requesting a sacrament? Namely is it Christ or a list of demands?
I also recalled at the moment that when I was critiquing a marriage program being proposed for a southern diocese (not mine), a few years ago, that my major criticism of the program is how it squandered the opportunity to invite the couple preparing for marriage to a deeper relationship with Christ (or to even consider a relationship with Christ). This program was strong in communication skills, strong in financial planning, but when it came to the Faith it became very abstract–using churchy language and not communicating the essential nature of faith to the success of marriage.
People are always saying we should teach this or we should demand this, but one hardly hears as the essential teaching or demand the necessity of Christ. That as Jean Pierre De Cuasade said, “Without God everything is nothing, but with God nothing is everything,” if we believe this and I do, then we have to act like it when we are preparing a progam in Christ’s Church.
I visited St. Peter’s Church in Chicago around 1:00 on Monday, during a break in the conference. Over three hundred people were on their knees praying before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar. In this church there are confessions heard everyday from early in the morning to late in the day, Mass is said almost every hour from early in the morning to midday–what a blessing to have a place in the midst of the city where people can come to renew their relationship with Christ, continue thier initiation into his Body, the Church (an insight of Pope Benedict’s in his apostolic letter), and adore him! This is the source of all our efforts at evanglization and a great example of what being a good steward of the gifts that God has given to the church to share with all.