October 2, 2009

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Mission of our archdiocese is to proclaim Christ our hope

A lot is said and heard and promised about hope these days. It is no surprise that it is a growing quest in our culture.

For weeks, my column focused on the supernatural virtue of hope as distinguished from natural hope, based on the Holy Father’s encyclical “Spe Salvi” (“Saved by Hope”).

I need to confess that my friend, Daniel Conway, carried the load in helping me get the digest of the pope’s complex letter to print. I am grateful.

The reason that I wanted to focus our attention on authentic hope is simple. If Christ is not the source and reason for our hope, in the end, promises and efforts to share hope are short-lived, if not futile.

It should be said that the mission of our archdiocese is to proclaim Christ our hope. How do we do that?

We share a threefold task, a threefold responsibility to accomplish our mission. We are to: 1) proclaim the word of God; 2) celebrate the sacraments of the Church; and 3) exercise the ministry of charity.

This threefold responsibility encapsulates the shared mission in our local Church.

In his first encyclical, “God is Love” (“Deus Caritas Est”), Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her threefold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity.”

All of us participate. At first glance, it might seem like the responsibility belongs to priests and other pastoral leaders. And it certainly does, but it is not theirs alone.

All of us who are baptized have a part in proclaiming God’s word. We participate in the celebration of the sacraments. And we help carry on the ministry of charity at many levels.

Priests and deacons are ordained to preach the Gospel, and it is their responsibility to pray the Gospel, to proclaim it in word and in deed.

All the baptized also are to reflect on the word of God and to live as Jesus taught us to live. We all have a role in evangelization, bringing the Gospel to everyday life.

Participation in the celebration of the sacraments is the source of the graces we need in order to experience the hope that is Christ, and in order to share that hope as pilgrims on the way to the House of the Father.

The ministry of charity is the fruit of our being empowered by God’s word and the grace of the sacraments, especially the holy Eucharist. Our sacramental life is not complete if it is does not move us to love others in our homes, our neighborhoods and the larger social community.

There are particular ways and means in which we share the threefold tasks of our mission as Catholics. Our responsibilities extend beyond our family homes and beyond the boundaries of our local parishes.

We share God’s word, especially by the way we live, in our interactions with those we do not know as well as with our friends and neighbors.

For example, we live with a concern to pray and work alongside folks of other cultures. All of us together are under the blessing of God’s word. Our multicultural family was so visible at the celebration of our 175th anniversary, truly an experience of Christ our hope at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis last May.

A major task of evangelization is catechesis, teaching our Catholic faith in a way that touches our hearts as well as our minds so that we are inspired to participate in the sacraments and to serve in our shared ministry of charity.

Our parishes provide programs of catechesis to help us in faith. Our youth and young adult ministry programs are vital. Our Catholic schools are treasured sources of evangelization and catechesis. Our new initiatives for ministry on college campuses already touch the hearts of students.

Of course, providing ministry into the future is an important preoccupation that all of us share. Vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life are a special focus of priority.

Fostering a culture of vocation as an apostolate is not only the obligation of priests and religious. Our responsibility is shared and very much impacts the future of our threefold Catholic mission in the archdiocese. Pray for our dedicated, solid seminarians. Affirm them. Our Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary deserves our enthusiastic support.

We have an admirable body of priests who serve valiantly. They work hard to proclaim the word of God, celebrate the sacraments and foster charity for our folks in need.

The “Year of the Priest” encourages us to pray for them in a special way. It moves us to affirm them, and to understand the beauty and the gift that their lives are for God and for us. They mirror Christ our hope. They live compassion in our community. †

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