July 31, 2009

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Get equipped at parishes to pass on the faith in your family, the world

Sean GallagherWe’re in that time of year when people do lots of home improvement projects both inside and outside their homes.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a very handy person. I don’t have much of a green thumb either. But recently my father and I planted some shrubs in front of my family’s house.

When I went to a nearby Lowe’s in the middle of a workday to buy items for the project, I was amazed by the number of people that filled its gardening section. As I waited in a fairly long checkout line and scanned the items they were buying, I imagined the landscaping work that these people were going to be doing.

It also lead me to think of one of the main purposes of our parishes.

We go to a Lowe’s or a Home Depot to buy supplies for projects that we want to do at home, with our neighbor or perhaps in a community initiative such as Habitat for Humanity. We don’t buy lumber for a deck then build the deck at the store. That would be silly.

In the same way, we go to our parishes to get equipped to live out our faith somewhere else: in our homes, across the back fence when chatting with our neighbors, at our workplace and in the community at large.

For those of us who are married and those of us who are parents, our life at home with our family is our main focus. Our life in our parishes should help us pass on our faith to our children and other loved ones more and more consciously.

In my experience, I’ve heard a lot of people, when they’re asked how they live out their faith, talk about roles they’ve taken on in their parish. Some of them serve as an usher. Others take pride in being a catechist or singing in a Mass choir.

Now let me be up front. Having served as the director of religious education for three and a half years at St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville, I know how important the volunteer service is that dedicated Catholics give to help hand on the faith to the next generation or to make our parishes more welcoming to newcomers or to enhance the beauty of worship through their artistry.

But if that is as far as our life of faith goes, we’re keeping it far too small for the plans that our Lord has laid out for us. He wants us to expand the horizons of our lives of faith to include all of creation, but especially our families, just as he said to his disciples shortly before he ascended to heaven: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth” (Acts 1:8).

Now, truth be told, I suspect that a lot of those good folks who give of themselves in their parishes do the same with their families, co-workers, friends and even people they’ve never met before.

But are we doing these acts of service outside of our parishes conscious of the fact that they are direct expressions of those Gospel values we are called to embody every moment of our lives?

The more that we live out our faith with a greater consciousness every day, the more that we will show forth the power of the Holy Spirit in ordinary, loving ways and the more that we will truly be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of that corner of the Earth where our Lord has placed us.

So when you go to Mass this weekend, just think of it as the place where you will be equipped to do the great projects that Christ has in mind for you. To slightly change The Home Depot’s slogan: “You can do it. He can help.” †

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