Tuesday, October 27, 2009


When I see a Roman collar (or a habit) I feel a sense of security. Not just because I am a priest, but always have. When a crowd is panned on T.V. or in a movie I have a good feeling if I see a wimple or a white square at the neck. But it is not like that for everybody.

I had the pleasure of having breakfast with a fine gentleman who happens to be a Protestant minister who is seriously thinking about become Catholic (please pray for him.) Apparently one of his charisms is befriending people who have fallen away from practicing their Christianity and gently bringing them back into God’s house. We talked a bit about fallen away Catholics and what might be done to bring them back into the Church.

He said that usually such persons have been hurt in some way. They have allowed the personality of a priest or some other Church personality or practice to get in between them and the Eucharist. I suppose this is not so unusual. There are over 4,000 people here at St. Sebastian it is hard to believe that somebody or even some persons will not have a personality clash with the 2 priests or 5 staff members of the parish or catch them on the wrong day or . . . But in any event, it many times cannot be the priest then that brings them back to the sacraments even if it is not the priest that was the cause of their leaving. “For some people the collar is very symbolic and brings with it a whole bunch of baggage.” I bet it is the same thing being a parent. If someone else says something your kid will take it as Gospel even though you have been saying for years.

That is not to say that the collar is a bad thing. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I find that the collar has a very important role. But such a powerful symbol can also have a backlash. It can be associated in a negative way with a person who has had a poor experience of Church.

For all of these reasons it cannot be (nor should it be) the priest’s role to bring in all of the lapsed Catholics. (And it seems most programs are priest centered!) But it is the Church’s job. And of course who is the Church? You! A good number of parishioners have returned to Mass because somebody said, “Do you want to go to Mass with me?” Often times there is no need for theological debate, just a friendly invitation and an ear to listen. If there is need for theological debate and you feel you are in over your head just listen and promise to get back to the person if need be. You do not have to have all the answers when you are asked. And through investigation then you will know more too.

If you can get them back in the doors and feeling somewhat secure then introduce them to a priest that you know and trust (hopefully you have one) and help them come into a better relationship with the symbols of the Church.


Anonymous said...

It's encouraging to know that we parishioners/Christians/Catholics can actually be the spark that brings someone back.

Cracked Pot said...

I can understand leaving a PARTICULAR church due to hurt feelings but I cannot understand leaving the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church due to hurt feelings. Fortunately, there is usually another Catholic church within a reasonable distance around here, if I decide that I "don't like" someone at my parish.

Mikki said...

Love the "Welcome Home!" sign, and what perfect timing! I left the Church when I was 14 and officially returned 'home' last weekend after giving my first confession in a few decades. Without a doubt, the Holy Spirit brought me back.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine give me this message, on the road .....:
On existence
When faced with the uncountable and unspeakable violations of human rights in today’s world, when faced with the tediousness and scepticism of our society, we may be overcome by a sensation of insurmountable impotence.
Even today we find ourselves facing an enormous threat to life and true freedom, not only of individuals but of all of society: a threat that is increasingly real, immediate, and common.
And yet, this is the time when everyone is called upon to profess, with humility and courage, their own faith in Jesus Christ, “The Word of life “ (I Joh.l,l).
It is also the time for each man and woman to appeal to all the reason and to all the humanity and courage that each of us certainly possesses.
Each of us came into existence thanks to an act of unconditional love and acceptance by our father and our mother.
This acceptance came to pass by overcoming, even then, doubts, difficulties, and temporary economic or day-to-day troubles, through a positive energy, an instinctive generosity, a loyal act of sincere giving.
It was confirmed by the natural tendency, inherent in the flesh and soul of each one of us, to transmit life, our own life, to others.
It was the same judgement that was and is of the Father: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.,. . .And God saw every thing that he bad made, and, behold, it was very good “(Gen.,l.27; 1.31)
This spontaneous sentiment of the positivism of existence prevailed over real diffìculties and doubts, over fears and the prospects of sacrifice that a new and binding event causes.
It also prevailed over mental closures, over selfish calculations, over infantile and narcissistic suggestions, and over real and imaginary fears for the future.
A positive value judgement was given on the creation, on nature, on being, on the present and future, and even on the strenuous human adventure.
A new and truer idea of freedom was affìrmed.
The person who does as he wants and likes is not free, but he who binds himself in love and opens bis heart to another human being to generate life in him is truly free.
A.D. 2009

Warren said...

Is the title referring to the song by Audio Adrenaline?

I have a cover version of that song, on an album called Sacred Cows, by the Swirling Eddies.