Today’s column is the fifth of a six-part series about belonging and engagement as individuals and as a parish. The previous columns have revolved around the primacy and importance of the individual’s sense of and belonging to a community of faith. It was not a discussion about membership, but rather a discussion centered on core, intrinsic dispositions and behaviors of the Christian person. It is “belonging” that is the catalyst that leads to spiritual commitment of the individual. People became spiritually committed because they were part of a spiritually healthy, engaged parish.
How can you tell if a parish is spiritually healthy – an engaged parish? Its parishioners express a fuller satisfaction in life, invite other to join them in worship, give generously of their time serving inside and outside the parish, and make giving to their community of faith a priority. The parish is “good soil,” a place where roots can sink in and blossoms spring forth. One has to ask this of our parish: “Are we a good soil Church? Are we an Engaged Parish?”
When I have asked people these questions, the first response is that Sacred Heart is so welcoming. Perhaps that is like preparing the ground for planting. It’s absolutely necessary, but good soil needs water, weeding, sunshine, nutrients, and a little “green thumb.” I wonder about other necessary ingredients.
People also talk about how available and approachable the friars are; “They’re on the sidewalks after every Mass and you can just go up and talk to them!” I get to talk to lots of people in the parish and I have to tell you there are some pretty amazing people who worship here – you should talk to them! Are we the kind of church that people find a place to make a new best friend at Sacred Heart? Are we the kind of church where everyone is approachable, welcoming, and has the attitude “I am about to meet a new friend?”
When people have that sense of belonging, of being at home, the question of “What can I do?” is not far behind. Most often it is asked as “What do you need me to do?” We can always answer that question out of some task we need accomplished. But I think a better response would be: “If money and time were no object, what would you want to do for God?” That is a question which asks each of us to reflect on the gifts and talents that God has already given us. When each of us has an answer to that question, then Mark Twain’s comment has a real richness: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” A truly good soil, engaged parish is a place which encourages, supports, and celebrates the “important” day to which Twain refers.
Previous articles in the series: