Active Members Equal a Healthy Church
May 20, 2016
Pope Francis expresses a great concern over clericalism. His experience of it in Latin America convinced him that is was the reason that the Church has been in a death spin in that part of the world. Although almost 90% of South American countries populations would call themselves Catholics, very few actually actively practice their faith. Churches are empty on Sundays; however, at the same time, popular devotions are on the upswing. The Pope embraces these popular devotions because they are lead by ordinary people, not the clergy. He has said on numerous occasions that too often a lay person would step up to do some good work and right away the priests would say that person should become either a priest or a nun. The clergy and laity had relegated the work of the Church to those who had some "offical" standing in the Church. They had forgotten that everyone in the Church has a mission to work for the body of Christ (which is the Church).
In our need for more priests to fill the sacramental needs of our local Church, it can be tempting to see a young person who is involved in the good works of the Church and think that they should become a priest or a nun. We should instead be grateful that they are taking up the work of the Church in whatever capacity they have. What I love about being at St. Joseph's is seeing the wide variety of faithful actually living out their baptismal call by serving in so many different capacities throughout the community. I recently visited our local food shelf where I was met by a team of St. Joseph parishioners who volunteer once a month to staff an evening session for those who are in need of food. I discovered that it was a St. Joseph parishioner who is the executive director of the food shelf. I see teams of parishioners who deliver meals on wheels and others who roast turkeys as they prepare to feed the hungry at Sharing and Caring Hands. Other parishioners are actively involved in a shelter for homeless youth. I think I have already commented on those who go to Lino Lakes prison each week and others who are helping in outreach to the White Earth Indian reservation. In all of this I am still mission mention of other occasions in which St. Joseph parishioners minister both internally (the funeral lunch people, the Joe's diner people, the office volunteers etc.) and externally.
This is what a healthy church is: its members actively engaging in helping to relieve the suffering of other human beings, no matter who they are; its members seeking to improve the community they live in; its members making Jesus real through their actions. I suspect most of you who are actively engaged in these activities don't spend a lot of time thinking about how you are making Jesus know and loved, but in this moment of reflection I just want to affirm your work as being truly the work of the Church. For those of you who like coming to church on the weekend but would rather cut the grass during the weekday you might want to reflect on stepping up in some of these corporal works of mercy, it holds the possibility of activating your faith in a deeper degree than you thought possible. Although God is capable of all things, I find myself wondering in a very humble way: What would God do without us? He had created each of us uniquely that we may add our gifts and talents together to make him real in this space and time.
As far as Pope Francis is concerned this is what Church is: a balance of clergy providing sacramental support and laity reaching beyond the doors of the Church to be the heart, hands, feet and body of Jesus to the community we live in.