A Note to Parish Mystics
"But we who have received the grace of believing in Christ, the revealer of the Father and the Saviour of the world, have a duty to show to what depths the relationship with Christ can lead." --Blessed John Paul II, NMI, 33
Life After Sunday is a catechetical resource for parish and small group community life. It is not an elaborate new program, but a simple way of drawing closer to the person of Jesus.
“In Jesus Christ, God himself was made man and allowed us, so to speak, to cast a glance at the intimacy of God himself,” teaches Pope Benedict XVI. “And there we see something totally unexpected: in God, an ‘I’ and a ‘You’ exist. The mysterious God is not infinite loneliness, he is an event of love” (Pentecost 2006).
This extraordinary “event of love” for each one personally is the event that men and women are called to experience in the life of the local Church, most specifically in the parish.
In close friendship, we discover the love of another for us personally, even with all of our faults and difficulties. When this intimacy happens through Christ in the Church, parish community life becomes more than an isolated obligation, service or volunteer opportunity. It becomes a place to experience and receive Divine Love. It becomes the experience of the fullness of human life caught up into the Mystery of God through the gift of the life and love of Jesus Christ.
But is it really possible to experience the WONDER of this life here and now?
"A Long-Term Crisis in the Parish"
While in Boston attending the installation of Archbishop Sean O’Malley, Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, then president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, sat with a reporter for The Pilot to talk about the crisis in the Church. “Many of the problems that we are experiencing in the priesthood, I think, especially the sexual abuse, are due to a crisis, not just an acute crisis, but a long-term crisis in the parish and in the community of the parishes that is lived out. Part of it is rooted in the fact that people do not really experience love within the parish; it is a place in which they really do not trust one another enough to be able to experience the forgiving love of Jesus as that is mediated by the community” [emphasis ours].
We believe the Cardinal has articulated well the most pressing need for the "New Evangelization" in America today. In many parishes, relationships among parishioners can be casually indifferent in a way that often does not communicate Christ’s passionate, merciful love for each person “in the flesh.” As a result, the personal experience of God’s love can appear as distant as the impersonal contact with a fellow parishioner; faith in the Presence of Christ can become increasingly difficult to recognize in the breaking of the bread, in the Word and in the faces of the people in the pews or on parish committees. In the meantime, many Catholics attend Mass on Sunday, but then live the rest of the week without the mystery of the intimate Presence they have just received, a Presence who longs to permeate their lives every day. While many Sunday Catholics make an earnest attempt to live their faith, they still experience the faraway God of isolated Christians in the popular culture.
Longing for His Intimate Presence
In 1971, singer Marvin Gay voiced the weary resignation of many believers today:
“Jesus left a long time ago/ said he would return. He left us a book to believe in/ In it, we got a lot to learn.”
(Marvin Gay, “Wholy Holy”)
When Jesus is experienced only as One who “left a long time ago,” when parish leaders organize and plan as if they are on their own with only “a book to believe in” and “a lot to learn,” they may worry that everything is principally up to them. Failing to recognize and live the mystery of Christ’s living Presence in their midst, some parish leaders now fall back on calculating practices of the secular culture to “build community.” Some parish councils rely entirely on corporate models for planning, organization, communications, leadership skills and team-building. Even models of catechesis are often based on “values education” and psychological methods, rather than the real encounter with the Person who lives at the center of all existence. While many pastoral initiatives are well-meaning, there can be little friendship or fruitfulness among the persons the Lord has gathered unless there is first a foundational appreciation for his love…for his movement…for his mystery in the most intimate aspects of their lives. In the midst of the very real work of parish life, Christ calls parishioners to shed their dependence upon secular practices alone and retrieve a real sacramental view of human life as his Body, lived through, with and in HIM in union with his Spirit of Love for the Father.
Exploring His "Intimate Path"
Inspired by the words and witness of Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, Life After Sunday seeks to help parishioners see that intimacy with Jesus Christ is the key to the discovery of the truth and destiny of each human person. This intimacy begins with recognizing his living Presence in the heart of the parish. Have your fellow parishioners ever experienced the WONDER of his love for them? Have they been inspired to pay ATTENTION to his movement? Do they TRUST him with their lives? When parishioners have a personal encounter with “the forgiving love of Jesus”...when they are able to "cast a glance" at the intimate offering of his flesh and blood for them...when they are brought into his “event of Love” with the Father and the Holy Spirit as a member of his Body in parish life...then they truly begin to live Life After Sunday.
A Tool for Parish Mystics
The witness of the mystics has inspired a revitalization of the Church in every age. In fact, Christ's universal call to holiness articulated at Vatican II invites every Christian to participate in this great mystery. Life After Sunday's Intimate Path catechesis can help make this experience tangible in parish life. Following the classical path and spiritual life of the saints, the Intimate Path can help you and your parish friends travel along Christ's timeless "Way" of authentic friendship. Are you in the same Purification, Illuminative or Unitive Stage that has been lived by those who have loved Christ for centuries? How will you discern? Will you help fellow parishioners see where they stand with Christ and their friends today? And then will you help them go further?
The Intimate Path can be a tool for the simplest conversation between two parish friends...for discussion among established small group communities...for days of recollection, personal retreats, stewardship and sacramental formation sessions...for simple accessible spiritual direction in a wandering secular age.
The Intimate Path resources speak through the power of technology, including web videos, Catechism and Scripture quotes and discussion questions that can help move parishioners along the Intimate Path of Love created for all humanity. Twenty-six timeless discussion topics and a variety of small group packages in dowloadable newsletter format can further enrich the spiritual discernment of you and your parish friends.
We hope that these Life After Sunday resources can help you have a more passionate experience of Christ's love lived everyday in the local Church. This is why we have created the Intimate Path and made it free on the world wide web, with a growing appreciation for the essential bond between the parish, diocese and the Universal Church.
He is Here
With the great French poet Charles Peguy, we marvel at the intimacy to which each of us is called:
He is here.
He is here as on the first day.
He is here among us as on the day of his death.
He is here forever among us just as much as on the first day.
For every day.
He is here among us all the days of his eternity.
His body, that same body of his, hangs on the same cross;
His eyes, those same eyes of his, quiver with the same tears;
His blood, the same blood of his, bleeds from the same wounds;
His heart, that same heart of his, bleeds with the same love.
The same sacrifice causes the same blood to flow.
A parish shone with an everlasting brightness, but all the parishes shine eternally, for in all the parishes there is the body of Jesus Christ.
The same sacrifice crucifies the same body, the same sacrifice causes the same blood to flow.
The same sacrifice offers up the same flesh, the same sacrifice sheds the same blood.
The same sacrifice sacrifices the same flesh and the same blood.
It is the same story, exactly the same, eternally the same, which happened in that time and in that country and which happens on all days in all days of all eternity.
In all the parishes in all Christendom.
— Excerpted from "The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc" by Charles Péguy
Your parish is called to "shine eternally" with an "everlasting brightness" in the neighborhood and community where it has been placed. Help your fellow parishioners to see what you see within the Intimate Path of life with Christ and begin the authentic work of the New Evangelization today!
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