St Francis Q&A

Friday, April 27, 2007

An "ATM of Grace"?

1) Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All are welcome!

2) Blogger party: next Saturday, May 5, 6-8 pm, all purpose room. Please reply under my post from yesterday, "Blogger party!", if you will attend and what you will bring.
“Ginger” made the following comments about faith a little while ago:

“(Faith is) knowing that you can handle your spiritual progress on your own. For a while I thought I needed a spiritual director but all I ‘really’ needed was the confidence of handling my faith independently and I do have that confidence now. :0)…I would rather do it on my own than have the religious whether be it priests, nuns etc feel that they are pushed by someone else to help certain people. No one is happy that way…When I say on my own I mean I will still go to Mass and get the sacraments.”

Ginger, I appreciate your candid comments, but I do have to say they are not consistent with Christian spirituality and doctrine. While each of us is on an individual journey of faith, we live out our faith in community. Faith is a shared experience. Christ brought people together. He didn’t worship the Father by himself; he gathered people together either to teach the Scriptures or gather them around a table to celebrate the Eucharist. Christ taught us to pray “Our Father” and not “My Father”. Your last sentence does convey your appreciation of the communal aspect of our faith, and that you can’t do it all on your own.

Regarding the idea that “you can handle your spiritual progress on your own”, I would advise some caution there. First, whenever we do things on our own, we run the risk of being wrong in our discernment of God’s Will. For example, a mother of five young children really feels God calling her to attend daily Mass each morning. She feels a great attraction to the Eucharist, and knows that the Mass is the greatest prayer. She thinks how could God not call her to receive the Eucharist daily? Well, her parish only offers one Mass in the morning, and it’s while her kids and husband are busy getting ready for school and work. If she pursued this, she would be neglecting her primary vocation as wife and mother. If she has a spiritual director, he/she would remind her what St. Francis de Sales taught: God doesn’t call us to practice devotions that take us away from our primary vocations (marriage, e.g.).

Second, there is a bigger point here that has to do with the Church. If God wanted us all to walk the journey of faith individually, why did he establish the Church in the first place? The Church is not just a dispenser of the sacraments; she is not an “ATM of Grace”. For example, if I go to the Church just to receive the Eucharist on Sunday and have no other involvement with the Church the rest of the week, then I defeat the whole point of the Eucharist. The Church is God’s family of believers who experience faith, prayer, the sacraments, healing, joy, sadness, and love together. Christ formed the Church so that we would experience His Kingdom together, not merely as a group of individuals. Everything we have ever learned or experienced about Christ is because of the Church, because of what others in the Church have taught us.

Finally, Christ established the priesthood so that he could continue to offer his ministry of grace, healing, counsel, and forgiveness. Christ is the minister at every Mass, he is the minister in every Confession…it is Christ acting in the person of the priest. While it is not on the same level as the sacraments, spiritual direction and counsel is an experience whereby God often speaks through his priest. It is one of the main components of any faithful priest’s life. A priest, like Christ, is called to serve. He is called to be there for his people, listen to their problems, and offer appropriate, wise, Christ-centered advice. How many times was Christ “pushed by someone else to help certain people”? It was many times, and they all led to experiences of happiness for those involved. That is my model as a priest, and I want to offer similar experiences of happiness for you and for all those who are in need at St. Andrew’s.


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