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A group blog devoted to the baptismal call, spirituality, gifts, vocations, ministry, work, history, theology, evangelization, formation, bad jokes, and pastoral support of lay Christians seeking to live their faith in the 21st century.

Sponsored by the Catherine of Siena Institute --- www.siena.org.



Personal, Passionate Relationships PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 16 January 2007 07:40

Written by Bernadette

Bless me sisters and brothers for I have procrastinated. When Sherry asked me to participate in this blog I was excited. Then I realized that I don't have a writing charism so the task of putting words to the page would not be easy. Yet, here I am, giving it a shot. I am doing so now because of an article I read while waiting to get my hair done yesterday.

The article was in a Christian magazine. The editor was eulogizing a friend of his. The friend was obviously a man of God who had had a troubled past, battling alcoholism. The editor wrote, "my friend was raised Catholic, but he came to Christ, went to AA and became a minister and started a church. He ministered to people in need. He and his wife went to nursing homes each Sunday. He preached, she sang and their children played with the residents. They brought much joy into their lives."

I have to admit that I threw the magazine away angrily after reading that "he came to Christ." Catholics are Christians too I thought.

I am a cradle Catholic, the child of parents who converted to Catholicism in their 20's. I say that I have a mutt faith background. My mother's father was a Baptist minister, my father comes from a long line of Pentecostal ministers as well. I have every denomination in my family that there is. Although I was baptized at 1 month old, attended Catholic schools and went to Mass every Sunday, I found my faith in Christ in the Pentecostal Church.

It's kind of difficult to remain angry at a statement when it's been your experience too.

After reading the magazine article, the NYT articles on the Ark of Salvation church and Pentecostalism and the various posts here, it seems to me that the critical issues in determining whether one responds to Jesus and the Holy Spirit in a Catholic context or in a Evangelical or Pentecostal setting are (1) does the person have an encounter with the person of Jesus, as both human (someone who cares about what's happening to them) and divine (someone who can do something about what is happening to them), and (2) do they encounter and develop a relationship with someone who they know is 100% human but operating with divine power, in the Spirit, with a charism operative.

I have had the pleasure of serving on my parish's RCIA team for the last 8 years. The key to people becoming intentional disciples in my experience has been the development of a personal relationship with Christ and with others who can bring Christ to them as well. Those who "stick with the Church" do so because there is at least one person who makes Christ present to them. I've seen so many people come to the Church looking for a personal encounter with Christ, only receive a referral to social services. Their need for food or shelter brings them, but what they seek is greater than what they are asking for on the surface.

Attending a Called and Gifted Workshop, a coworker of mine asked me how was it. My response was, "it changed my life." Becoming aware of the charisms and the role I can in bringing the kingdom into reality was life changing. I realized that I am equipped to make Christ's love present to another.

As I read more and more stories of people who have left the Church but not abandoned lives of faith, I see also the people around them who have a passion for souls, who are willing to develop the messy, personal relationships just like Jesus does. I know it happens in the Catholic Church. I've seen it done and have done so myself. The key for me was identifying my charisms and operating within them so that I can form relationships with the people I am called to make Christ present to.


 
Love in a Time of Prophecy PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 15 January 2007 08:44

Written by Keith Strohm

As we celebrate the memory Martin Luther King today, I think it is appropriate to reflect on his life and work. I spent the morning reading his Letter From Birmingham Jail. It is a powerful letter, a response to critics who thought that King's direct civil disobedience was the wrong way to go about gaining recognition of the Civil Rights of African Americans.

Among many prophetic statements, this one jumped out at me, and I ended up re-reading it like five times:

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century

There is an intentionality that we must bring to our lives as followers of Jesus Christ--a willingness to give of ourselves from the very core of our being, an openness to sacrifice. Without this sacrificial spirit, the Church will, indeed, become irrelevant. I will argue that, for many tens of millions of people in the United States, it is already irrelevant. And that number grows each day.

By abrogating our responsibility to form intentional disciples over the course of at least three generations and turning our back on the full spiritual patrimony of the Church (the sacraments and the gifts of the Spirit), we have become, by and large, ineffective. We are salt that has, indeed, lost its flavor.

Yes, the Church (and para-Church organizations) are active in aid to the poor, acts of charity. But that is only one half of the equation. How effective have we been in transforming the cultures and structures of our societies so that they foster all that is truly human? How effective have we been as radical witnesses of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

I would submit that many, if not most, members of the Church are followers of an obligation rather than a person, The Person, Jesus Christ. That isn't a slam on those individuals. The blame--the judgment (to use Martin Luther King's words)--falls upon us. As the apostle Paul wrote in his Letter to the Romans:

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him ofwhom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (10:13-15)

A time is coming when we, as followers of Christ, will not have the luxury to sit idly by with our denuded, culturally compromised Christianity. We must prepare ourselves so that, strengthened by the sacraments, nourished by the Word of God, and united in a common witness, we can embrace our cross as we live out our apostolic mission fully--no matter what the cost.

It. Must. Start. Now.

God has given the Church everything it needs to build generations of intentional disciples who can embrace their apostolic identity--and we are, indeed, our brothers' keepers.

In the words of another prophet, telling forth the Heart of Christ:

The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God's creation, says this: "I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16)

Which will it be?


 
Spiritual Disciplines - part 3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 15 January 2007 08:14
FASTING

I have to admit I hate to fast.

I blame my childhood hypoactive thyroid, which caused my weight to balloon and led my pediatrician to put me on a diet.
As a third-grader I thought it was a rather generous allotment of calories – 500 for just one day – until I realized four glasses of milk would take care of my daily caloric needs!

But I see a real value and need for it in my life today.
Contemporary society is filled with advertising: on buses, in newspapers, magazines, movies, TV, radio.
And it's all about generating desire in us.
The power of advertising is seen all around us.
New homes are more than twice as large as our parents' or grandparents' homes were – and they likely had more children!
There's a growing epidemic of obesity not only in our country, but now in China, too, which has begun to take on more of the trappings of capitalism (including advertising).
Some people literally killed to get the new Playstation that was released this fall.

The spiritual discipline of fasting retrains us away from dependence upon the satisfaction of our desires and makes the Kingdom of God a vital factor in our daily life.
Fasting is an application of the cross, which, in simplest terms, means not doing or getting what I want. If undertaken in the proper spirit, which is the desire to be more open to what God wants, it can create a space within me that actually hungers to do that will, instead of my own.

Our need for fasting can be seen in the amount of anger in our life.
Anger is often a response to the frustration of our will, sometimes simply in the frustration of our expectations.
It doesn't make much difference to a broken soul if what is willed is trivial, as the phenomenon of road rage demonstrates.

Fasting frees us from having to have what we want.
We can learn to be calm and serene even when we are deprived.
The Christian experience of fasting has shown that this calm in the face of deprivation will extend to beyond food to other areas of our life.
Like TV, sex, the need to control, to shop, to buy, to surf the net, (shudder) to blog…

Fasting can loosen the ties I have to doing my will and open me to the possibility of doing God's will.
Perhaps the ability of Jesus to fast allowed him to say, "Doing the will of him who sent me and bringing his work to completion is my food." (John 4:34)
 
Spiritual Disciplines - Part 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Sunday, 14 January 2007 14:08
SOLITUDE AND SILENCE

We are affected by the people around us.
St. Peter swore he would die for Jesus – it was a very honorable thing to say in the midst of the other disciples.
But we know that when the time came, he denied Jesus because of the hostile people around him.
In both cases, what he said and did was profoundly affected by the crowd around him.

We're no different.

We find ourselves gossiping with those who gossip, talking about our possessions with those who focus on material things, drinking or smoking around those who do the same. How many self-destructive or sinful things do we do because we tell ourselves, "everyone does this"? Prayer, Bible reading and church attendance alone may not be enough to focus our lives on Jesus and transform us into His image.

If so, you'd think the world would look a bit different. At least I think I'd look a bit different.

Perhaps the grace offered in those activities don't have the full effect in us that it might because we are so fragmented, exhausted and confused. In fact, our prayer, Bible reading and Mass can degenerate into lifeless rituals. Lengthy solitude, silence and rest, however, can allow them to have the power for good in our life that God intends. This is a real challenge for those who live in a society that values productivity. How many of us even truly observe the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. That commandment is not just about attending Mass, it's about rest, reflection, silence and prayer!

Every year I am required by my Order to make a retreat.
Every year it is a challenge to make the time to do this – and I'm a priest!
But even an annual retreat is not enough silence and solitude. We have to make time to incorporate these two traditional spiritual practices into our lives. I know it's a challenge for people with children; I know you're very busy – but our relationship with God here - and in eternity – is at stake, folks!

Real silence and solitude with the Lord is essential to keep our other spiritual practices effective. You probably know what it's like to try to talk to someone who's watching TV or playing a video game. At some point you give up because the competition seems to be winning. God, too, doesn't seem to compete for our attention. If we won't withdraw from the things that obsess and exhaust us, and retreat into silence and solitude, God will leave us to our own devices.

Spiritual disciplines take discipline!

A discipline is an activity within our power – something we can do – that brings us to a point where we can do what we at present cannot do by direct effort. Whether we're learning a language or weightlifting, discipline is what allows us to respond more fully to God's grace and consciously participate in the shaping of the person we're becoming. Initially, our silence will be disrupted by thoughts of the laundry that needs to be done, or the work project that remains unfinished, or the TV show we never miss, or the plans we've made for the weekend, or the Patriots' chances against the Chargers. That just proves our compulsion, obsession and lack of real freedom.

Yet God invites us to "be still and know that I am God." – and that, by extension, we are NOT God!
And that's a remedy for a whole host of delusions we have!
 
“Los Aleluyas” PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 14 January 2007 10:22
Alternately intriguing and distressing article in today's New York Times on the rise of Hispanic Pentecostalism. The article states: One in ten New Yorkers is now a Pentecostal, one in three New York Pentecostals are Hispanic. NYC Pentecostalism has grown 45% in the last decade.

The accompanying picture is of a former Catholic who was impressed by "the unity and passion" that she witnessed at a relative's wake. " . . .she said, she practiced the sort of once-a-week Catholicism that was more habit than conviction. 'You can sit next to me, and when the service is over you don’t even know my name,” she said. “You don’t ask, ‘How are you?’ It’s foom, and you’re out.'"

She joined a tiny Pentecostal storefront. The pastor and lay leaders would have understood because they are all lapsed Catholics too.

"Here, in cramped storefronts like Ark of Salvation, people whose lives are as marginal as their neighborhoods discover a joyful intimacy often lacking in big churches. They find help — with the rent, child care or finding a job. As immigrants, they find their own language and music, as well as the acceptance and recognition that often elude them on the outside.

They find the discipline and drive to make a hard life livable.

To spend a year with this congregation is to see a teenage single mother and party girl discover the strength to go to college, marry in the church and land a job. It is to see a former political radical and brawler pray over alcoholics in the park."

Be sure and take a look at the multi-media that accompanies the article on the left, including an interesting map showing the distribution of Pentecostals from state to state.
 
Called & Gifted at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 14 January 2007 09:26
I should mention in light of my post below that the Called & Gifted is offered regularly at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkley and is open to all Graduate Theological Union students.

The next Called & Gifted at the DSPT is happening soon. It is scheduled for February 9/10. Contact ED HOPFNER, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , if you are interested.
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The Priestly Office, the Laity, and Charisms PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 14 January 2007 08:03

Keith posted yesterday from a Called & Gifted workshop in Houston. He was referring to our standard parish workshop for lay-Catholics-in-the-pews that introduces them to the discernment of charisms in light of the Church's teaching about the mission of the laity.

Fr. Mike and I will be giving a quite different C & G to the students and faculty of a major west coast seminary on Thursday. Naturally, we've had to modify the content significantly. Charisms color and shape how a priest goes about his ministry and where he is most fruitful so discernment is enormously helpful for the individual priest. But the issue of discernment is also central to the priestly task of governance or as it has been known traditionally in Latin, the "munus regendi".

The three basic tasks of clergy in the service of the Christian community are to teach, to sanctify, and to govern. But governance, in Catholic understanding, is not primarily about administration. Governance is focused on two priorities: communion and mission as Pope John Paul II made clear in his 2004 ad limina address to the Bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey:

"The exercise of the munus regendi is directed both to gathering the flock in the unity of a single profession of faith lived in the sacramental communion of the Church and to guiding that flock, in the diversity of its gifts and callings, towards a common goal: the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Every act of ecclesiastical governance, consequently, must be aimed at fostering communion and mission."

(Pastores Gregis 9; cf. Lumen Gentium, 20, 27).

Governance includes some pretty startling responsibilities:

Priests are called to
o Cooperate with laity in mission to world
o Listen to laity
o Recognize lay expertise
o Awaken & deepen lay co-responsibility
o Confidently entrust duties to laity
o Invite lay initiative
o Help all explore and discern vocation
o Form and support secular apostles

Decree on Ministry and Life of Priests, 9; I Will Give You Shepherds, 59; 74

And

Priests are called to
o Recognize
o Uncover with faith
o Acknowledge with joy
o Foster with diligence
o Appreciate
o Judge and discern
o Coordinate and put to good use
o Have “heartfelt esteem” for

the charisms of all the baptized.

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 30; Decree on Ministry and Life of Priests, 9; I Will Give You Shepherds, 40, 74; Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, 32

Why? Because the primary mission of the Church, evangelization, depends upon the calls and charisms of lay people who are intentional disciples. In our experience, intentional disciples clamor to discern! The spiritual forces unleashed by conversion naturally demand governance. The mission of the laity naturally calls out the office of the clergy which exists, after all, for their sake.

The problem is, as Fr. Mike has noted, the Church teaches a very high view of governance but priests are not formed to govern. I once asked Fr. Michael Sweeney if he had heard about charisms during his years of formation. "Yes." he said, " We spent about 10 minutes on the fact that St. Thomas wrote about the charisms." And that from a Dominincan who got a highly Thomistic formation! I have yet to run into a diocesan priest who even heard the word "charism" during his formation. Much less taught to discern his own and foster the discernment of his parishioners for the sake of our common mission.

I try to think of it as job security . . .

 
Let it snow, let it snow . . . PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 14 January 2007 07:41
Those of you, like Fr. Mike, who have lived in really snowy climes (like Michigan's UP) will laugh, but its snowing again here for the fifth time in a month and Mississippi girls like me get unnerved by that much white stuff. This is my 6th winter in Colorado and I've never seen anything like this before, especially in "dry winter" (During the months of November, December, January we do not normally see alot of snow, that comes in February and March).

But imagine how our city giraffes are feeling in their "African Rift Valley" display pictured here. They live in the highest zoo in North America at 7,000 feet, its January, it's snowing and the low predicted for tonight is -4 degrees F. They are reading the fine print in their contracts right about now!

I remember how stunned I was when I first got here to observe Coloradans outdoors in t-shirts when the temp had dropped into the 20's. I think I understand. A sunny, windless, 25 degrees is beginning to look balmy.
 
What Does It Take? PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 January 2007 15:21

Written by JACK

I suppose a number of you are wondering why on Earth do I have a picture of a dining table to the left in this post. Well, I thought I would take a moment to get concrete about one of the ways I try to live out intentional discipleship. In an effort to demystify it for anyone who has read the posts on Intentional Disciples and thought, "I'm not capable of that," or "I don't know where to start."

The picture is of the (surprisingly clean) dining room table in my house. For a year now, three friends of mine from Communion and Liberation (and sometimes some others) and I have gathered around this table for dinner on Tuesdays. Although I am not a member of the Fraternity of CL, it is fair to refer to our gathering as one of the local Fraternity groups. We come together to share our lives and challenges, reflect on our lived experience of what was taught in the most recent annual Spiritual Exercises of CL and to be of help to one another in recognizing Christ's presence in our lives and in following Him.

It all began with desire. One of my good friends returned from his childhood home, frustrated with his experience of community here in Chicago. So on his drive back from Christmas vacation, he stopped by my house to watch the college football national championship game and, I think, out of a true position of prayer (as begging), proposed to me the idea of belonging to a fraternity group. Although, honestly, I was a bit daunted by the idea of committing to another weekly gathering, I knew I wanted more, too. So I said yes. And we both thought of one person to invite and they, too, said yes. Earlier this week, we were reflecting on how it has been a year already and how much (in small and big ways) this fraternity group has changed us. It is now something that I miss tremendously when I am out of town or otherwise forced to miss a week.

There's nothing magic to our gatherings. They are driven, ultimately, by desire (a form of prayer) and a seriousness before each other, a recognition that we have been given each other as a help to one another. And we are given fruit by being rooted in our shared charism as part of CL, and thus, because of its rootedness in the whole of the Body, the Church.

Now, this may not work for everyone. But my point is simply to emphasize that, at its core, it isn't fancy programs, lots of money, big name speakers, etc., that is needed for intentional discipleship. The start, the beginning of movement, is the question of desire. What do you desire, truly?


 
Spiritual Disciplines PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Saturday, 13 January 2007 14:25
How many of you are planning on watching the NFL playoff games?
How many of you are married or planning to get married?
How many of you are planning to have kids?
How many of you are planning to own a house or condo?
How many of you are planning your next vacation?
How many of you are planning your retirement?
How many of you are planning to die?

Really?

I mean, actually making plans?

How does one "plan" to die?
Is there more to plan than making a will, checking out a gravesite or columbarium, figuring out who gets durable power of attorney, and picking out readings and music for your funeral?

Do you wake up in the morning thinking, "Well, this could be the day I die"?
Maybe if you have a big math test or a presentation to make to the boss you might reflect on that for consolation, but otherwise, unless you're old and/or in terrible health, I bet you don't.

I don't, at least.

But it wouldn't be a particularly bad idea, and, in fact, night prayer or compline ends with a sobering thought, "May the Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death."

When we truly plan for something, we take action.
So, if you're serious about watching the Chargers take on the Patriots, you clear your schedule, prepare your munchies, and put on your game-day shirt.
How do we plan for death, judgment, and, one Hopes, heaven?
Well, if heaven is eternal life in the presence of God, how can I expect to be prepared for that if I'm not living in God's presence in time?

Look at it this way – you didn't meet and marry your spouse on the same day – at least not if you were sober.
You got to know him or her over time. Your life slowly changed.
It began to revolve more and more around this particular person until you knew you didn't want to live without him or her.
It's really no different with our relationship with God, which is why some spiritual writers and saints refer to Jesus as their divine spouse.

So how do we come close to God in this life?
There are some traditional responses, like prayer, receiving the sacraments, participating in the life of the Christian community as it exists in the parish. All the things that people mentioned in response to Sherry's question, "What nourishes your relationship with Christ?"
But there are a couple of other traditional practices that I'd like to add to that list.

But to find out what I'm thinking, you'll have to come back tomorrow!

(ooooh, a serial blog!!!)
 
Do Not Presuppose the Faith But Propose It PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Saturday, 13 January 2007 12:00
Related to Keith's post below:

In Gospel, Catechism, Catechesis, Joseph Ratzinger cites the above sentence which he received on a postcard from Hans Urs von Balthasar (23).

from the obviously deep blogger Deep Furrows

(who naturally comments occasionally here at ID; deep calling to deep and all . . . )
 
Disputations PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 12 January 2007 22:43

Written by Keith Strohm

Over at Disputations, a wonderfully Dominican-flavored blog, there is a great reflection on a leper's encounter with Jesus and how this encounter summarizes how Divine Providence and human will work together.

The post ends with the following powerful reflection on how the author feels he lives out his discipleship:

But a leper today looking for a human being, in a human body, to kneel before will have to settle for one of us, a member of Christ's mystical body. What
would we say, if a leper today came to us and kneeling down begged us and said, "If Christ wish, He can make me clean"?I, for one, would feel dashed awkward about the whole thing, but then I don't think I run much of a risk of being put in that position. Not because there aren't plenty of lepers today, but because I don't give them much reason to think Christ can make them clean.


Check it out here
 
Notes From A Workshop PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 12 January 2007 22:12

Written by Keith Strohm

One of the things I love to do when I teach Called & Gifted workshop is to watch the faces of workshop participants as they encounter the amazing reality of their own role in the Church's mission to the world. The expressions range from puzzlement to wonder, but it is an exceedingly amazing grace to be present with people as they go on a journey to discern their gifts and take a more intentional approach to their lives as disciples and, ultimately, apostles, of Christ.

St. Thomas More parish in Houston is also blessed to have their pastor 100% behind this movement of discernment in their parish. He truly sees calling forth the gifts of the community to be one of the key points of his pastoral office.

Quote of the workshop (or any workshop I've ever given):

Fr. Bill: If you think that you are too old to start discerning your charisms and discovering the ways that God wants to use you, then why don't you just die! You're never too old to cooperate with the plans God has for you, and if you think you are, you've given up on Him.

Umm...wow! Of course, Fr. Bill has a very Irish sense of humor, and he says it with a merry twinkle in his eye. Still . . .wow!

Anyhow, if you've had a positive experience with the Called & Gifted workshop, drop a comment in this post. We'd love to know how the workshop has affected your life.


 
Quid Est Veritas PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 12 January 2007 22:08

Written by Keith Strohm

"Truth? What is truth? These words of Pontius Pilate, spoken to Christ in the gospels, echo down through the centuries to accuse us today. The question is asked, not by a a single governmental authority, but by our entire culture: What is truth? This interrogation occurs at the most basic levels of our interactions within the culture, so much so that we often don't see the fundamental challenge, or worse, we have allowed this cultural pressure to co-opt our way of thinking and acting--denuding our effective witness to Christ.

What do I mean?

We live in a postmodern and, some would say, post-Christian, era where the concept of absolute truth has been rejected. Postmodern cultural and literary criticism have deconstructed the notion of the Platonic Ideal, "liberating" the multiplicity of meanings in every human thought and act. We are no longer beings with a central and undivided Self, given to us by our Creator. Rather, our 'self' is really a constantly shifting, culturally constructed 'negotiation' between multiple and multi-level meanings. Thus, what's true for you can differ radically (even diametrically) from what I believe, and yet we can both be assured of the 'rightness' of our positions. Both hold equal weight in the Cultural Sanhedrin.

In such a postmodern environment, claims to Truth are not only seen as boorish and arrogant, they take on a connotation of violence. They are acts of destruction and invasion against the 'self' of another. This is the challenge that we face as apostles of the Risen Christ, of the very Truth Himself, living in our culture today. In order for many of the men and women that we meet in our daily lives to accept the claims of Jesus Christ, they must undergo a paradigmatic shift, a conversion not just of the emotions and will, but of the worldview as well. The Person of Christ demands that the postmodern world "see with new eyes." So, how can we be effective witnesses of Christ to a world that has rejected this notion of absolute Realities?

I think that if we are to take the Great Commission seriously, to honor Christ's call of evangelization, we must first begin in humility. The fundamental reality that we need to confront is that the Church, and we as members of it, does not possess the Truth. We are, in fact, possessed by He who is Truth.

As Paul writes, "For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body" (1Cor 6:20). Throughout his letters, Paul uses this metaphor of slavery to underscore the relationship between Christ and His People. We have been called out of darkness, bought and paid for by the blood of Christ, and intimately brought into communion with each other and with God. A slave is no longer his own, but his master's. So, too, we are no longer our own, but Christ's. In Christ, however, the Master has raised us in status, has adopted us, making us a member of his own family. We are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" because of the love of Christ (1Peter 2:9).

Fundamentally, then, our attitude should be like those who have received an inestimable treasure, not through their own action or worth, but as a free gift. We should approach our apostolate with gratitude and graciousness, with a desire to share this great gift. I think that we as Christians often come across as if we are being magnanimous, sharing with the poor from the riches of our own bounty, when we witness to others about Christ. We must never forget that we, too, are poor in ourselves, but rich only in Christ.

Humility.

Secondly, we need to remember that we are not, ultimately, responsible for the results of our witnessing for Christ. That responsibility rests with God alone. As Fr. Michael Sweeney, former Co-Director of the Catherine of Siena Institute says, "we are called to propose the faith, not impose the faith." There is a fundamental difference between the two approaches. God is a respecter of human freedom; He desires that we come to Him freely of our own will. He calls us to desire the same for others. Our goal, then, shouldn't be to convert a non-Christian friend or acquaintance. Rather, our goal should be to listen to the way Christ is calling us to share His love with that other person. God will take care of the rest. It is not our ability that God wants, but our availability to be used by Him for the work of the Kingdom.

In such a way, through humility and openness to how God calls us to share our faith, others will be brought into an experience of the Truth--one of the places where authentic conversion can begin.


 
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