Sunday, April 6, 2014

Forever Connected, On Purpose

Back in 2012 I wrote a quick blog post, called Forever Connected, about a concept that I think about quite often. You can read it yourself, but to sum up I told the story of how an “accident” of time and place meant that I was in close proximity to a man, (a husband, father, police officer) at the moment that he died. I did not see him or know it was happening at the time. But the incident affected my life in a small way that day. And I felt that I had been given a responsibility to pray for him and his wife and kids. I have tried to remember that responsibility often, along with the other people whose deaths I recall but are not family members. 

"None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself."Rom 14:7.

This morning we (Jim, the kids and I) were talking about the Scrutinies, those rites that happen during Lent and are part of the RCIA process*. (Stay with me…this is connected, I promise). And we decided to look up what the “Scrutinies” actually were. So we read aloud from the rite itself. There were intercessory prayers and prayers of exorcism. Through those prayers we learned that the Scrutinies are meant to be moments of cleansing and conversion for those people who are coming into the Church. They are meant to reflect on their sins and weaknesses and any remaining obstacles to following Christ with their whole being. The rest of the parish is also called to reflect in the same way on our own life with Christ. 

Our discussion then turned to the fact that these people really need prayer during this time, and wouldn’t it be nice if we knew who they were so we could pray for them by name. 

The Children of Fatima
Their story is another influence in our reflection, as a family, on the power of prayer and value of simply offering our little, everyday crosses as a sacrifice and a prayer for those who cannot or will not pray for themselves. 

This reminded me of something I recently did on impulse. One day we were at a weekday Mass, probably a Monday, and in the pew was a small program leaflet from a wedding that took place over the weekend. I started reading it, curious if I could tell anything about the couple from the program. I was searching it for signs that they were tuned into their faith and really understanding what they were being called too in this sacrament. But I really couldn’t tell either way. 

It occurred to me that I should say a prayer for them. And I did. 

Then, when Mass was over, I spontaneously folded the little program and stuck it in my Magnificat. For the rest of the week, whenever I opened my Magnificat at Mass I saw their names on the front of their pink and black program: Kimberly and Myles. I continued to offer little prayers for them. When the next month’s Magnificat came, I moved the program into that one too. 

I think perhaps I am called to pray for them…forever. A lifetime commitment to a pair of total strangers. 

"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” 1 Cor 12:26-27.

And now to the idea. I have no sense of whether or not this is a common practice in any parish. Maybe it is an old idea. But we thought it was needed, and a 
ministry that a quiet little, uninvolved, not very socially inclined family like our own could participate in easily. 

What if we had a ministry of prayer for some of the people in the midst of life-altering moments such as marriage, conversion to the Catholic faith, and the Baptism of their first child. 

What if parish members were encouraged to adopt a couple who is married in their parish and commit to praying for them for as long as they can, or for a set amount of time, or for the rest of their lives. The commitment could be put in writing, in some sort of notebook. Or not. 

You could even take an extra step and connect each couple to an adoptive family who would host them for dinner several times over their first year, sharing their family’s life and commitment to Christ with this newly launched family. This would be good for both the just-married and for couples who are bringing their first child for baptism, another threshold moment. 

This sort of ministry would, of course, be helpful for new Catholics during the RCIA process as well as during that Neophyte year (the first year after initiation) and beyond. Those folks would benefit from both specific prayer commitments (anonymous or not) and from various connections to families throughout the parish. 

Focus on the core, what Blessed John Paul II called “the primordial sacrament”, marriage. 

One way to do this is to take advantage of threshold moments by making personal connections and providing support, social contexts and educational opportunities. 

And, may I add now, prayer

Of course, this doesn’t need to be an organized ministry. Anyone can consult the banns of marriage in their parish bulletin (do they do that in all parishes?) and pick a couple to pray for. I also know many parishes post pictures and or names of the adults who are coming into the Church, so you could choose one for whom to pray. 

But a more formal approach might give more parishioners a real, tangible way to participate in parish ministries when life affords little time, energy, or inclination to do so in the usual ways. 

Of course, the real reason to do this is because prayer works and these people need all the prayers they can get. 

There are moments in life in which we are faced with clear choices, moments when we have a chance to make a fresh start on a path that may be the difference between a life of discipleship or a life of luke-warm faith. Three of those moments that are easily identified by a parish are marriage, the baptism of your child (especially the first), and conversion to the Catholic Faith. 

Here is a way to influence those folks in the right direction--and it costs zero money (unless you buy a notebook to write it in), takes up zero facility space (except the space to store the notebook), and anyone can do it (from the youngest to the oldest, the least talented to the most, the extreme introvert to the social animal). 

What do you think? Does your parish do anything like this? Am I just re-inventing the wheel? 

*RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and is the way that non-Catholic adults become Catholic. The Scrutinies are prayers and such done at Mass for three Sundays leading up to the Easter Vigil when those folks receive the sacraments and are formally grafted onto the Catholic Family tree. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Everything's Better With Bluebonnets On It

No, I haven't moved again. Nor am I taking a computer break for Lent, though I have to admit I am trying to be a bit more detached from the internet world these days. 

So, the real reason I haven't blogged is.....OH! LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY PICTURES ON MARY'S BLOG!!!

Seriously, go look. It is proof we are still alive.