October 30, 2011

We Need to Become Witnesses

It's been a very busy week and I haven't found the time to post between presenting missal workshops, teaching, my normal workload and redecorating the house (which now includes tearing down half a wall) and I find my free time is better used just vegging out in front of the TV or taking a nap.  I do feel compelled to write on one interesting presentation I attended on Friday at our diocesan seminary in Huntington, NY.  It was at our annual Catechetical Leader formation day and the guest speaker was Brooklyn's Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano.  His presentation was on the New Evangelization and "facing the headwinds."  

While he didn't offer any concrete solutions to the problems that we in catechetical ministry face today, he did get us thinking.  The first thing he said was that formation must come before evangelization, and the ones that need to be formed in the faith are those who will be evangelizing. It is so clear that so many Catholics today do not know their faith and that hampers any attempts at evangelizing others. People can't share what they do not know.

He also spoke of the difference between personal faith and private faith.  In this world of rampant individualism, many people have a personal faith but they keep that faith private.  It is not something they talk about. It is not something that involves others.  Bishop Caggiano said that our Catholic faith is deeply personal, but it can never be private.  As Catholics we are part of a community of believers and for faith to blossom and grow it must be shared.  He explained that in order to know how to evangelize we need only look back at the ancient Church, back to the beginnings.  People became followers of Christ because they had a personal encounter with Him or with those who knew Him.  As Christianity spread more and more people came to know Christ through the witness of others.  "We need", the bishop said, "to become witnesses."  This is done not only through our words, but through the witness of what we do and integrity of our lives. We see this in today's gospel.  Jesus tells his followers to listen to what the Pharisees say but not what they do.  In other words, "actions speak louder than words."

In a room full of DREs, youth ministers, priests, deacons, Pastoral Associates and other Faith Formation leaders, we were all aware of the troubling statistics regarding the state of the Catholic Church here in the states, and more so elsewhere in the world.  How do we overcome these troubling times where 88% of Catholics, according to a recent poll, believe themselves to be good Catholics even though they don't follow Church teaching and only 33% attend Mass on a regular basis?  We need to do as the ancient Christians did, we need to help people discover the Truth in the person of Jesus Christ. But first we ourselves must know the Truth.  We must be well formed in our faith in order to introduce it to others. 

I really did like Bishop Caggiano's presentation and I made a connection with him in that we were both baptized at St. Simon and Jude Church in Brooklyn, and his family lived just down the road from my Dad's office where I worked for so many years.  He is also young, dynamic and energetic, and I am sure he will go far.  He inspired all of us who gathered on Friday to renew our commitment not only know and pass on the truths of our faith but to truly know the Truth in the Person of Jesus Christ who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life."

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