This Tuesday we had our pastoral council meeting. The first half of the meeting we explored the question “What makes our parish different from other parishes in our area?” I found the answer very encouraging – we are integrating two languages and many cultures, our fundraising committee has hosted various events that have united the parish, many opportunities for spiritual growth and learning, lots of spirituality, many confessions, adoration all day on fridays, a regularly updated website. Lots of good stuff is going on at St. Michaels. We have lots to celebrate at our 40th anniversary coming up.
The second half of our meeting it was a little more discouraging. The question was “how has our parish changed in the last 10 years?” Lower attendance, people are leaving to join other parishes, less families and children at Mass.
In our Gospel Jesus says that his Father wants us to be fruitful. Yet we can often feel like we are working hard yet bearing so little fruit. In this easter season each Sunday we hear readings from the Acts of the Apostles – how it grew quickly, how thousands wanted to be baptized at once. How come if we are working so hard we don’t have the same results?
This Tuesday some parishioners were helping to clean the Church – first we realized the vacuum bag was full and needed to change. So we fixed that and started vacuuming again and suddenly the vacuum stopped. After a few moments of searching around we found that we had walked an inch too far and the plug had come out of the outlet – we plugged it back in and it started again. We must be “connected” plugged into our Lord if we want to have a fruitful spiritual life. We must receive our life and energy from him. We do this through prayer.
This year we promoted the Book rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. We sold about 500 copies. I hope you have read it, are reading it or will read it soon. There is much interesting in the book, but the part I found most important was Part 3 on the seven pillars of the spiritual life. My pastoral goal for this year was to encourage our parishioners to live these seven practices – The Eucharist, reading the scriptures, fasting, spiritual reading, daily meditation, Confession and the Rosary. What is most important to me is not that you read the book, but that you live the spiritual practices. The book is a tool that offers a simple, straightforward and positive explanation of these very traditional practices of the Church.
Now there are many other things we could have focused on this year – if there are less people attending the Church why not focus on outreach and evangelization, service to families with small children, visiting the schools, helping the poor”? All of these are noble goals, yet none of them will be successful if we are not first a community of prayer.
“Apart from me you can do nothing” Our calling as Christians is to be the body of Christ – we are to bring the presence of Christ to our community. But if we are not deeply united to Christ we cannot bring his presence to others. Before we can be a community of service and outreach, we must be a community of prayer.
Each of us needs to ask how united we are to Christ the vine. Whether we have read the book or not – do we practice the 7 pillars of the spiritual life. Do I have a habit of taking time each day to pray? Or do I only pray when the spirit moves me. Is the bible a book that collects dust on my shelf or am I reading it every day? Do I pray the rosary or part of it each week? When is the last time I confessed or fasted? Do I come to Mass looking for God to say something to me? What can I do to be more united to Christ, the vine?
Christ wants us to be fruitful! He wants St. Michael’s parish to be fruitful! And it will be fruitful if we abide in him. Let us each be men and women of prayer. Let us pray for one another, for our parish and for each of the ministries in our parish. That we be one with Jesus and bear much fruit.