It’s time for a little moment of clarity. Time to talk about something that no one else seems to be talking about. I hear almost every day the struggles, the tragedies and the complaints, the desires and the fears of our parishioners for their souls. And not just for their souls – for their children’s souls. For their spouse’s soul. For their grandparents, their siblings, their next-door neighbors, their co-workers, and their fellow parishioners’ souls. And together we all get caught up in the challenges, dreaming bigger, dreaming better, planning, plotting, and lamenting all the while the lack of focus, trying to tackle the lack of communication, trying to force interest, trying to single-handedly extinguish the trend of lacking personal investment. We quote experts like Sherry Weddell and her statistics on the “nones”, on the Catholics who have left the Church, on the lack of parish involvement, and on the steady and quickening decline of Mass attendance. We remember our parishes in the past and remember how close we used to be, we remember where everything went wrong. And when we speak of hope, of change, we speak of hope in the future, of change in the future, not in the now, because first, we have to finish dealing with everything we were just complaining about. We base our whole operating model, our every event and every retreat, on these fears, these desires, these losses, and these needs.
And so naturally, when we reach out when we try to fix it, when we try to help… we’re reaching out with our frustration, with our desperation, with our fears, written in stark white on our foreheads, on our smiles, in our eyes. We’re not reaching out with kindness, with sincerity, with humility – we’re not reaching out with love.
Which is not on purpose! This isn’t our intention. We’re trying – really, honestly, earnestly, we’re trying. But it’s not good enough, is it? And deep down we echo this, in our heart of hearts, and we sometimes – and sometimes more often than not – allow ourselves to think that we’re not good enough. Which brings us to the part of the conversation that no one else seems to be talking about – that we aren’t good enough. Because we aren’t! But that doesn’t at all change what we are – that we’re definitively, unequivocally, good. Because we can feel that fear. That frustration. That desperation. That absolute, bone-deep need to worry about other human beings and their choices, their future end. Because we don’t know how to reach out in love, because we don’t know how to channel our desires and fears into a dream that can really be real, no matter how much we seek out a dream that can survive more than a moment, more than an hour, more than a day. And you know what? It’s because we’re not good enough that everything’s ok. If we’d found a way to never be afraid, to never allow our frustrations to rule us if we’d found a way to always help completely out of self-giving love – well, we wouldn’t be who we are. And that would mean we wouldn’t need God. Which – let’s admit it – probably should be our greatest fear of all. Us autonomous of God? Separated from him completely? What a nightmare! But no – our brokenness, our sinfulness, everything we lack, this all means we are capable of so much more; and because we aren’t good enough it also means we need Him so desperately that, as our Father, as our Brother, we find Him doing everything that we cannot – and He sent us the Spirit of truth, to guide us, to be there for us every time we fall, to assure us that His mercy is boundless. Endless. To assure us that there is a big difference between being worthy – being enough – and being worth it.
So take a deep breath. Breathe out. Take a minute. Breathe in. Close your eyes. Breathe out.
Let the Holy Spirit breathe in for you. This is His job, His grace, and His passion. The Spirit that rests upon us will only effectively burn brightly when we allow Him to do so – because His light will not shine from us without our permission. And when we act out of fear? When we focus on our desperation, of the frustrations of feeling like we’re one of the few who even cares? We’re stifling his light. We’ve reduced the roaring flame of faith to mere embers of experiencing sorrow – a sorrow we could mitigate if we just let go and let God. But never despair! He won’t ever stop asking for us, won’t ever stop knocking on the doors to our hearts. We will have every opportunity, all of our lives, to keep answering Him, to keep saying yes to His grace. And there will be days when those embers seem to be going out – but there will be many, many more important days when that fire burns so fierce and so brightly that not only will our mettle be truly tested, and not only will our fears be truly beaten – but you’ll see His light shine so brightly in your life that you will know, for just that one, burning moment, exactly how much you are loved. And that – He – will be good enough.
Do not fear: I am with you. Do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. For I am the Lord, your God, who grasps your right hand; It is I who say to you, do not fear, I will help you. – Isaiah 41:10, 13
This blog post was written by Marci Houle, Coordinator of Adult Catechesis & Evangelization, here at St. Francis of Assisi. If you’re interested in writing a blog for St. Francis of Assisi, please contact Joseph at [email protected].