I recently heard our own Profession of Faith with an entirely different and open mind. We say, “I believe in one, holy, Catholic … Church.” The word “Catholic” has several layers of meaning one of which is “according to the whole.” We cannot leave out any aspects of the church and expect to find authenticity. The word “Catholic” also means universal. The church is not a group for the elite. We cannot cut off one or another of its members. I remember feeling antipathy for a certain priest years ago. I realized that I needed to get beyond this if I actually wanted to experience the wonderful, exciting growth that comes from knowing Christ. Finally, “Catholic” signifies a “home of harmony.” The mission of our individual parish is identical with the mission of the entire universal church. In case you haven’t noticed, our culture is in desperate need of unity in the midst of diversity. Our cultural composition at Our Lady of Lourdes naturally provides a tremendous opportunity to be a light in a world torn by strife.
Our Catholic tradition teaches us how communities and families end up divided and filled with discord. Remember the word “sin”? It means to “miss the mark.” We miss the point of life which is love and serve God. Sin is like a serpent that secretly attacks families, marriages, communities of faith and individuals. It divides and creates great mistrust and suspicion.
There is a process for Catholics in order to dispel the insidious power of sin and live with forgiveness:
- Take responsibility for how you have “missed the mark” in life. Accept the fact that you are human and subject to weakness. We can set aside our personal pride which only hurts us and others in the long run. Be aware of your own feelings of shame, guilt, frustration and anger, but do not get stuck in them. Have mercy on yourself. Acknowledge your feelings, but also remember that God intends your life to have peace and harmony. Get beyond these feelings.
- Admit your wrong-doing, especially to a priest. We call this Confession.
- Truly experience the regret that flows from the ways you have hurt others. We do this even if the other does not feel contrition. We forgive others to help ourselves, not the other.
- Do what you can to amend the situation. Again, we seek to bring peace and harmony to a situation even if the offender is not interested in doing so.
- Resolve to avoid the repetition of this error in your life.
We enter into this process over and over again. I am convinced that our faith communities, world and culture are in desperate need of witnesses to the power of forgiveness and mercy.
Our parish and the entire universal church are called to be missionary disciples. This requires that we practice forgiveness and mercy. Our upcoming retreat on September 8 will focus on these themes of Mercy and Mission. The basic principles of the retreat and our emphasis on “Renew My Church” are contained in a book entitled Divine Renovation by Fr. James Mallon. You might consider reading this for yourself.
Please see the detailed information and registration form for the parish retreat in the flyers that are available at the entrances of the church. Please consider coming. “A parish is changed when people are changed.”