Thursday, July 23, 2015

Friend

Greetings on this beautifully sunny and warm Thursday in the Midwest.

I've been thinking more and more about what I wrote yesterday. The "Cone of Silence" is something we used to watch on the old Get Smart TV shows.



I remember as a kid always laughing when the "Cone of Silence" was summoned for use. It was supposed to guard against anyone outside the cone from hearing the top secret conversations occurring within. But it just never worked. Agent 86 and the chief simply couldn't hear one another when the cone came down on top of them.

I bring up this iconic television image because I think it has something to do with the way many Catholics have imposed their own "cones of silence" on their spiritual life. And I would often count myself among those Catholics. Too often we will do everything we can to talk about our religion, or talk about the issues in which the Church engages, or talk about the ways that our parishes manage to or don't manage to live up to our expectations. Frankly, I think these are the easy things to talk about. And we can hide behind them. What we need to be talking about is our own personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. And that is something that makes us just a little frightened and we call down the "cone of spiritual silence." Once we cross the line from talking about religion to talking about who Jesus Christ is in my own life and in the life of my relationships and family, somehow we hesitate. Why?

I wonder if it is because we simply do not have a strongly cultivated relationship with Christ; that maybe we have been hiding behind our texts and strongly held religious convictions for so long that we have lost the core meaning of what this is all about in the first place.

In order for RCIA ministers, and others in catechesis, to help seekers and seasoned Catholics come out from behind the great "Cone of Silence," what needs to be done? How does one help Catholic catechists first name their own relationship with the Lord and then help them remove the cone and freely share that with others.

For me, I have a very vivid memory of the very first time the Lord Jesus actually became real for me. I had spent eight years preparing for the diocesan priesthood in Boston, from the age of eighteen to twenty-six, a big chunk of my life back then. Then, shortly before ordination to the diaconate, my dream was thwarted. No need to go into the details here. The fact was that I was despondent, lost, and searching for what God had in mind for me.

For years, morning after morning, day after day, and evening after evening, I had sat, stood, and knelt in prayer at our seminary chapels. I returned at that time to the college seminary chapel and just sat there and looked up at the crucifix I had seen for so many years. And, quite suddenly, the paschal mystery burst into my heart and, for the first time, I was introduced, really introduced, to Jesus Christ. He, who hung on the cross and rose from the dead, was my Lord and Savior. And on that day, I had the strongest sense--which has never left me--that the Lord Jesus was my friend who would always walk with me through doubt and sin, through times of being lost and frightened, and through whatever the Father had in store for me.

Faith was awakened in me that day, as it never had. And I am now actually grateful for that particularly scary and bleak time in my own life; it was a gift that brought me to Jesus Christ.

How do we, as leaders, help those entrusted with the ministry of Christian formation, first recognize their relationship with Christ, then help them lift the cone of spiritual silence and articulate that clearly with those who are seeking such a relationship?

That's where I am today.

Jesus Christ as "friend." What is your description of Christ in your own relationship with him?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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