Cannot Wait To Become Catholics
A few weeks ago I baptised and confirmed five adults at the Cathedral. It was inspirational! They were part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
They could have waited till the coronavirus protocols would be, please God, further relaxed so more of their family could join them. But no: they could not wait to become Catholics!
Each has a special story of God’s grace working in their life. What a joy to be with them on a cold Canberra winter Sunday morning.
We all have a serious obligation before the Lord to invite people into our Christian faith by becoming Catholics. Despite the doubts of some, there is greater hospitality to this invitation than seems.
Here is an example. Some years ago, I was present in a crowd when a devout Catholic layman had this story to tell.
For years he worked for the government. He was a member of a small team in the workplace. The workplace atmosphere in this team became toxic. Such toxicity seemed to arise from the leader of the group. She was so unpleasant that team members were becoming depressed and even reluctant to come to work.
To the team’s delight, she left the workplace altogether.
A couple of years later, she returned to visit her former team. Most were still working there.
She wanted to apologise for her behaviour of earlier times. She stated that she was going through the most difficult time of her personal life. She was unhappy with life. She regretted her conduct and asked forgiveness.
She shared that a couple of neighbours had introduced her to their local Catholic parish. In this parish, she found such inspiration and spiritual strength. She joined a special group (the RCIA, I presume) and was baptised a Catholic. Her life had changed for the better. She felt very much at peace with herself and the world.
When her former team left the meeting, the devout Catholic layman went up to her and indicated that he had been a Catholic all his life. He was delighted she now was a Catholic. He sincerely welcomed her into the Church.
She stopped still when he told her this. With great respect but the firmness of intention, she asked him why he had never shared this with her before.
She said, “If you had been a devout Catholic all your life then why did you never tell me of the strength that the Catholic faith gave you? You could see that I was in great difficulty and yet I had no idea, until now, that you were a Catholic.”
This encounter had a profound effect on the devout Catholic. Eventually, he realised his faith may have been sincere but was not the kind that the Lord wanted.
That is why I was in the crowd listening to him some years later. He repented and committed his life to his faith afresh. He was used and continues to be powerfully used by the Holy Spirit. He is now a Catholic lay evangelist. From his home in the USA, he travels the world giving inspirational talks on Christian themes.
Let us learn from this experience.
On the one hand, it is simply not enough to have a pietistic faith that is inward-looking and self-serving. The extroverted and missionary nature of Christianity is never satisfied with this. There is no real outreach to the “periphery”, especially those starving for spiritual food, like the woman in this story. By and large, the physically starving too are given a patronising attention with this approach.
On the other hand, it will also not satisfy the demand of our faith to simply view the Catholic Church as some sort of spiritual NGO (Non-Government Organisation). It is a mechanistic approach that lacks a mystical dimension. Who can receive the life of the Holy Spirit when the assumption is that the Church is basically a human creation with a spiritual component?
I understand that living a Catholic Christian life in our workplaces, especially Australia, has unique challenges. Nonetheless, there are all sorts of ways of conveying the love of Jesus to all we meet. The verbal is only one way and perhaps not the most convincing. The woman in this story was first drawn to Christianity by the friendliness of her hospitable neighbours.
All of us can do that! Start with your smile! There are so many who can’t wait to become Catholics!