The Frontline – Principal Bruce Richards
“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after a battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…And you have to start from the ground up…The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.” – Pope Francis.
Over the past two years, I have learned so much about our Catholic faith through a course called “A Journey Through the Catechism”, presented by The Catechetical Institute. We had class on Monday evenings from Sept. to May for the past two years and were given homework to do each week over those two years. Between the classes and the homework, I have a new level of knowledge and understanding about our Catholic faith that I am energized to share with students, staff and families here at St. Joseph. Unfortunately, over these past two years, I also have learned about the devastating growing trend of unbelievers (the NONEs) and I’m especially heart-broken by the fact that the average age that they begin to give up on their faith is thirteen.
“Today we have the greatest need of saints whom we must assiduously beg God to raise up,” (JPII). As a lay-leader in the church, I am excited to organize and lead mobilization efforts to get into the field and bring Christ to others boldly and tirelessly by the witness of the way I live. There is no perfect time to share the faith, I just need to do so with vigor and thrust. The church and our world need saints, not reformers!
I have really been contemplating how we live our lives in this modern world. I have found myself asking the question, “Is this a Christ friendly world in which we live?” My answer is, “No, I don’t think so.” Yikes! So, then what will I do about it? It’s easy to just shrink into my own world and pray and study so that I can grow my faith. However, if that is all I do, or worse yet, if that is all any of us do, God’s modern-day disciples are setting sail against evil in a fleet of submarines that have screen doors. It’s time for all of us to take it up a notch and live our lives differently. A guiding question for each of us to contemplate is this, “How much time and energy are you willing to put into saving souls?”
George Barna pointed out this fact in 2006, “Catholics are virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the population.” Our culture is influencing our faith more than our faith is influencing our culture. John Paul II, on the separation of faith and life, states that we as Catholics are living “two parallel lives”. The split between the faith which many of us profess and the daily life we live deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age. Pope Francis states, “A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love with our faith, will convince nobody to believe.” We, as lay people, live in the midst of the world and its concerns. We are in a perfect position to act as leaven and to be the bread of the life for the world.
I recently had a conversation with a new sub-committee that came together to organize some Advancement efforts for our school. At the meeting, I shared the idea that our mission, as a school, is to form modern day Catholic scholars who will live and lead Christ-centered moral and ethical lives in this world so that they will ultimately become saints. I shared that all of us should aspire to become saints, for once we enter the gates of heaven, we indeed join The Communion of Saints. Here and now, we must let our light shine and we must be the salt of the earth! Ladies and gentlemen, that is our call, we need to do it.
Over the past two years, I have also heard the invitation that as leaders of the faith, we must “smell like the sheep”. I have been encouraged by this phrase and I’m both thankful and haunted by the fact that I’m in a perfect position
to smell like the sheep. I’m thankful because of the opportunity to be on the frontlines of the spiritual battle for the souls of this world and haunted by the fact that if I fail to take this opportunity and I fail to wildly succeed, then my day of reckoning will not be a glorious one. As St. Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:16)
As I prepare to move beyond this course, I am convicted to make a difference in the lives of those whom I share this world with. Pope Francis shares a formula for success: “Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervor dies out.” Prayer acts as the engine to the life of a Christian. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the faith provide the fuel to complete Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy that lead others to believe. The potency with which I witness to the truth of our faith will have a direct impact on those I encounter. I pray that God will work through me with fervor, mercy and amazing grace so that my heart glows with a love that attracts others to know, love and serve our Lord by the example of their lives.
The Holy Spirit is calling me and you and all of us to do something great! “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10: 13-15).
God, I’m ready! Send me to the front lines! Who will join me?