Serving in Many Ways
by Anne, a lay apostle
In the past few years we at the core of this apostolate have been blessed to meet many Catholics from many parts of the world. To see the living Church in action has been truly inspiring because we have this tendency to think that we are the only ones working. Isn't it true? We see how hard we're working and we forget that we're part of a big family. We are all working very hard for Christ.
What is the same about everybody that we meet is their love for Jesus and their commitment to the Gospel message. What is very different is the way each person and organization lives out this commitment.
Cardinal Avery Dulles was an American Catholic Theologian. He was a very clear thinker and writer. One of this writings described five different models of the Church.
- The Church as an institution, meaning the hierarchy.
- The Church as a mystical communion, meaning a communion of people.
- The Church as a sacrament, meaning a transmitter of God's graces.
- The Church as a herald, meaning a proclaimer of God's Good News.
- And finally the Church as servant, meaning sharing the concerns of mankind and assisting those in need.
I see today that people tend to become really excited about specific areas of service in the Church. I'll give you an example. I was listening to three young Catholics one day and they were talking about a current event in the Church. One of the persons said, "Well, if I was there I'd be out there protesting. I'd be holding a sign, that's what I'd be doing and I think that's the right thing to do. If we don't stand up for our faith, nobody will." Another one said, "Not me. It's a circus. My job, I think, would be to stay home, see to my duties and pray for all these people involved." A third one said "You're both wrong. We should be there dialoguing with these people trying to create bridges, not walls. You guys aren't getting this right."
Now of the three, who got it right? I think they were all getting it right. Each one was inspired by the Holy Spirit to respond to the situation. Who got it wrong? They all got it wrong because each one was convinced that their way was the right way and that the others were wrong. Nobody was really ready to admit that there was a place for all three types of service.
Let's consider another example. Take a humanitarian service crisis today. If we have a room full of Catholics sitting at a table, we're going to have differences of opinion on how we should respond. Some might think practically, some might think mystically and some might think metaphysically. What will each bring?
Well, the practical ones might bring food. The mystical ones might bring the sacraments. The metaphysical ones might study the causality of the crisis.
On a good day all of these people will work together as a team and there will be peace in their service. On a bad day the practical ones will accuse the mystical ones of bring out of touch. The mystical ones will accuse the practical ones of being too earth bound and they'll both turn on the metaphysical people for thinking too much and complicating matters.
I'm sure that God delights in all of us and I know He needs all of us. He has commissioned all of us to do His work where He has placed us. I think He's so pleased when we support each other and I think He's very disappointed when we tear each other down. We should each thank God, of course, for the opportunity to serve Him where we are and we should thank God for all of our brothers and sisters serving in different ways throughout the body of Christ.
My friends, if we have disunity we lose our effectiveness. If we have disunity we lose our peace. And, if we have disunity Jesus loses the opportunities that He hopes to use in our vocations.
We as lay apostles of Jesus Christ the Returning King, and, as a spiritual movement in the Church, are called to participate in a great renewal. Everyone is welcome in this movement. Everyone is needed.
I look at the uniqueness of the individuals who work along side us and I'm so happy. It makes me rejoice. No one personality or experience will characterize us because we are all unique and because we're all needed.
We're obedient to the Magisterium of the Church because we understand the Church as protective. We are obedient because we love. Our obedience is rooted in love. We do not hold up obedience like a false god and use it to whip other people. We don't hold up our obedience as proof that we are any better than anybody else. Our obedience is deeply personal and should be viewed, at least in part, as a blessing from God, a gift.
We have to accept, my friends, that if we were in different circumstances we might find it very difficult to be obedient. We can't judge. This should make us humble. This fact should create in us a reverence for Catholics who are living away from the Church.
We should be reverent about our brothers and sisters who are out of the Church at this time. We may be getting it right in some areas, and I feel sure that is true. But we also may be getting it wrong in other areas. And maybe when we can't seem to get it right in one area, we're doing better in another area. The people away from the Church aren't any different in many areas of their life.
Many people who are living away from the Church are drawn to this apostolate. They say that they don't feel welcome in some of our churches. Now this hurts us. We want people welcome. We want to be loving and welcoming because Jesus is so loving and welcoming to each one of us. But we have to face this truth. Many don't feel welcome.
Why? That's the question that we each have to answer. As I have said before, I think many people want to come back to our faith but I think they feel as if there's a 'STOP' sign outside the door. We want to make sure that we're not holding any of those 'STOP' signs. We want people to come back to the Church and work out their transformation from inside our Catholic family.
Jesus wants to bring in His people. I think He wants to use us to do it.
You might say, "These people are defiant. They don't like us. They get mad if we ask them to come back to the faith." It was never an easy job to evangelize but in this lay apostolate the Lord has given to us beautiful tools and these include the little "Heaven Speaks" booklets.
You might be looking through these booklets and you might say, "Well, I'm not depressed, so I'll save this one for Susie who is depressed. And I didn't have an abortion so I don't need that booklet." However, I think we need to familiarize ourselves with all of these booklets. Learn what heaven would say to someone who suffers in that way and then we will have really good help for God's children around us. I think it would be a good way for us to reach people. The Lord will use them.
Jesus encourages us so much. And in the September 1, 2009 Monthly Message He says this, "I want you to increase both your dependence on heaven and your awareness of your dependence on heaven. Each day, everyday, ask heaven for help throughout the day."
Lay apostles, if we do this we will truly become the humble servants that God needs. We will not be delivering our version of heaven, we will be delivering Christ's version.