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Saturday, November 21, 2020

Even children are impelled by the Holy Spirit to go out with Jesus as missionary disciples



We had a wonderful "Parish Vitality" conference today... thanks be to God the Father, Jesus Our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, guiding us.... Archbishop of Gatineau Paul-André Durocher gave us a wonderful conference based on his 2019 book "Called By Name, Sent in His Name: Reflections on an Outward-Bound Church." 

A lovely couple in a local family movement group are parents of a six-year-old girl. She is so enthusiastic about God: the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit; that she has been talking about God with her classmates at school. However she has been distressed with meeting fierce opposition from kids her age who disagreed with her in various ways about Jesus, saying to her: no he isn't real, or he never existed, or he isn't God, or you're stupid, and so on. 

This little girl definitely has a fiery relationship with God the Father in Jesus and is filled with burning divine love in the Holy Spirit according to her age, but she isn't yet fully "aware" of this in herself. As a result she has not yet learned how to "let God shine" through her and simply share her joy in peace and love which she knows she is receiving from God. 

Sooner or later most Catholic Christian parents will experience something similar with their children, either in their childhood or teenage or young adulthood; whenever their offspring become "taken up" with divine love in their own relationship with God. The challenge of this girl's parents at present is to coach her and help her understand that she is radiant, filled with the presence and the love of God; that because of God's presence she is never alone, but God is always with her, the Most Holy Trinity.

It is not her "job" to convince anyone; so she doesn't need to argue with her classmates who disagree with her, or to contradict or disprove what they say to her to oppose or rebut her. All she has to do is to continue to remain close to God, let God fill her with divine love, and be radiant: sharing with anyone who wants to listen how she knows Jesus and how she knows that she is loved by God the Father and by Jesus and by the Holy Spirit... of course, in accord with her age and ability to understand and to express what she already knows, feels, and experiences of God and his love for her and her family. 

This child's faith is authentic. Seeing her parents regularly go to confession, now at the age of six she asked to also have a confession, outside of and in advance of her preparation process in her parish. She wanted to meet Jesus in this way now and did not want to wait any longer. Her parents were supportive, knowing that she understands and was making a serious request. Thankfully they are connected to a priest who knows the family and was willing to welcome the child, to listen to her, and to see whether indeed she was ready to meet Jesus in Reconciliation; which she experienced as a great joy.

There are undoubtedly other children out there who, like this little girl, have many such experiences of Jesus and the Father and the Holy Spirit. Any who are impelled by the Holy Spirit to "go out" to others need to be coached; so they can simply relate their experiences with others. The "divine fire" wants to communicate itself to others, but if it is "covered up and jealously guarded" for too long, or the young are discouraged from sharing their faith out of the fear of the parents regarding potential opposition or persecution; then the winds of opposition will eventually threaten to snuff it out.

In the case of this little girl, if any of her classmates show interest and desire to also experience what she has experienced; then she can propose simple ways for them to open themselves up, to pray and call on God on their own as well as by praying together. Her parents and other disciple families they know can help her to learn how to pray with others and, if they are interested and want help, to lead them by the hand and introduce them to the Most Holy Trinity; knowing that God always does the rest and enters into a personal relationship with those who want this and are well disposed. She also needs to realize that God always remains mysterious to human beings in spite of the graced interior experiences of "light, warmth, presence, peace, love, and joy." It is right and good that God, the Divine Being, remains mysterious; after all, we remain mysterious to ourselves our whole life long. 

In a nutshell, I relate this experience of a six-year-old missionary disciple to illustrate one of our greatest challenges as a missionary Church, which is to put in place ways, means, and people to offer coaching in very practical ways to help people in their desire to actually "go out" to others and let the Most Holy Trinity "shine divine light" through them to others. It is crucial to coach enthusiastic disciples in their outreach; lest strong and protracted opposition snuff out their fiery flame of love and zeal for God. Too many such flames have already been snuffed out, but the Holy Spirit is ever ready and eager to fan the flames into a blazing divine fire within them once again.

Decades ago missionaries in India were told by devout Catholics that - although they were following Jesus - they were still going to Hindu or Buddhist gurus because they taught and coached people "how to pray"; whereas the missionaries did not do any of that but tended to focus only on liturgy, catechesis, sacraments, and works of mercy for social justice. This remains one of our greatest challenges and explains in part why our people have become "formed" over centuries NOT to GO OUT to others but only COME IN to their church for nourishment.... As Jesus sent out his disciples "two by two"; so we also need to provide for disciples to have "company on the road" of faith. 

The captain of the Titanic realized more than ever and to a tragic degree how difficult it is to turn a large ship on the ocean; so likewise is it difficult now for us to change our personal and ecclesial ways of being and doing. However, we are "in the yoke" with Jesus and, by the will of the Father, it is Jesus and the Holy Spirit who "do the heavy lifting". All we need to do is to "get with the program" and offer God our weakness, fragility, sinfulness, resistance, and fear, and the Lord will continue his work of transformation in and through us; that God may be glorified in each and every one of us, our families, and our parish faith communities. Like Peter, if we want to "walk on the water", Jesus will say "Come!" We are called to "make that leap of faith and trust."

Peace to one and all and to your families.

                                                   Pax + Caritas,       Fr. Gilles