The ways of the Lord are perfect, but sometimes we get in the way. We normally go about life trying to figure things out on our own or with the help of those we trust. After we've come up with our plan of action, that's often the time that we turn to God, asking Him to bless the work we are about to do.
If we think about it, isn't that a little backwards? Why not seek Him first?
If we want the Kingdom of God to break through in our world, everything has to start with that conversation with God. If we're really dependent on Him, then we have to fall on our knees and turn our hearts over to the Lord. While He is our Heavenly Father, as we come before the majesty of God, we approach Him in the beautiful virtue that clad our Blessed Lord Jesus throughout His life: humility. So we first ask:
“Lord, what are you inviting me to do?”
The newly formed Leadership Team attended the Amazing Conference in April 2016. Since then, the Leadership Team and I have been praying, discerning, and meeting concerning that one thing:
“What the Lord is asking to be done for the parish of St. Michael the Archangel?”
During our Feast Day festivities in September of 2017, the new mission and vision was unveiled. Both the mission and vision are intentionally short so that every parishioner would be able to remember it and utilize it in their walk with Jesus.
We defined "mission" as something that clearly conveys why the parish exists. "Vision" draws a picture which features an end result - once it has been accomplished, it can be changed.
Our Mission: Inspiring discipleship of Jesus through faith, prayer, and service.
Jesus entrusted us as He did His disciples with the great commission: “Go out to all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The faith we have isn't just for ourselves but is meant to spill over to others! As we have received His message in love, we are called to make that return to Him by accepting the invitation to be His hands and feet to this needy world. But how do we do it? The specifics derive from the very groundwork of the three action words we chose. Faith It is the foundational component of being a disciple. While the words of "faith, prayer, and service" came from the fruit of our prayer and discussion, I stumbled upon a work by a Fr. Francis Spirago entitled The Catechism Explained that happens to highlight the same three words chosen for our parish mission! He explains that “we are on earth for the purpose of giving glory to God, and thereby working out our eternal salvation. We are to attain our end by the following means... We must strive to acquire the knowledge of God through faith in the truths which He has revealed” (69). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), §163 states: "Faith is already the beginning of eternal life." Through faith, we live out where we are invited to be: Heaven! How can we be disciples of Jesus if we do not have hope in eternal life? If there is no promise of Heaven and eternity, our religion would be nothing more than a good system of moral values for the preservation of an ordered society! But the good news is that a life of faith, fully divested in Jesus (which always implies His Church and Holy Scripture if we have trust in His words and plan), is a life that will lead us to the Beatific Vision. Romans 10:17 emphasizes the necessity of Sacred Scripture: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” We rely on His Holy Word to feed us and sustain us. But we also recognize that His Word has been misinterpreted, skewed, and taken out of context. This is why Jesus established the authority of the Church, that we may come to know exactly what is being said and live in the fullness of truth without anxiety of error.
Lest anyone think that faith is only a fruit of our own work and labor, CCC §162 reminds us: "Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man [but] we can lose this priceless gift.... to live, grow, and persevere in the faith... we must nourish it with the Word of God.” Prayer With this faith, we utilize the expression of faith found in prayer. Fr. Spirago says, “We must make use of the means of grace. These are: The holy sacrifice of the Mass, the sacraments, and prayer” (71). If there’s anything faith teaches us, we weren’t meant to do things on our own nor were we supposed to: God has provided us with the means by which we are strengthened, encouraged, and sent forth. We have been given the Holy Spirit, the Advocate who pleads for our cause and who will lead us into all truth. With the faith bubbling up inside of us, it must come forth in response back to God, and this we demonstrate through prayer - petition, intercession, thanksgiving, praise, and adoration! Service It is not a personal faith, but it is a light that is meant to illuminate the darkness of the world and of people's hearts (Matthew 5:14-16). We are called to participate in the awesome saving work of Jesus Christ through the building up of the Kingdom! This includes service. We cannot do so apart from God if we expect the fulfillment of His will to occur and His grace to sustain us. Fr. Spirago explained “We must keep the commandments of God. These are: The two precepts of charity” (70).
Our Vision: Fearless Disciples | Formed by the Word | Filled with the Heart of Jesus
While we noticed that various mission and vision statements had a similar "feel" in comparison, the vision statement would be something more specific and measurable.
Fearless Disciples We added the word "fearless" because, let's face it: living a life that is fully rooted in Jesus requires courage! People misunderstand people of any religion, some have bought into half-truths or non-truths about the faith, and others have fostered an open hostility against people who believe! Not only that, some personalities naturally incline to the notion that we'd rather just "get along" with others than cause any kind of conflict. Yet if we are driven by the Father's love for us and recognize the Good News that is the message of Jesus Christ, then we need courage to overcome those obstacles and become fearless.
We can be fearless because God has not given us a spirit of fear as we are reminded in 2 Timothy 1:7. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power and of love and of sobriety." [Douay-Rheims]
At times, it means being comfortable with being uncomfortable and entering into the courageous without being overcome by fear. Rather than focusing on the rocky waves (obstacles) around us, we must respond with the faith of St. Peter who looked at Jesus and was able to walk on water. The only fear that should remain is that holy filial fear of dishonoring the Father’s love.
Formed by the Word Who is the Word? Jesus Christ. As His disciples, we are called to adhere to the fullness of His teaching found in Scripture, rooted in Tradition, and safeguarded by the Magisterium. Jesus, in understanding the totality of what He has done, includes the establishment of the Church. It means being constantly shaped by this and striving for holy perfection.
Filled with the Heart of Jesus Above all, everything should be prompted by the heart of Jesus – borne out of an intimate relationship with Him. The disciple's heart must be found brimming with the love of Jesus - to have the meeting of the two hearts and beat as one. The image of the heart also conveys the centrality of the Eucharist. As revealed in many Eucharistic miracles, it is the right ventricle of the heart of Jesus that is found in the Eucharist, such as explained in the Miracle of Lanciano.
Next steps: Where do we go from here?
For the parish as a whole, we have identified three areas of focus: The Sunday Experience Fellowship & Relationship Evangelization & Discipleship
In August of 2017, various parishioners who represented each of the Councils and Commissions were entrusted to pray and craft goals in response to the needs outlined in each area that pertained to their group.
A number of things are taking place and/or are being evaluated:
The Sunday Experience Liturgical allure: Through the efforts of St. Michael Catholic Christian Women, they were able to raise funds to purchase a new Book of the Gospels, new cassocks/surplices for altar servers, a matching set of clergy vestments for the priest and deacon Improving quality:Strategic placement ofantennas (stopping sound from cutting out), using incense (being reminded of the transcendent quality of Holy Mass, and using hypo-allergenic incense for the 5 pm offering of Holy Mass
Evangelization & Discipleship Developing healing ministry: Offering more opportunities to be in the presence of the Eucharist, promotion of the Vicariate inner healing days, Unbound prayer ministry training
Fellowship & Relationship Assessing and purchasing new equipment for better sound in the gym
With the fruits of Synod 16, we are also looking to study the document Unleash the Gospel that was compiled together through the leadership of Archbishop Vigneron and see how else our parish is called to serve God our Heavenly Father.
The ways of the Lord are perfect, and if we expect to grow, we need to look to the Lord first and listen. We are called to be Fearless Disciples, Formed by the Word, Filled with the Heart of Jesus.
On an individual basis, we invite you to consider praying and reflecting on the vision of the parish and see where the Holy Spirit is guiding you to build up the Kingdom at St. Michael the Archangel.
Pray to be open to that grace, that our Heavenly Father, through the intercession of St. Michael, will foster humility, wisdom, obedience, and courage to carry out this good work.