Dear Friends in Christ,
We continue our celebration of Easter as we celebrate the reception of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist for the first time by 200 of our children. We will have First Communions at several of our masses over the next two weeks. We rejoice with the children and their families as they receive Our Lord in this most wonderful sacrament. In many ways, things look like they are back to normal here at the parish; masses, confessions, First Communions, weddings. But looks can be deceiving. While we are greatly blessed to have more people at masses each week and lots of activities, we are not where we were prior to the pandemic in January of 2020. Our attendance numbers are about 15% below where they were. Numbers are not everything, but they are important because they represent people. It is people, our relationship with God, and our communion with one another in the Church that are most important. The Church has faced challenges in every age and era and today is no different. With God’s grace and our efforts, we continue to bring the gospel to people and live the joy of our Catholic Faith even in challenging times.
Obviously, there are many challenges beyond Covid which our Faith faces today. Among them are rising secularism, religious ignorance, and hatred of the Faith. These are serious challenges that must be dealt with. Secularism is the philosophy and attitude of living as though God does not exist. Pope Benedict XVI called this a “practical atheism”. It is when believers proclaim their faith in God and then act as though God has no role in their lives. The manner of life and values of a Christian becomes indistinguishable from the way non-believers live. It is a reduction of religious belief to a mere emotion or sentimental feeling rather than a relationship with God that defines one’s being, identity, values and purpose. The sociologist, Christian Smith, calls this “therapeutic moralistic deism”. An example of this would be when religious faith is reduced to getting ashes on Ash Wednesday but then denying the teachings of the faith in every other way and still calling oneself a practicing Catholic. This dismissal of religious faith also results in an antipathy towards religion. In recent years, we have seen how religious liberty has been eroded in society and how in many sectors there is a growing mischaracterization, animosity, and hatred of religious faith. We see this today when Christianity is erroneously characterized as oppressive and hate-filled, rather than what it truly is, a faith of love. Last week’s protests in cities around the country where Catholic Masses were interrupted, pro-life clinics firebombed, and churches vandalized are but a sign of this sad reality. In Houston, two Catholic churches were targeted, Holy Rosary in midtown and St. Bartholomew in Katy. It is easy to see that when human life is not respected, there is soon a loss of respect for law, property, religious liberty, and one’s neighbor. Yet, the greatest loss is not in the destruction of property or civil discord, the greatest loss is of souls and eternal life.
There is an adage of “measure twice, cut once!” This means that to avoid bad outcomes, pay attention ahead of time to details. For us as Catholics, how we live our lives each day matters. Sunday Mass every week matters, praying everyday matters, living the Ten Commandments matters, forming our children to live the faith matters, being faithful and loving to our spouse matters, caring for our neighbor matters, doing our best at work or school for the glory of God matters, conducting our business affairs morally and ethically matters, being prudent, sober, chaste, virtuous and responsible matters, seeing every good thing as a blessing of God matters, respecting human life matters! We cannot reduce our religious faith to sentimental feelings or an occasional religious act. Integrity of life matters. The Catholic Faith is not a smorgasbord or a cafeteria line; we cannot pick and choose which doctrines we like and follow them and disregard those we do not like or find difficult. Details matter!
To be a faithful Catholic means that we live our faith in God every day. Our faith in God touches every aspect of our lives, every day. To be a faithful Catholic means that our actions, choices and values are infused and guided by our Catholic faith. To be a true follower of Christ and a faithful Catholic is to be known by our love and ‘to have the dogma living loudly within us’. When we live our life in this manner, we experience the true joy and freedom that Jesus desires for us. The key to happiness is holiness!
In pace Christi,