Dear Friends in Christ,
Periodically, I pick up one of the biographies of St. John Vianney. He never ceases to inspire by the holiness of his life, his zeal for God, and his love for his parishioners! Next week is the anniversary of his priestly ordination. St. John Vianney was ordained to the priesthood of Jesus Christ on August 14, 1815, in the seminary chapel of Grenoble. When he was just a boy, he would say to his mother, “If I were a priest, I should wish to win many souls for God!’ So, it is not surprising that the Church, in her liturgy for his feast day, prays in the opening prayer, “Almighty and merciful God… grant that through his intercession and example, we may in charity win brothers and sisters for Christ and attain with them eternal glory!” What a marvelous goal. What a tremendous purpose to have in life! Imagine if all of us made that our heart’s desire. How wonderful that would be for so many and for ourselves. How different would the world be?
Years ago, I heard the term “sheep stealing”. This refers to one church or congregation poaching the members of another. As you might guess, I am not in favor of “sheep stealing”. However, I am 1000% in favor of reaching out to all the lost and confused sheep, those folks who have no church home. While we welcome anyone of any age or state in life, families with children have a special place in my heart. Couples, children, and single parents with kids need God and the Church in a special way. Do you know someone who is not a Christian, who does not know Jesus? Maybe you know someone who has had questions about God or the meaning of life. Perhaps, you know someone at work or down the street who used to go to Church and then just drifted away. Do you know folks who have suffered a loss and don’t know where to turn? Do you know a young person who is confused and looking for direction? Do you know someone who is looking for a community to belong to and give their lives purpose and meaning? These are the “sheep”, the brothers and sisters that we want to win over to Jesus and our beautiful Catholic faith, especially those who were raised Catholic. These are the people with whom we most want to share the joy and splendor and richness of our faith. It is not a numbers game. It is our desire for everyone to be
blessed as we are blessed in knowing God’s love and care, mercy, and truth.
Often, people are hesitant to go to Church, to believe, or to pray because of any one of a thousand reasons. They are embarrassed, they feel like they don’t know all the answers, they are hurt or angry or feel guilty about something in their past. Maybe they feel like they will not be accepted, or they are not good enough, or that they will be judged. Who knows? The thing is, the Catholic Church is the place for them. We are a church of sinners trying to become saints. We are a Church of imperfect people trying to become better, day by day. After all, the Catholic Church let you and me in – didn’t it? If people are looking for the perfect church with perfect people, I have to be honest and say, that is not the Catholic Church, and it never was. Remember the apostles and how imperfect they were, and they were handpicked by Jesus himself! The Church Triumphant is the church in heaven. We are the Church Militant. That means we are here on this earth struggling and fighting to be better, to be holy, to do good, and to build the Kingdom of God through our sacrifices and prayers, with God’s grace. The wonderful thing is that Jesus has already done all the heavy lifting! We just have to do our part by picking up our crosses and following him each day. He will lead but we have to follow. Once we commit ourselves to him, he does not let go of us, ever! When we fall, and we all do, Jesus is always there to help us back up.
With so much pain and suffering, anger and confusion in the world, people need faith and the assurance that it gives more than ever. With so many people lost, they need you and me to help them find The Way and Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. The Catholic Faith is a beautiful gift that changes lives. Our Catholic Faith gives comfort, strength, and direction. Why would we not want others to share and have what we have? God called Jean Marie Vianney to the priesthood on that August day 208 years ago to win souls for heaven. It is what Jean Vianney dedicated his life doing. We are not all called to be priests in a little remote French village, but we are all called to win souls for Christ!
In Pace Christi,