Over the past few years, I have had some experience with churches struggling with budget issues. How are we to meet Budget? Yes, somehow the word itself deserves special print – in bold, in italics, somehow it must get special prominence, since so much time and attention is paid to it. “Budget.” Inside I weep, when staff meetings take up this inevitable topic. Anger is not far from the deep sadness in me.
The Church was given a mission, and yet she seems to find a thousand diversions instead. She was given a mission, a destination and a work to do, yet she wanders through other concerns like a tourist on vacation, and not the apostle on his mission that she should be.
Every church I become involved with seems to think it has not enough money. I submit they all have had too much money, and the problem has been the absence of right priorities in using it. Local churches major on the minors, and overlook that which is essential. Much time and money is spent on externals, to the neglect of the necessary interior and spiritual needs of God’s people. The Church has one central mission given her by Christ: make disciples.
What happens when the people are not led to become strong disciples of Jesus? What happens when they are not led to grow in Christ, so as to come to know Him more truly, so as to love Him more fervently, so as to follow Him more faithfully and so as to be Church in the secular world? What happens is, the people become weaker and weaker in Christ, and more and more like the world they are sent to evangelize. The people of God become evangelized by the world, instead of evangelizers for Christ in the world.
And why should worldly people give to an ineffectual church? It does very little for them, so why should they (in the “wisdom” of the world) support it generously?
Suppose, instead, we were talking about churches filled with strong, faithful and zealous Catholic believers whose entire lives were focused on living the Catholic Faith! Do you think the parish would be lacking in means to fund programs that would exist for one reason: to evangelize, to make disciples, to live the mission given by Jesus? I say they would have no problems funding any program that deserved and needed to be funded!
My passion – which I believe I share with the Lord, and which I believe was given me by the Lord – my passion is for adult education and formation in the Catholic Faith.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Mt 28:19-20)
The US Bishops have, on paper, written that adult formation holds a high priority in the work of catechesis in the Church. Here are some portions from their document, “Our Hearts were Burning Within Us,” which focused on the need for solid, on-going and lifelong adult formation in the Faith.
§ 5 § Adult faith formation, by which people consciously grow in the life of Christ through experience, reflection, prayer, and study, must be “the central task in [this] catechetical enterprise,” becoming “the axis around which revolves the catechesis of childhood and adolescence as well as that of old age.” This can be done specifically through developing in adults a better understanding of and participation in the full sacramental life of the Church.
§ 6 § To make this vision a reality, we, as the Catholic bishops of the United States, call the Church in our country to a renewed commitment to adult faith formation, positioning it at the heart of our catechetical vision and practice. We pledge to support adult faith formation without weakening our commitment to our other essential educational ministries.
§ 13 § Such lifelong formation is always needed and must be a priority in the Church’s catechetical ministry; moreover, it must “be considered the chief form of catechesis. All the other forms, which are indeed always necessary, are in some way oriented to it.”
Describing what ought to be the norm for a catechizing parish:
§ 129 § The pastor establishes parish policies and procedures that give priority to the vision and practice of adult faith formation.
§ 130 § Other parish staff members promote and support the faith formation of adults, and they encourage parish adults to participate in basic and continuous education in the faith.
§ 131 § The parish places adult catechesis at the center of its stated mission and goals, and it promotes the importance of adult faith formation at every opportunity.
§ 132 § The parish gives adult faith formation a priority in the allocation of financial resources, in providing learning space, and in parish scheduling.
How we need parishes to put these fine words into practice! How we need pastors who take seriously the need and the priority of adult faith formation! May the Lord awaken us all to the obligations of the life He has entrusted to us.
I pray that the Lord will rouse and awaken the Church here in America, before paganism (or Islam) totally overruns the last remnants of Christianity here. Christ is the one light that can save us from the darkness that is growing around us.