On a wet, chilly Saturday morning in October, something wonderful but odd happened at my parish. Wonderful because it was during the Mass in which young people and their parents took part in a Confirmation enrolment ceremony. Odd because the promises that parents and the confirmandi made ought to be obvious and as natural as breathing for all who were there.
We, the parents of the Confirmation class, promised to support our children by attending Mass each week and following a Catholic way of life. The confirmandi promised to attend Mass each Sunday, pray regularly, try to love others, and be aware of their Christian responsibility in responding to the needs in their home, parish, and community.
My seventh child is receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Spring and as I read the promises and prayers along with the other parents, I silently wondered why we even had to make this pledge. As Catholic parents, this should be a given: prayer, Mass, and Catholic living should be part of our family routine. But looking around at the other participants, I saw some bored, listless teenagers and parents who didn’t know the Mass responses. Sadly, these were people who didn’t care.
In the First Communion class that I teach, I am once again asking parents of the children to practice making the Sign of the Cross with them. At least half of the more than twenty students haven’t been taught properly, if at all. In honour of October as the month of the Rosary, and in response to Pope Francis’ consecration of the world to Mary, we learned about Our Lady of Fatima and prayed a decade. Most of the kids had never prayed the Rosary. Many of them couldn’t pray the Hail Mary or the Our Father from memory.
At this point I could get on my high horse and wag my finger at all those less-than-perfect Catholic parents, but what purpose would that serve except to shine a blinding spotlight on my own faults? If my mission as a catechist and as a child of God is to witness and spread the news of God’s love, then having a “you should” attitude is just plain wrong. Besides, it doesn’t work.
How do we change this lack of caring, this poverty of indifference? How do we make the Catholic Faith so attractive that we can do away with promises to attend Mass and kids who fumble with their beads instead of leading the rosary?
Here’s my idea. We can start by persistently praying: Lord, make me holy.
Real, down-to-earth, joyful holiness is attractive. It is overflowing with humility and trust and it witnesses to a personal relationship with Christ. It doesn’t preach, condemn, or point fingers. It is on fire with love of God and neighbour. It will, as Servant of God Catherine Doherty wrote, “set sparks in the hearts of others. … Even a few drops of love, of charity, are significant in a sea of complacency, indifference, or poverty.”
So that’s the answer. We start with our own desire for holiness. We allow the Holy Spirit to ignite us with love and with our life we share that love with others. If we share the beauty of the Catholic Faith, people will find it attractive. Before we know it, the spark of desire is kindled and the poverty of indifference is defeated. It is replaced by authentic Catholic living and zealous hearts on fire.
So once again, pray it with me: Lord, make me holy.
Photo from ChristianPhotos.net.