The U.S. Bishops' Evangelization Committee diagnosed in their research reasons why Catholics become inactive. I have selected nine of the reasons (in bold print). I then reflect on how the Church can respond.
Reason 1 (Why Catholics become inactive): "Some did not experience the power or presence of God in Catholicism or in the Catholic community of which they were a part."
People are hungry and thirsty for signs of intimacy with Jesus Christ. They want to see evidence that people know and love Jesus Christ personally. They want to see a Catholic faith that reaches every part of a person's being and that is manifested in one's words, actions, manner, smile and friendships.
Avery Dulles issues this challenge: "Too many Catholics of our day seem never to have encountered Christ. They know a certain amount about him from the teaching of the Church, but they lack direct personal familiarity. The hearing of the gospel, personal prayer, and the reception of the sacraments should establish and deepen that saving relationship."2
Each year time itself is made holy by our celebration of the liturgical year, that rhythm of prayers, feasts, and celebrations that make present to us on a continuing basis the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior. Each year we are invited to enter into the spirit of these moments to experience on an ever deepening level the significance of the saving actions of Jesus Christ for us personally. Perhaps in the past year we have experienced the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, or a broken relationship. These experiences change us in subtle ways and open us to a new awareness of the ways in which the experience of Jesus can give new meaning to our own. Our experiences are the soil in which our Christianity, watered by faith, grows. But Catholic faith that only goes through the motions year after year does not grow. This lack of growth is obvious. It often reveals a faith that has not been fully internalized. Our lives need to reflect the love of Jesus growing in us. Our lives need to raise "irresistible questions"3 in the hearts and minds of those who are searching for the way home to Catholic truth and authenticity.
Fundamental to our faith is the reality that Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, today and forever." He is the mystery that invites us to Eucharistic faith. He is the one who awaits us in our neighbor, the Sacraments and the poor. He is the Redeemer who has made His Church the sign of God's universal love and welcoming.
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