AN INVITATION TO “FAN INTO FLAME” THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT IN THE
By Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican
Shortly after Cardinal Martini gave his final
interview on the state of the Catholic Church, many people decided
that rather than walking away from a church in seeming disarray, it
was time to explore how we can “fan into flame” the gifts of the
Spirit. Martini’s assessment was that the church is 200 years behind
the times and is tired and bureaucratic and several religious
buildings are now empty, leaving many people disappointed and
discouraged. Walking away is definitely not the answer. Through the
power and influence of the Spirit, much can be done to achieve this
goal of renewal.
WHAT ARE THE REASONS WHY SO MANY ARE WALKING AWAY
FROM THE CHURCH?
The reasons given by people interviewed are these:
1. The clergy abuse and the response
given to it, caused great discouragement and a sense of hopelessness
and left a dark cloud surrounding all priests and Bishops, even
those not involved in the abuse.
2. Many people are walking away for
lack of soul food. Young people especially are feeling this lack and
are looking for guidance and inspiration in their daily lives. They
are also looking for meaningful ways to reach out and help the poor
and vulnerable all around them or far away in mission lands.
3. People of all ages are looking
for meaningful ways of serving in and through the church. Their
voices need to be heard and given a response.
4. The church needs to relate to the
struggles and hopes of people’s lives
and to help them find
meaningful ways to deal with their struggles.
This will require
listening and praying with small groups and coming up with ways to
help resolve their problems. Vatican 11 reminds us that we are to
make the hopes and fears and joys of people our own.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO RESTORE FAITH, CONFIDENCE AND
HOPE IN THE CHURCH TODAY?
1. The clergy abuse is now being
dealt with publicly and it appears that some good results are coming
out of it. We also need to look at the role of women in the church
and use the gifts of all people to respond to the needs of the time.
The gifts of all are essential to help the church flourish.
2. Training is needed to prepare
people for good preaching that relates to the scripture readings of
the day and to the lives of the listeners, including the children in
the congregation. Priests coming from foreign lands can be trained
in speaking good English so that listeners can understand them. The
gifts of the elders also need to be used to help them regain a sense
of purpose in their daily lives. Intergenerational dialog can be
3. Many good resources are
available for training of preachers. Check out
can be set up for people who are preparing to preach. We also need
to remind people that preaching is not just words. We must all
preach by the witness of our lives.
4. Groups of people can be gathered
each week to explore ways that they can understand and live the
Gospel message and contribute to a community of peace, hope and
love. Many are gathering to celebrate the 50th
Anniversary of Vat. Cl. 11 and the Year of faith in 2013.
5. Congregations can get involved in
social issues such as human trafficking, care of creation, high
unemployment, people lacking housing, health care and basic
necessities of life. Children can be helped to be better prepared
for school and youth need to learn the importance of completing
their education in order to secure work that will sustain them in
justice issues is very important and ways can be pointed out showing
people how to get involved in solution to the problems.
This can be through
volunteer work, financial help and prayer and support for the
To accomplish these goals, there is a great need to
rely on the guidance and power of the Spirit. People can be invited
to regularly spend time in prayer, contemplation and faith sharing
as well as the study of Scripture, and see how it relates to the
issues that are to be addressed. People can also imagine what a
renewed parish/congregation would look like and the then decide what
part they would like to play in the renewal process.
Together, we can all help prepare for the full coming
of the Spirit into our lives and fan into flame the gifts of the
Spirit waiting to restore the full energy of the Catholic Church.,
Prayer and reflection and a deep reliance in the power of the Spirit
is to be the foundation of this endeavor, to ready the soil for new
growth. Together we can imagine a re-evangelized church and work
together to make it a reality.
Blessings on your preaching.