(1) Sit in silence daily;
(2) Prayerfully read assigned Scripture daily;
(3) Attend an additional Mass weekly (and Stations of the Cross);
(4) Visit our elderly or shut-ins.
Our Bishop and his staff have prepared a 5-year Pastoral Plan, which has been mailed to all parishioners who receive the Harvest. Please read the Pastoral Plan. I am welcoming input from parishioners for our parish plan which we must develop and submit to Bishop Michael. A small number of us will be meeting on 7 March to discuss a 5-year plan, and prepare the first year plan that I will send to the Bishop, as required. Please note: We do not need to shoot out in many directions in our 5-year plan for our three faith communities. I met with Fr. Lou, long time pastor of OL Lourdes, and he strongly recommended that we keep our plan simple. (I did not find the diocesan plan so clear and simple; it is needlessly wordy and lacks a decisive, sharp focus.) In addition to a spiritual focus at liturgies, home study, and adult faith class, I am thinking of preparing a little “kit” to send to each family. We will discuss this on 7 March.
The Diocesan 5-year plan emphasizes well-organized liturgies with solid preaching. I have attempted to do this during my 25-years of full-time work in parishes. I understand the role of the parish priest to be the care of souls, and is primarily done through preaching the Gospel of Christ, through teaching adults (some of whom then work with our children), and through meaningful celebration of liturgies. “Care of souls” can also be called “spiritual formation.” If we do not provide it, where or how do you receive it? What else in your life aims to help you develop your life in Christ and to prepare you for eternity in God? Our 5-year plan must focus on spiritual formation, the care of souls. In a secular, worldly culture such as ours, it would be easy to become derailed into non-spiritual activities in our parishes, and I have steadily resisted that path. Your spiritual formation and well-being must be my primary focus. All that we do in our liturgies needs to run in this direction. I do not find it spiritually beneficial to use the liturgy primarily for other purposes, such as “building community,” or “making our children feel included,” and so on. These are secondary goals, not primary, and must not overshadow our common task: to be nourished and nurtured in Christ. As you think about our 5-year plan, please keep this general guideline clearly in mind.
I have been giving you Lenten Scriptural reading assignments, intended for all parishioners to do. Why? It is part of our task of spiritual formation. The readings are intended to help turn your mind and heart to God, and to reflect on God’s work in the world and in your life. Last week I assigned the prophet Jeremiah, chapters 1-7. Two of you mentioned doing the readings, and I appreciate your effort to respond to our invitation. This week, we will read the six remarkable “confessions” of Jeremiah, in which the prophet wrestles with God. There is really nothing else like these six laments or confessions in the entire Bible; passages in St. Paul’s letters would come closest, and we may study some of these for next week. There are the six distinct passages that Hebrew scholars
have recognized as Jeremiah’s confessions. Please read them prayerfully. You may consider them as a model of prayer; note how direct and honest they are. Jeremiah does not try to “sweet talk” Yahweh, the LORD. All of these prayers are found in the book of the prophet Jeremiah. Please read and study the following:
(Click on the home page for the links to these readings)
(1) Jeremiah 11:18—12:6 (that means, chapter 11, verse 18 through chapter 12, verse 6);
(2) Jer 15:10-21 (meaning Jeremiah chapter 15, verses 10-21, inclusive);
(3) Jer 17:14-18;
(4) Jer 18:18-23;
(5) Jer 20:7-13;
(6) Jer 20:14-18 (meaning the 20th chapter of Jeremiah, verses 14 through 18, inclusive).
Why read this material? For your spiritual formation. How? You can see how the prophet Jeremiah, a true man of God, wrestled with God, questioned God, even accused God—and then repented. Jeremiah is a model for us of a human being seeking to be faithful to his calling.
“Redeem the Time.” May you make the best of the Lenten opportunities to grow in God’s grace.