Monday, October 16, 2017

Be on the Lookout...

Editor's Note: This is a contribution from Holly Vaughan! Follow her on Twitter here!

Fall has fallen ya’ll, at least here in the Midwest.  The temperatures may still be in the 80’s (surely not for much longer right?) but the leaves are changing, everyone is talking about pumpkin spice, there is a constant lingering smell of bonfires and burning leaves, and the Farmer’s Market had its last hurrah of the year last weekend.  All of these things are annual reminders that time is passing and the seasons are changing. But there is another sign, hidden in Catholic parishes all over the world, that can often go unnoticed.  

Most parish RCIA programs have either already commenced, or are preparing to in the next few weeks.  If you look closely at the people in the pews you will more than likely start to see new, and often unsure faces.  We tend, I think, to innocently assume that most people who are in RCIA or in the process of conversion are either marrying someone who is already Catholic, or have come to the faith with the assistance of close friends and therefore already have a support system.  This is probably common, and maybe even the norm, but it is definitely not always the case.  It wasn’t the case for my family - we discovered Catholicism after sending my son to a Catholic School, not because it was Catholic, but because it was the only alternative to public school.  The first time I attended Mass, I knew people from the school of course, but not well enough to admit that I had no. idea. what. I. was. doing.  We got to know the people in our RCIA class, and the parish was very welcoming, but parts of the process were still a strange mix of overwhelming and isolating.  

So much of the richness, beauty, and ritual that we know, love, and are used to as Catholics is both enchanting and overwhelming to soon-to-be converts.  We are used to often streamlined and modern churches with a bare cross (if any cross) and certainly no tabernacle or statues.  We mostly sit the whole time, the highlight of the service is the sermon, and we usually only have our symbolic communion a couple of times a month.

Then we come to Mass - and people are bowing at the altar, and there is chanting and incense, kneeling and standing, and everyone except us seems to know what to say, and the pew card is confusing in it’s attempted helpfulness.  AND, while we’re trying to figure all that out, we are also trying to take in all of this newfound splendor:

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Whew! How awesome is our Universal Church?  How great is it to be a part of something SO much bigger than ourselves?  And how exciting is it to be able to share that with others?  

One of my favorite things about Tommy’s Catholic Hipster movement is that it encourages those of us who are younger, and who are going against the grain and living our faith out loud (often among the daily Mass, Rosary and Adoration crowds who are considerably older than us) to work together and normalize traditional Catholicism among our generation, and even to the generations older than us.  We are a generation who wants to know why we believe what we believe, and what the reason is behind the things that we do.  This is the same curiosity that is bringing new people to your parish church, the reason they are lurking in the back pews and leaving during the last hymn, and the reason they are probably trying to google how in the world everyone knew what to do and when to do it at Mass.  They are looking for something more.

YOU, my hipster friend, are what they need.  You know your faith, and if there’s something you don’t know you know how to find the answer.  You know the depths of Catholicism and have the visible love of the faith that draws people in and gets their attention.  You know the beautiful devotions and traditions, the miraculous and inspiring stories, as well as the seriously hardcore saints (Saint Denis anyone?) and the mind boggling aspects as well (Incorruptibles? Eucharistic Miracles? These things aren’t usually discussed in RCIA!).

RCIA goes over the nuts and the bolts.  It’s often a book study related class, and not all people learn to the fullest that way.  Catholics aren’t just book learners - we are a universal faith full of all different kinds of learners.  Really good RCIA programs do more than the basics, but priests are stretched thin, volunteers have very full plates, and most parishes can’t afford to hire people dedicated to the RCIA program.  Maybe you’re not a catechist you say? You are on the introverted side and don’t think you could teach people?  You don’t have to.  Simply ask how you can help - talk to the priest or the RCIA director if you have one.  Volunteer to be a sponsor for someone who doesn’t have one.  Volunteer to tell your own conversion story if you have one or about one of your favorite devotions, or just to maybe bring some snacks and get to know the candidates.  Let them see you live our faith, and tell them about your favorite podcast or the new Catholic movie you saw. Even simpler - reach out to a new person at Mass.  Offer to teach them that pew card, or show them how to use the missal.  Use the opening to share your faith, and share it anyway you can with people who are already searching it out.  You never know what will reach people.  God knows, and he may have put that person on your radar because he knows you have something they need.

This is my favorite line from Tommy’s book: “Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ Himself established a Church, and two thousand years later, he seeks for you to be a part of it. If that isn’t cool, I don’t know what is.”  This powerful statement is what we should keep in mind this time of year (and always).  As the Sunday Gospel taught us recently - the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  Let’s get to work.  

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