People cherish their family and treasure their friends, those who accept us unconditionally for who we are, not who we should be. They rally around us in times of need and rejoice with us when there is good news in our lives. Our friends ground us and keep us in touch with reality when we start wandering off the path; all of this helps us cope with the challenges of everyday life. Similarly we believe that by virtue of our Baptism we are rooted in Christ, who is the source of our life, the friend we can always turn to, the person who loves us for who we are, not who we think we should be. Responding to Christ’s generous love may lead to conversion moments, moments that guide the rest of our lives.
As Father Michael White and Tom Corcoran wrote in their book, “The Story of a Catholic Parish: Rebuilt – Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, Making Church Matter,” we are made for relationships. God wants us to be in relationships, that are life-giving, healthy ones with people who want to be our companions on the journey of faith. Christ centered friendships level the field, and help us keep life in perspective. As hospitable as Saint Anthony Parish is, as welcoming as we try to be, we ought to continue developing our faith in Christ with our friends and with other parishioners who are also on this journey of faith.
To that end we will launch “ARISE: Together in Christ” in October made possible by Renew International, small faith sharing groups in which we can meet new people, pray together, listen to the scriptures, reflect on our experiences of faith, and then go forth to spread the Good News of the Gospel. It is easy to gather with friends, more challenging to make new friends, meet new people and take the risk of sharing our faith. In Season One starting in October we will “Encounter Christ Today” but first we must gather together. We have some small group leaders, but we need a few more: Could you be a small group leader, hosting a group of 8 to 12 people in your home? Past groups have rotated leadership, even rotated from home to home on a day and time that works for the host couple and the group. There are Six Sessions in each season, lasting 90 minutes to two hours, gathering together, praying, breaking open our story, breaking open God’s story, and then being invited to act.
Unlike a Bible study there is no lengthy homework, just read the lesson in advance to know what is coming, taking time to reflect and pray and then come together with a group of people who want to grow more deeply in their faith.
It is a fun experience when we have trust that God is leading us, God’s Holy Spirit will guide us, and the gift of Wisdom will be present. Those who choose to participate in a small group know they are valued, know they belong, and being part of a small group will help to engage each of us more fully in the life of the church. Vatican II invited us into “full, conscious and active participation” in our faith which is always more than the hour for Mass on Sunday: What about the rest of the week? Please prayerfully consider how you will participate in ARISE this fall. We need you; we count on you to participate.
Father Larry Hendel & the ARISE team