For students and educators, summer brings a respite from the classroom, otherwise known as summer vacation. A Time Magazine article entitled, “Who Took Away Summer Vacation?” is a provocative article. We are so connected with our smartphones and social media applications that working people don’t literally leave work because they can take work with them wherever they go. Having time off, taking Sabbath rest is essential to a healthy life style. Everyone needs breaks from their daily routine, no matter what that is so we can replenish energy, have time to simply be, and rest.
Similarly, parishes used to be the center and focus of people’s ordinary lives, from Youth activities to weekly devotional prayer services, people made the parish part of their lives beyond Sunday. Do you count parishioners among your friends? Are some of your significant friends, members of the parish or are most of them outside the parish community? The reality is that in order to grow in faith, we need to associate with a small group of people where we can explore faith, explore prayer, and learn from each other, and sometimes rest and play. Renew International begun over thirty years ago, takes this principal to heart; faith grows in groups, small groups, six to eight or ten people. Those who engage in a small faith sharing group, find they are supported, nurtured and have fun exploring topics and issues related to life in the church.
It is in small groups that people get beyond the simple hello of Sunday morning before or after Mass and develop those personal and spiritual relationships that are life sustaining. It is in the small group where people can be known, loved, and cared for, for who they are, not who they feel they should be. Through these groups people can attend to each other’s needs, by listening, praying together and supporting each other in ways that our society and sometimes our own neighbors can’t deliver.
Chances are the person who feels alone, untended to, or left out is the person who stays to himself or herself wanting to be anonymous. It is that person who can too easily fall through the cracks because no one knows them. When we dare to be part of a small faith sharing group, it will lead to personal change, assists us in being followers of Christ despite our weaknesses, doubts and fears. More than likely others have faced the same challenges we face, but together we can approach these concerns with confidence, God’s love and care. Consider being part of a small group faith sharing experience this fall and if you are willing to be a leader we would gladly help you do that.
I am away on my summer break, to rest, rejuvenate and have time with my family and friends – see you at the end of the month.
Father Larry Hendel