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Picture this. It is the morning hour of 6:00 o’clock. God’s children were nestled all snug in their beds, or preparing for a morning jog through the streets of Philadelphia, or having prayer time… whatever you would normally be doing at a hotel when you are attending the World Meeting of Families. Anyway, a voice comes from above (which was amazing for those of us having prayer time). The voice says “there is a reported emergency in our building” and advising us not to use the stairs or elevators. This leaves very few options for escape.
There’s no vocation crisis from the looks of the company I kept today – a twenty minute procession of priests, religious habits in all types of designs (amazing how many different shapes black and white can take!), and thousands of lay ministers of all variety imaginable. I guess that means my sample size is vibrantly Catholic and I’ve made it to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia!
A blessing of Church ministry is that our job is at the same time a ministry to others and a ministry to ourselves. This afternoon as I sat at the opening keynote address listening to and reflecting on Bishop Robert Barron’s challenging words, I found myself in a personal examine and a ministerial brainstorm. (Isn’t the Holy Spirit’s efficiency great?!)
How is my Praise?
The opening keynote by Bishop Barron walked us through an examination of what it means to be in the image of God. Resisting the desire to just transcribe all his profound and engaging presentation, allow me to dwell on one theme of his talk. The easiest way to answer the question “who are you?” he said, is by answering the follow up question “what do you worship?” When we worship false gods – of whatever variety – the result is emptiness and brokenness. I don’t have to think too hard to call to mind personal examples of that one playing out. As soon as I de-throne God as Lord of every aspect of my life, disaster awaits. Only when our hearts are ordered aright, with God as God and me as His beloved creature, is fulfillment possible.
Bishop Barron emphasized that right praise is foundational to our identity and vocation. “Our deepest task is to lead all of creation in a chorus of praise.” False worship rends the heart, while adoration aligns us to God. What is the core of our mission of evangelization? Simple answer from today’s keynote: teach people how to praise.
That means that we are praising God.
That means that we are praising God constantly, and in all areas of our life.
That means that we are praising God well, as God has revealed is proper to Him.
I invite you to join me in the reflection of what that means in our own lives, and what that means in our ministry of evangelization. How authentic is my praise – do I pray as I want, or as God wants and ought to be praised? Is my prayer me-centered, or Him-centered? How does obedience factor in – begrudged and done in resignation, or do I recognize God’s laws and God’s representatives as a privileged opportunity to show Him my praise? In the ministry entrusted to us, how are we teaching others to praise? Are our families praising God, and praising Him aright? In liturgical prayer, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is our focus the worship of God?
Challenging thoughts as day one comes to close. And for that, praise God!
Years ago, I was at the retreat house where Fr. Art Valenzano was assigned. He and I were chatting when we heard a raised voice. A chaperone was really lighting into a young person who had broken a window by playing ball in the house. The young person was going to be sent home. The chaperone told him to pack his bags, she was going to call his parents. The young man was crying. Fr. Art and I quickly headed toward the chaperone and the young person. He told me to take the young person into the next room, and he would talk to the chaperone in the chapel.