Part 2 of Bishop Conlon Talking about the Importance of Families Forming Missionary Disciples

  
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In part 2, Bishop Emeritus R. Daniel Conlon, from the Diocese of Joliet, continues sharing his thoughts on the importance of families forming missionary disciples.

He feels that numerous opportunities exist for families/parents to form children as disciples. Ideally, they are most effective because they have such a huge influence on their children. He also talks about the need for many parishes to re-think how they use their resources, structures, budgets and staff to support parents and enable them to intentionally form disciples and missionary disciples.

Click on the audio above to listen.

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“In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family? Some of you do, I know. But so many people say to me: How can we? Prayer is something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace… Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector! And we need simplicity! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is something all of you can do. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength! And praying for one another!”

— Pope Francis

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“Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race. He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands. … Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.

“Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith? Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness? We all know that families, especially young families, are often ‘racing’ from one place to another, with lots to do. But did you ever think that this ‘racing’ could also be the race of faith? Christian families are missionary families, in their everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!”

— Pope Francis

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“Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well… True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey. But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all. God alone knows how to create harmony from differences. But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centeredness prevails and joy fades. But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally. That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society.”

— Pope Francis

Bishop Conlon Talks about the Importance of Families Forming Missionary Disciples, Part 1

  
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Bishop Emeritus R. Daniel Conlon, from the Diocese of Joliet, recently shared his thoughts on the importance of families forming missionary disciples.

In part 1, he eloquently shares his thoughts why it make sense that families lead the way in forming disciples in the short audio above. Click on the audio above to hear it and stay tuned as part 2 will be arriving next week.

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“From the beginning of history, God has been generous with his love towards his children (cf. LG, 2), so that they could attain fullness of life in Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 10:10). Through the Sacraments of Christian Initiation, God invites families to enter into this life, to proclaim it and to communicate it to others (cf. LG, 41). As Pope Francis forcefully reminds us, the mission of the family always extends outside itself in service to our brothers and sisters. Each family is asked to participate in the Church’s mission in a unique and privileged manner. ‘In virtue of their Baptism, all members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.’ ” (EG, 120). 

— The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World: The Final Report of the Synod of Bishops to Pope Francis

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“The family that prays together stays together.”

— Venerable Father Patrick Peyton

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“It is in the family that children, from the tenderest age, can learn to perceive the meaning of God, also thanks to the teaching and example of their parents: to live in an atmosphere marked by God’s presence.”

— Pope Benedict XVI

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“The family’s catechetical activity has a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable. This special character has been rightly stressed by the Church, particularly by the Second Vatican Council (118). Education in the faith by parents, which should begin from the children’s tenderest age (119), is already being given when the members of a family help each other to grow in faith through the witness of their Christian lives, a witness that is often without words but which perseveres throughout a day-to-day life lived in accordance with the Gospel. This catechesis is more incisive when, in the course of family events (such as the reception of the sacraments, the celebration of great liturgical feasts, the birth of a child, a bereavement) care is taken to explain in the home the Christian or religious content of these events. But that is not enough: Christian parents must strive to follow and repeat, within the setting of family life, the more methodical teaching received elsewhere. The fact that these truths about the main questions of faith and Christian living are thus repeated within a family setting impregnated with love and respect will often make it possible to influence the children in a decisive way for life. The parents themselves profit from the effort that this demands of them, for in a catechetical dialogue of this sort each individual both receives and gives.

— Pope John Paul II’s 1979 Apostolic Exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae.

What Does Hospitality Have to Do with Missionary Discipleship? (Part 2)

  
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In the final part of the series on hospitality, Sheila Stevenson, who recently retired as the director of the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry at the Diocese of Joliet and is a current member of the diocesan Missionary Discipleship Team, dives even deeper into the power of hospitality as she answers the question: what does hospitality have to do with Missionary Discipleship?

Click on the short audio segment above to find out more.

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Some more thoughts on hospitality:

"If there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality. It is one of the richest Biblical terms that can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships to our fellow human beings.”

— Fr. Henri Nouwen

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“Scholars point to a law of hospitality in biblical times. Certain customs had to be followed. Should a guest or host not adhere to the customs, it could be punishable by death. Death! Imagine forgetting to offer a cup of coffee to a guest in your home, then receiving a nice whack to the head for it. We, in our world, find this egregious and outlandish yet we can still learn from such a law. In biblical times, almost all lived in small villages or camps in which it would be an absolute shock to come upon a stranger in the routines of day-to-day life. Should a stranger come out of the desert and into the village or camp, it would be cause for alarm. Why is this person here? What is his purpose? The stranger is the other, the unknown. So, what is the response of the village elders? Kill the stranger that instant as an intruder? Cast the stranger back out into the desert to suffer without replenished supplies? These are adequate ways of protecting a group, and we may see some similarities to how the stranger is treated in our world today.

“Still, these ways remove any possibility for discovering the stranger to be a friend, someone with a shared humanity. The people of biblical times recognized this, so they determined a far better way to handle such a situation. They would embrace the stranger as a guest. Thus, the threat the stranger represents is removed. It is a hostile situation no longer. Victor Matthews, a scholar of biblical hospitality, writes, “This stranger was given new status as a guest, thereby removing the hostile overtones associated with the different and unfamiliar.”

“Accepting the stranger as a guest meant providing food, drink, and shelter. It meant fair treatment and even an obligation to offer the guest anything upon which the guest gazed for an extended time. Again, we may find this outlandish, but it served a purpose. The stranger was taken care of and became a guest, and the threat to the livelihood of the camp or village was eliminated.”

— From the Modern Catholic Pilgrim’s essay called “Why Hospitality?” https://www.moderncatholicpilgrim.com/

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“Those people coming in off the streets, coming into churches and taverns, what do they seek? Home. What truly excellent pastors can help to provide for the wayfarer is a taste of the home that is promised us with our Maker, though of course we will never feel quite at home this side of the kingdom. But the work of helping people to feel a bit less estranged, a bit more comfortable in their own skin and in the Milky Way, is the work of hospitality, and it is a task for a bar like Derek’s Columbia Room, New York’s Death & Co., or South Bend’s Tapastrie even as it is for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. A priest who answers the rectory door and a bartender who places before her customer a cool glass of water and a menu share the obligation to look upon the congregant with love and respect and then to assess what’s the best way we might serve.”

— From an essay in First Things by Father William Dailey, C.S.C.

The Importance of Hospitality during a Pandemic, Part 1

  
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Sheila Stevenson, who recently retired as the director of the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry at the Diocese of Joliet and a current member of the diocesan Missionary Discipleship Team, is someone I consider an expert in being hospitable.

She has the kind of heart and faith that radiates joy and welcoming. All that is why I asked her to share about the importance and power of hospitality in missionary discipleship. I’ve covered this topic before in a previous post.

But I think this subject is so important in today’s world — which can be so inhospitable, in words and deeds — that it’s worth diving into again.

In the audio segment above, Sheila talks what’s changed in Church world because of the pandemic, and how pastoral Church leaders can adjust their mindsets about hospitality in these unsettling days.

She emphasizes how it’s the little things that make a difference in hospitality.

Check for part 2 of her audio talk in two weeks’ time.

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“God calls each of us to be hospitable, to help those in need. By helping them we are indeed helping Christ. As Pope St. John Paul II stated:

“Welcoming Christ in the brother and sister tried by need is the condition for meeting him perfectly and ‘face to face’ at the end of the earthly journey” (Homily for the Jubilee of Migrants and Itinerant Workers, June 2, 2000).

—From the Vatican Information Services, from June 2, 2000

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The Catholic Hospitality Training Institute, an outreach of St. Paul Evangelization Ministries, explored the gifts of connecting, comforting and mercy with participants as ways to foster a culture of hospitality in their parishes. Sheri Wohlfert, a Catholic wife, mom, speaker and teacher based in Michigan, represented the institute. She trained staffers from parishes the first day and parishioners in general the second day. The training focused on four areas: the call to holiness, sharing, serving, and building Christ’s kingdom on earth. …..

“Our hope is that people continue to see how prayer and relationships can produce so much fruit in our efforts to evangelize,” said Tasha Havercamp, who directs St. Paul the Apostle’s Evangelization & Mission team with her husband Michael. “Hospitality is less about offering refreshments and more about discipleship.”

— From an article in the Catholic Messenger: http://www.catholicmessenger.net/2019/09/radical-catholic-hospitality-transformation-begins-from-within/

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“We do it by seeing Christ and serving Christ in friends and strangers, in everyone we come in contact with. While almost no one is unable to give some hospitality or help to others, those for whom it is really impossible are not debarred from giving room to Christ, because, to take the simplest of examples, in those they live with or work with is Christ disguised. All our life is bound up with other people; for almost all of us happiness and unhappiness are conditioned by our relationship with other people. What a simplification of life it would be if we forced ourselves to see that everywhere we go is Christ, wearing out socks we have to darn, eating the food we have to cook, laughing with us, silent with us. ….

“For a total Christian the goad of duty is not needed — always prodding him to perform this or that good deed. It is not a duty to help Christ, it is a privilege. Is it likely that Martha and Mary sat back and considered that they had done all that was expected of them — is it likely that Peter’s mother-in-law grudgingly served the chicken she had meant to keep till Sunday because she thought it was “her duty”? She did it gladly: she would have served ten chickens if she had them. If that is the way they gave hospitality to Christ it is certain that is the way it should still be given. Not for the sake of humanity. Not because it might be Christ who stays with us, comes to see us, takes up our time. Not because these people remind us of Christ, as those soldiers and airmen remind the parents of their son, but because they are Christ, asking us to find room for Him exactly as He did at the first Christmas.”

— From Dorothy Day’s booklet called “On Hospitality”

David Spesia, from the USCCB's Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis, Talks about Missionary Discipleship

  
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Today’s audio guest is David Spesia, the executive director of the Secretariat of Evangelization and Catechesis for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is a former colleague from the Diocese of Joliet who is a big advocate of Pope Francis’ missionary discipleship mindset.

With that in mind, I asked him what key actions parish leaders can take to turn their parishes in beacons of missionary discipleship during this difficult time; what is key to being a fruitful missionary disciple; and what passage inspires him from the Acts of the Apostles.

He advocates for people to concentrate on the spiritual works of mercy; an increase in spiritual reading — he recommended a book by Father Donald Calloway called Consecration to St. Joseph; The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father — and praying; and a turning to the Blessed Mother.

The quotes below are meant to add to what David talks about in the interview.

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The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy:

1. Counsel the doubtful.

2. Instruct the ignorant.

3. Admonish sinners.

4. Comfort the afflicted.

5. Forgive offenses.

6. Bear wrongs patiently.

7. Pray for the living and the dead.

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“The giving of oneself brings with it an enriching of oneself.”

—St. John Paul II 

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“If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself.”

—St. Peter Chrysologus, an early bishop and doctor of the Church

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“The older I get, the more I meet people, the more convinced I am that we must only work on ourselves, to grow in grace. The only thing we can do about people is to love them.”

—Servant of God Dorothy Day

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“I have found the paradox that, if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.”

—St. Teresa of Calcutta

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“It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense, but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.”

—From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

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“Not only is kindness due to everyone, but a special kindness is due to everyone. Kindness is not kindness unless it is special. Its charm consists in its fitness, its timeliness, and its individual application. Kindness adds sweetness to everything. It makes life’s capabilities blossom and fills them with fragrance. Kindness is like divine grace. It bestows on men something that neither self nor nature can give them. What it gives them is something of which they are in need, or something which only another person can give, such as consolation. Besides, the manner in which this is given is a true gift itself, better far than the thing given. The secret impulse out of which kindness acts is an instinct that is the noblest part of yourself. It is the most undoubted remnant of the image of God, given to us at the beginning.”

—From Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik’s book, The Hidden Power of Kindness

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“Without prayer, we have neither light nor strength to advance in the way which leads to God.”

—St. Alphonsus Liguori, doctor of the Church

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“Descending upon the Apostles assembled with Mary, Christ’s mother, the Holy Spirit transforms and unites them, ‘filling them’ with the fullness of the divine life. They become ‘one,’ an Apostolic community, ready to bear witness to the crucified and risen Christ. This is the new creation which flowed from the cross and was given life by the Holy Spirit, who gave it its historical beginning at Pentecost.”

—St. John Paul II

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Prayer to the Blessed Mother written by Pope Francis

O Mary,
You shine continuously on our journey
as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick,
who, at the foot of the cross,
were united with Jesus’ suffering,
and persevered in your faith.

“Protectress of the Roman people,”
you know our needs,
and we know that you will provide,
so that, as at Cana in Galilee,
joy and celebration may return
after this time of trial.

Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the will of the Father
and to do what Jesus tells us.
For he took upon himself our suffering,
and burdened himself with our sorrows
to bring us, through the cross,
to the joy of the Resurrection.
Amen.

We fly to your protection,
O Holy Mother of God;
Do not despise our petitions
in our necessities,
but deliver us always
from every danger,
O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

Amen.

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