Saturday, November 30, 2013

First Sunday of Advent: Better be ready!

One would think that the readings from the First Sunday of Advent were the same as Ash Wednesday’s readings. The Second and the Third Reading (Gospel) have little to do with the warm fuzzies of “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” Instead, it has more to do with the sobering reality of death. Just as the world will end one day and hence be judged by Christ upon his Second Coming, so too does the world of each individual come to an end with an immediate judgment to follow.

Before the time of Christ, the ancient pagans had no sense of getting ready for eternity. For them, the afterlife was hidden in the obscurity of their myths. Death for the ancient pagan, as it is for the modern person, was too often an excuse to seek as many pleasures and accumulate as many experiences as possible before time ran out. At the very least, the thought of it was something to avoid. In fact, Alexander the Great, the leader of the Greek Empire in 333 B.C., had himself convinced that he was immortal. It turned out he wasn’t. And as for the great Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emperor and philosopher in the second century, his answer to death was one of mere resignation. He said, “Death smiles at us all, but all a man can do is smile back.”

But there would come a day when a redeemed people would do more than just smile back at death. Several centuries before Christ, when the ancient world was still without hope of eternal life, the prophet Isaiah saw a day when people of faith, from all nations, would be instructed in the ways of eternal life. To be sure, they would come to know that death is not the end of life, but rather, it is the point at which it begins for the righteous. A passage from the First Reading of Mass reads as follows:

“In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”” (First reading- Isaiah 2)

Interestingly enough it was Jacob the Patriarch who had the dream of angles ascending and descending on a staircase to heaven from earth. He was given a vision that these angels were freely traveling back and forth between heaven and earth. Upon the coming of Christ, however, it would be revealed to the people of God that just as angels ascended to heaven, so too would human beings ascend to heaven on the condition that they remained faithful to God.

Indeed, preparing oneself for the hour of death each and every day by being conformed to Jesus Christ- who had already ascending into heaven -is incumbent on every Christian. As St. Paul said in the Second Readings at Mass: “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep...But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:11,14) Fr. Cornelius Lapide, sixteenth century priest and scholar, added to this by cautioning his readers that the devil will try to instill complacency in us or at least the presumption that we have plenty of time left to amend our lives. He wrote, “Wherefore this idea, instigated by the devil, must be crushed. Everyone should say to himself at the beginning of each year, of each day, ‘It may be that you shall die this year or this day. Therefore so live as if you were to die to-day.’”

I have to imagine that it does make a great deal of difference whether a person is ready for his death or not. If it fared well for everyone, regardless of how they lived their life, I suppose our Lord would not be so insistent that we be ready for his arrival. After all, he did say, “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Gospel reading- Matt. 24:44) The divine mandate to be prepared implies that there are consequences for being unprepared. So that these regrettable consequences are not realized, the Lord bids us to be vigilant.

But the question can be asked: If he wants us to be prepared for his arrival, why not tell us precisely when that will be? St. John Chrysostom, an early Church Father, gives us the answer: “For, if men knew surely when they were to die, at that time only would they seek to repent.” In other words, the incentive- or at least one very powerful incentive –to live a life worthy of God’s scrutiny, throughout one’s life, would be compromised. Most people would opt for a last minute maya copa and allow their lives to be squandered in the meantime. By virtue of the fact that we know not the hour, we are, at the same time, summoned to give our best with each day God gives us.

On the other hand, our Lord’s mandate to be prepared for both the hour of our death and his Second Coming has manifold benefits, for this life and the life to come. It gives us perspective and it incentivizes virtue. Another Church Father, St. Athanasius had this to say about being modest about our presumptions:

“When we awake out of sleep, let us be in doubt whether we shall see the evening. When we lay us down to rest, let us not be confident that we shall come to the light of another day. Thus we shall not offend, nor be carried away by vain desires. Neither shall we be angry, nor covet to lay up earthly treasures. But rather by the fear of departure, from day to day we shall trample upon all transitory things.”

The season o f Advent is not only a time when the Church reflects on a past event; that is, the first coming of Christ two thousand years ago. It is also one of anticipation, of looking forward to Christ’s Second Coming. What the Church does on a macro level in preparing herself for the Second Coming and the General Judgment, the individual does on a micro level in preparing himself for his death and the immediate judgment to follow. The two go hand in hand. And as St. Athanasius suggested, a life lived in preparation for death will prevent us from being carried away by vain desires and instead will inspire us to commit ourselves that which is truly important.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and not necessarily
reflective of any organization I works for.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Stumbling Block of the Crib

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola has us meditate on the Crib of Christ during Advent. And to help explain these spiritual exercises is Fr. Bertrand de Margerie’s book, Theological Retreat (1976). He said, “The ‘stumbling block of the crib’ places us face to face with the mystery of a poor God. The infinitely rich is presented to us in the swaddling clothes of poverty.”

The Crib of Christ was every bit as an enigma and stumbling block to the world as the Cross of Christ. Unlike the royalty of earthly kings, our Lord’s Crib suggests that the poor, the lame, the social outcasts and sinners are invited to be his friends.

More than this, the birth of Christ outside of Bethlehem also tells us that happiness and fulfillment is not to be found in wealth or material belongings. Poverty and simplicity are reminders that we are creatures in need. And the greatest need we have is the need for God. For this reason, the Catholic Church has always shown a special affection for the poor. Furthermore, every canonized Saint has had a special love and predilection for them. The poor are living symbols of that great spiritual need that resides in each and every soul.

In fact, Fr. Bertrand de Margerie suggested that the rich need the poor than the poor need the rich. “In his Church,” he said, “the privileged will be, not the rich, but the poor. The salvation of the rich depends on the poor, and on the acceptance, by them, of the alms the rich offer them. It is then, not so much the rich who do a favor to the poor by offering them alms, but rather the poor who become benefactors of the rich by accepting such alms.” This is confirmed when our Lord is quoted by St. Paul as saying, “It is better to give than to receive.” To be sure, when we die, we take with us what we gave, not what we received.

Before the birth of Christ the unbaptized world was morally and spiritually impoverished. The human race had lowered itself to such degradation because it sought joy and happiness in the wrong places. Very much like ancient world, the modern world pines after fame, sex and material pleasures. For this very reason, the Son of God was born into humble circumstances so that we would not put our hopes in the things of this earth. Whatever satisfaction the flesh and the world provides, it is not only short-lived but it will eventually disappoint and leave a void that is impossible to fill.

Jesus Christ teaches us that in order to find ourselves it is necessary to first lose ourselves in him. This is the greatest of paradoxes and it is one that the world simply doesn’t understand. Indeed, self-forgetfulness in pursuit of God and in the service of others is the way in which we are called to lose ourselves.

Similarly, in order to save the world, Christians have to die to the world. They have to die to its group-think ways, its conventional wisdom, its priorities and its values. And right from the start, at the moment of his birth, our Lord defies conventional wisdom in that he, as King, was not born in a palace but rather in some abandoned grotto. Just as with his death, what seems of little account to observers is, in fact, God’s instrument of bringing about new life and great achievements.

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola has us meditation on the following passage:

You could have come into this world through the richness of the flesh, in the midst of wealth. It has pleased you to make yourself a part of the great human family through the poverty of the virginity, not in the bosom of need and misery, but in a stable of a poverty momentarily needy as a consequence of inhospitality of the hearts you came to save. Your poverty and your celibacy are not the condemnation, but the salvation of marriage and ownership, restored by purity of heart and poverty of spirit. Today, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, in the wealth of divine glorification, wish to introduce in their holy family countless poor and chaste men and women...

I will make myself a poor little unworthy slave, and as though present, look upon them, contemplate them, and serve them in their needs with all possible homage and reverence.

Infant Jesus, my Lord and my God, I thank you for having become poor to expiate my avarice. Today, too, you are cold in so many hearts and in so many bodies. I adore your right to be warmed by the fire our loving poverty. In offering it to you for the evangelization and for the salvation of your poor, I renew my resolve to associate myself with your poverty and enrich myself with it.

This is what the Crib of Christ has meant to a world in what the prophet Isaiah referred to as “darkness and gloom.” Its light emanated from an unlikely corner of the world. And from that quiet and humble corner came forth God’s Answer to a world that needed saving. Through our Lord’s poverty, we became rich. And that holy poverty and simplicity is held out to us in a special way during the seasons of Advent and Christmas so that we can renew it in ourselves.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What you may not know about Christmas

A Sky View repost:

If you ever watched the History or Discover Channel you may have come across progressive theologians or historians who dismiss out of hand the historical accounts of Christ's birth as told in the Gospels. Quite often scholars look down upon tradition, the testimonies of the early Christians and their ancient writings. For some of these intellectuals, it is beneath them to give any credibility to traditions associated with piety and religious devotion. Yet, by confining their judgments within the narrow circle of contemporary scholarship, they deprive themselves of valuable insights which the traditions of the Church do provide. Perhaps, this may be one of the reasons why many people do not know the following about Christmas.

Take for instance the date of Christ's birth. Many scholars have said that it is highly unlikely that December 25th was the actual date of our Lord's birth. One principal reason was that shepherds in the Holy Land did not normally graze their pastures with their sheep during the month of December. Rather, the more likely month for such activity would be during the month of March. But, as we shall see, there are reasons to believe that the tradition of the Church got it right.

For starters, early in the fourth century (300's), St. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, wrote Pope St. Julius, bishop of Rome, to inquire about the date of Christ’s birth. One might think that if anyone was qualified to answer the question it would be St. Cyril himself; primarily because he was the bishop of Jerusalem, just twelve miles away from Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. Nevertheless, it just so happened that the city of Jerusalem was pillaged in 70 A.D. by the Roman army, led by General Titus, in order to repress an uprising of Jewish zealots. In the process, the Temple was destroyed and its records- along with the census documents -were brought back to Rome only to be filed among the Roman archives. Less than three hundred years later, these documents were evidently still in existence. Interestingly enough, Pope St. Julius was the acting bishop of Rome after Christianity had been legalized. As such, he had privileged access to the Roman archives. St. Julius wrote back to the Saintly Bishop of Jerusalem and assigned December 25th as the birth date of Jesus Christ. “St. John Chrysostom [Bishop and Father of the Church in the 400's] quotes the same authority of the Roman archives as the source of the date of Christmas.”

As regards to the likelihood shepherds overseeing their sheep on a cold December night, we learn the following: It just so happened that right outside the town of Bethlehem was a watch tower called the Migdal Eder. This was a special watchtower that overlooked a pasture of sheep. But these sheep were no ordinary sheep. The sheep at the Migdal Eder were specially groomed for the Temple sacrifice "throughout the year." This pasture land happened to be alongside a road leading to Jerusalem. The Migdal Eder shepherds were trained to keep these sheep unblemished, that is, with no broken bones or any other kind of infirmity. Unblemished lambs for sacrificial offerings, of course, were required by the Law of Moses. These providential circumstances, no doubt, foretold that the Christ-child would fulfill the Messianic role as the “Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.”

Interestingly, it is believed that the Angel announced the glad tidings of the Saviors birth to these special Migdal Eder shepherds on Christmas night. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that after having witnessed the angelic apparition and having visited the baby Jesus in "swaddling clothes," these shepherds got to talking at the Temple when they transported the sheep there. Perhaps, this is why St. Simeon and the prophetess Anna (Luke 2) recognized the Christ-child as the long awaited Messiah when he was presented in the Temple forty days after his birth. After all, the following prophecy from Micah was well known within the Jewish community: “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”

Tradition also has it that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the age of three to the time she was betrothed to St. Joseph, had lived in the Temple. Just like Hannah did with her son Samuel in the Old Testament, Mary’s parents, St. Anne and St. Joachim, dedicated Mary to the Temple (probably due to their old age). According to an ancient document known as the Gospel of St. James (or the Proto-evangelium ), Mary was to spend most of her childhood in the Temple precincts. As such, her holiness and even her vow of virginity could very well have been made known to the likes of St. Simeon and the prophetess Anna who also lived in the Temple (not to be confused with St. Anne, Mary’s mother). Perhaps, the reason why this holy man and holy woman immediately recognized the Christ-child is because they first recognized his Mother!

Some scholars, for their own reasons, have maintained that Christ was not born in Bethlehem but rather in Nazareth. However, the early Christians have something to say about the exact place of Christ’s birth. It was virtually unanimous among the early Christians and Fathers of the Church that Jesus was born just outside of Bethlehem in a cave, also known as a grotto. St. Justin, a Palestinian by birth and a Christian philosopher who lived about a hundred years after Christ, writes that Jesus was born in a grotto near Bethlehem. He said, “Since Joseph did not find where to lodge in the village of Bethlehem, he repaired to a certain grotto near to it; and being there, Mary brought forth Jesus and laid him in the manger, where the Magi, coming from Arabia, found him.”

About fifty years after St. Justin died (165 A.D.) Origin, a Catholic priest and well known Father of the Church, had this to say about the place of Christ's birth: "At Bethlehem is shown a grotto where Jesus was born. The fact is well known throughout the whole country. Even pagans know that in this grotto was born a certain Jesus adored by the Nazarenes." When Christianity finally had become legal in 313 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Constantine, his mother, a canonized Saint, traveled to Bethlehem and found the grotto where our Lord was born. As an ancient Church historian in the third century, Eusebius, relates, the Emperors mother restored it. "Helena adorned the holy grotto with rich and varied decorations. Sometime later, the Emperor himself, outdoing his mother's munificence, embellished this place in truly royal fashion, lavishing on it gold, silver and sumptuous tapestries.” From that time forward, the grotto, later turned into a shrine, became a favorite holy site for pilgrims. Even the famous Saint and scholar of the fourth century, St. Jerome, had visited this hallowed grotto. However, he lamented that it did not retain its original simplicity when Christ was born a little over three hundred years prior to his visit.

In conclusion, although modern scholarship has furthered our knowledge about Christ in many ways, it is, nevertheless, comprised of fallible judgments based on many premises which may or may not be true. One thing is for sure: If we want to know the truth about Christmas and the circumstances of that wonderful night, we cannot afford to ignore the traditions that have come down to us through the Catholic Church. These traditions have a lot neat insights to offer. What is more, many of them are credible. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, as it is read to us from the pulpit at Mass on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day, really did happen the way the Gospels say it did.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and not necessarily
reflective of any organization I works for.

Friday, November 8, 2013

ENDA: Employment Nondiscrimination Act

“Ten Republicans joined with all Democrats in a 64-32 vote to pass the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA. Ten Republicans had voted to advance the measure in an earlier procedural vote,” said Michael A. Memoli. The Senate gave it the thumbs up, now it goes to the House of Representatives.
Reporting for the L.A. Times on Thursday, November 7, 2013 in his article, “Senate passes workplace protection for gay, transgender Americans,” Memoli went to say,

On Wednesday, senators approved an amendment offered by Republicans to strengthen an exception provided in the bill for religious organizations, and to ensure that the government could not retaliate against such groups in awarding contracts and grants.”
It was partly due to this amendment that well-known conservative, Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, lent his support of ENDA.  "A person's sexual orientation,” he said, “is irrelevant to their ability to be a good doctor or engineer or athlete or a federal judge." But he was equally concerned what this might portend for religious freedom. He didn’t want businesses with religious affiliations to be forced to hire gay employees if such measures would violate the tenets of their faith. Still, with this amendment, Mr. Toomey thought that ENDA was good legislation. After all, no one should be discriminated against.

The question that immediately comes to mind is this: Why is it necessary? In fact, Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws are interpreted to mean that it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. This is plainly stated on the U.S. Equal Employment Commission website. And in more and more cases, this interpretation is being used to violate conscience rights. That is, it is compelling people to act or to provide a service that they deem contrary to their faith.

In August of 2013, for instance, the New Mexico State Supreme Court ruled against Elane Photography for their decision not to photograph a ceremony involving a same-sex couple. Elaine Hugenin, owner of the photography business, claimed that her refusal to carry out the services was due to her religious beliefs.

However, the state Supreme Court justices were not persuaded by Elaine’s position. Neither was Louis Melling, the Deputy Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union. She praised the decision saying, "Today's opinion recognizes the sincerity of those beliefs, but makes clear that no one's religious beliefs make it okay to break the law by discriminating against others."

Indeed, this view seems to be prevailing. Recall that in 2010 that “don’t ask, don’t tell” law was successfully repealed in the military. Since then, gays can be open about their sexuality. So, again, why is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act necessary? I’m afraid it will not be exclusively used to prevent unjust discrimination against employees or prospective employees who may have same-sex attractions. If past is prologue, as in the Elane photography State Supreme Court decision, it will be used to discriminate against those who oppose same-sex marriage or the homosexual lifestyle. Keep in mind: laws are of secondary importance nowadays. The interpretation of the law is where the power is. But bad laws make bad interpretations much easier.

As Congressman Paul Ryan recently stated, no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. But his concern was that ENDA might have unintended consequences. Personally, I am not convinced that the consequences will be “unintended.” When he speaks of consequences I think he means that it may be used coercive purposes, compelling the private sector and even religious organizations cooperate with the gay-rights agenda.

To repeat, the campaign to stop unjust discrimination based on sexual orientation is likely to be used, as it has been, to discriminate against those who cannot, in good conscience, cooperate with any activity that would suggest approval of same-sex unions. You see, it is not the thing itself that needs to be considered, but how that thing will be used.

Case and point: Not a few Christians were in favor of the idea of nationalized healthcare. But in 2010, when the Affordable Health Care Act was passed, it was becoming clear that healthcare was a means in carrying out other designs. The contraceptive mandate was one such design. And now, the implementation of nationalized healthcare is creating all sorts of headaches. The idea of universal healthcare is noble. But how it will be used and by whom were not sufficiently considered. Did not our Lord say: “For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than the children of light.” And I have to wonder if ENDA is just another “prudent” tactic by the children of this world.

Among good, believing Christians the naiveté of evil has been quite costly. We are at a crossroads in a nation when soft-despotism may begin to harden a bit. Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America (1835-40), once made the point that democratic nations are not immune despotism. He said,

If despotism were to be established amongst the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them…[Under such despotism] the will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting…”
Since the early 1960’s, Christians have been “prevented” from praying and the reading the bibles in public schools; “prevented” from displaying religious symbols in the public square; and “prevented” from speaking openly about the sanctity of marriage in many of our public institutions. Now, however, there is a strong movement to force us to “act” and to “obey.”  And as Jordan Lorence, a lawyer representing the Elane photography business, said, "Government-coerced expression is a feature of dictatorships that has no place in a free country."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Affiliating the Unaffiliated: When Catholicism Goes Churchless


By and large, Sky View posts are written for the average person. However, from time to time I like writing for the leaders in the Church. This post, Affiliating the Unaffiliated: When Catholicism Goes Churchless, has parish leaders as its target audience; especially as it pertains to adult faith formation.

The Spiritually Unaffiliated:

The Diocese of Green Bay's newspaper, The Compass, published an article, “Drop in Mass attendance a concern to diocese” in May of 2013. One insightful truth it unveiled is that 78 percent of Catholics think they can be good Catholics without going to Mass. This was confirmed by Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist and author of Bad Religion. He said “The United States remains a deeply religious country, and most Americans are still drawing some water from the Christian well. But a growing number are inventing their own versions of what Christianity means…”

Many parish leaders have already learned from Pew Research that this is a growing trend. “In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults.” The increase of the religiously unaffiliated is just another way saying that more people are seeking God outside of organized religion.

These statistical revelations are old news to many. However, they are an important reminder that there are trends which lead people away from the parish. This is most unfortunate because the parish, as Bishop David Ricken said, is the epicenter of where sacramental life of faith is to be found.

The good news is that most Americans are still deeply spiritual and as such, they put a high premium on their relationship with God and prayer. Given these considerations, there is something for parish leaders to work with. Indeed, it can be said that at least one challenge of adult faith formation in our parishes is to show how the sacramental life of faith elevates and completes the faith of the individual.

The Religiously Affiliated:


To be a religiously affiliated Catholic is to be, at the same time, an active member in parish life. And as we know, situated at the center of parish life are the lectern where the Word of God is proclaimed and the altar where the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered. However, church membership, by itself, is tenuous at best. Just as there are steps that should precede a marriage proposal, such as knowledge and love of the person, there are also steps- necessary steps! –in becoming an active member in the parish. Ideally, the soil on which a person’s membership rests is to be first cultivated by two things: relationship and discipleship. That is, pursuing a relationship with Christ and being his disciple. As we know, the moral obligation to attend Mass on Sundays or even the outreach of inviting people to join us at Mass is not sufficient.


A relationship with Christ presupposes a daily communication with Him in one’s own heart and in the privacy of one’s home. This working of God’s grace in the soul, sooner or later, wants to find an outlet. When a person experiences that which is meaningful as an individual, he or she wants that experience to be supported and even interpreted by others. This is when the parish becomes more relevant to the Christ-seeker. But without this one on one encounter and relationship with Christ, the parish is much less relevant.

Take, for instance, “Catholics Come Home”: The nationwide outreach of “Catholics Come Home” did a fantastic job in showing the beauty and relevance of the Catholic Church as she existed in the last 2,000 years. But the historic contribution of the Church, impressive as it is, is not always represented at the local level. To be sure, each parish has its strengths and weakness.

Fair or unfair, it may be that, at least for newcomers, the weaknesses of some parishes standout more than their strengths. And although the newcomers were impressed enough with the “Catholic Come Home” video to give Catholicism another try, the reasons that got them to Mass were not enough to keep them there. In other words, the institutional emphasis on the Church by “Catholics Come Home” could not sustain long-term membership.

Something more is needed; and that something is a personal relationship with Christ. Daily prayer and spiritual reading can help the individual overcome whatever limitations he or she experiences at local parish. They might say to themselves: “Albeit, the music is not quite to my liking; the sermons don’t always appeal to me; and the parishioners may not have welcomed me the way I would have liked, but there is something here greater than all of these imperfections. Christ is here! He is truly here! And it is this reason, above all, why I come to Mass.”


Relationship and discipleship better secures membership. Christ spent three years with the Apostles before he introduced them to the Mass, which is the center of sacramental life for the parish. He spent time forming relationships with them. By forming relationships with the Twelve Apostles, he was in the position to make disciples out of them. And what is discipleship? In a nutshell, discipleship is to think like Christ, to talk like Christ and to act like Christ. By its very witness and attractiveness, conforming ourselves to the likeness of Christ and being an active follower of his is contagious. It seeks to be intentionally communicated to others so that they too will be followers.

A relationship with Christ may begin at home, but discipleship is best carried out at the local parish. In the sacramental life of parish is where we learn to follow Christ as his disciple. But a desire to have a relationship with Christ and to be his disciple has to be awakened as a condition of being a member of the Church. Relationship and discipleship must either precede church membership or at the very least, it must be the foundation on which membership rests. As Adrian Von Spyer wrote in her commentary on the Gospel of John, “The Lord first of all forms his followers into disciples and only then baptizes them. He wants to baptize them when they have reached full awareness of the discipleship. The cleansing sacrament is not to be sprung them in surprise, but the desire for this cleansing is to be awakened first.”

Sacramental faith was never meant to be the cause of relationship and discipleship, but rather its natural outcome. Whatever adult faith formation programs we introduce in our parishes, therefore, it would seem that if we are to recover relevance of the Mass and church membership, we have to pour efforts into fostering a personal relationship with Christ and being his disciple. This, in large part, is how we affiliate the unaffiliated.