Pastor’s Letter – July 16, 2017: Discipleship – Keeping Christianity Viable
As I write this letter it is the feast of St. Benedict (July 11). I feel a special relationship with St. Benedict and the Benedictines. As you know I spent over a year at Our Lady of the Rock Benedictine Monastery located on Shaw Island as their chaplain and on site “handy man”. It was a blessed time to live out the Benedictine motto of “Ora et Labora” (Prayer and Work). It was at Shaw where I learned to kayak, an activity I still enjoy, though I miss kayaking around the San Juan Islands.
St. Benedict, who lived in the late 4th and early 5th centuries, was key in the survival of Christianity. His “user friendly” way of Christian life, a balanced life of prayer, work and study, was a model that has survived into modern times. St. Benedict was witnessing the collapse of society with the fall of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire provided a sort of structure and stability for Christianity to grow and survive. This is why we call ourselves “Roman” Catholic, and Latin, the language of the Roman Empire, has traditionally been our liturgical and musical language. The survival of Christianity for the most part in the West can be attributed to the genius and inspiration of St. Benedict.
St. Benedict started monasteries, which became Christian centers or communities of worship, liturgy and study. The values, traditions, art and culture of Christianity were preserved and flourished in the monasteries as the political world was literally falling apart with invasion of the Barbarians. We have to ask ourselves in the West, as we see an unprecedented exodus from the values of Christianity, especially among the young, how will Christianity survive in our time?
In the United States neither political party represents the core values and teachings of the Church. Political parties have become more polarized and less able to govern effectively. There seems to be more that divides than unites. However, for a disciple of Christ and his Church, our hope and ultimate allegiance will never be to the state or political structures. Our allegiance is to Christ and his kingdom. And this is why Christ said his kingdom will never be in this world.
We live in unprecedented times; the structures of family and society that once supported Christianity are gone . Industrialization, urbanization, technology, prosperity and globalization have changed the world in ways no one could predict or even imagine. The Holy Spirit inspired St. Benedict with a way to keep Christianity viable when the structures that previously supported Christianity were collapsing. What will be the solution for our time? Jesus promised that his Church would last until the end of time.
One writer suggests we need to go back to the 50’s, not the 1950’s but 50A.D., when the Church grew rapidly and organically. In the 50’s it was about discipleship and community (“disciple” being a devoted follower of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior). Christ and the Christ event were fresh on everybody’s mind and experience. The disciples who had personal contact with Jesus and his message were branching out and sharing their experiences of Jesus. The disciples encouraged others to become disciples, believers in Christ. Christianity spread through one disciple to another, and still does today.
Whom will the Holy Spirit inspire in our time, like St. Benedict, to keep Christianity fresh, relative and viable; and what will be the way? How can we make Christianity viable and build discipleship in Edmonds? A start is to pray the Rosary and spend time before Our Lord in the Eucharist.