Magazine article U.S. Catholic

We Should Be on a Mission from God: Jesus Doesn't Call Us to Seek Refuge from the World but to Engage and Transform It

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

We Should Be on a Mission from God: Jesus Doesn't Call Us to Seek Refuge from the World but to Engage and Transform It

Article excerpt

IF YOU OFFER WIDGETS FOR SALE, YOU ARE GOING TO attract mostly widget buyers. The better your widgets the more customers you will have.

This obvious marketing truth can also be applied to the church. One of our most prevalent and successful recruitment strategies is to offer people a refuge from the pain and difficulties of daily life. For example, an e-newsletter from the Parish Evaluation Project recently suggested that one of the "essential elements" for getting people to reconnect with the Catholic Church and with their local parish is providing "a safe and reassuring refuge."

The idea behind the "refuge from the world" strategy is that people are overwhelmed by the complexities and demands of daily life and need a place to get away from the world, at least for a while. And so we build our churches to look like fortresses or monasteries; offer a variety of ministries to people who are divorced, grieving, unemployed, or ill; and suggest that everyone go with us on a retreat or at least take a day of recollection.

There is nothing wrong with this strategy in itself. Some people do need a refuge from the world, and most of us need it at one time or another in our lives. But there are others who do not feel a great need to get away from the world and are not going to be attracted to a church that presents itself that way.

Let's take my three teenagers. They are all in high school and just beginning to think about college, career, and family. As far as I can tell, they feel very little desire to escape the world. Someday they may see the value of having someplace to get away from it all, but my wife and I really don't wish that on them. Instead, we hope they will each be able to find a fulfilling occupation, a nice home and neighborhood in which to live, and a great spouse and children of their own. In fact, if our children never feel the need for a refuge from the world, that would be fine with us.

The one thing our teenagers definitely need, however, is a mission worthy of their lives. It is something they are searching for, even if they can't articulate it very well. Wouldn't it be nice if our church could offer them that as well?

Of course, it already does. All of us, by virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation, already have been sent by Jesus himself on a more-than-worthy mission. …

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