Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
July 17, 2006
The most exciting discovery
Arlan Parenteau was a truck driver when he heard God calling. People told him he would become a priest even though he wasn't even Catholic. He went through the RCIA, was baptized in 1984 and began a long search. In 2003, he was ordained a priest for the Edmonton Archdiocese.
Jim Corrigan's main devotion as a young man was to the party life. When he realized God might be calling him to the priesthood, "I was sure God didn't want a sinner like me working at his Church." He was ordained in 2004.
Joselito Cantal was a mechanical engineer from the Philippines who came to Canada to earn money to send to his family back home. "But the plan of the Lord was different than mine," he said. He was ordained in 2002.
Marc Cramer was married and a Mormon missionary. But when he returned to the Catholic faith of his youth and received the Eucharist, the feeling of emptiness he had been experiencing left him. He was ordained in June 2006.
For some, the Catholic faith is a taken-for-granted reality. "I was born Catholic and, even though I rarely attend church, I will always be Catholic." For other cradle Catholics who do attend Mass regularly, the Catholic faith is a burden from the past that needs to be transcended.
Father Richard John Neuhaus describes it this way: "'Yes, I am a Catholic but I think for myself.' The somewhat implausible assumption is that what one thinks up by oneself is more interesting than what the Church teaches" (Catholic Matters, p. 13
But for others - converts or those who drifted away only to return - Catholicism is the most exciting discovery. Catholicism is not a ghetto, but rather the basis for transforming oneself and the world in the image of Christ.
When the windows of the Church were thrown open in the 1960s, many Catholics decided they had been leading a most claustrophobic life. The exciting thing for them was not the Church, but the culture which lay outside those windows. Even today, Catholics can be found who bemoan and reminisce about the bad old days before Vatican II.
Not surprisingly, this focus on the past did not draw many people to the Church. Nor did it draw many religious vocations.
But the Holy Spirit did not die. Today, we see a small growth in the number of vocations. Some of those vocations come from far away - not just geographically, but also spiritually. How the Spirit moved those people is beyond human understanding.
Neuhaus says that for the new Catholic - convert or reborn Catholic - "the 'larger culture' is the inherited and taken-for-granted reality; Catholicism is the new and challenging thing." It is the culture, not the Church, that is holding me down, that needs to be left behind. Liberation is not from the Church, but in and through the Church.
The Catholic Church is going through hard times. The number of priests and religious is in decline. The Church is besieged with bad press, a hostile secularism and internal indifference.
But the Church is not dying and will not die. New shoots of life always spring forth. Some of those new shoots can be seen in the men who offer themselves for ordination.
Pope John Paul II spoke often of the new evangelization. Indeed, a new missionary effort is needed. The ground, however, is hard-packed. In a consumer-oriented, technologically-driven society, converts will not come easily. There will be persecution. But people will come to the faith.
Always we need to be reminded that God is the one who does the converting. The inner process of call and response is a mysterious one. Our main responsibility is to turn to the Lord in prayer, asking him to unbind our people, to send a gentle rain to soften the soil and allow the seeds to sprout. Eventually, there will be a bountiful harvest.
- Glen Argan
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