Chiara Lubich: Intentional Disciple

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“A pen does not know what it is going to write.
An artist’s brush does not know what it is going to paint.
In the same way, when God takes someone into His hands

in order to begin some work of God in the Church,

that person does not know what he or she will have to do. 

He or she is an instrument.
And generally all God’s instruments are characterized

by this quality: littleness, weakness…

‘…so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.’ 
And while the instrument moves in the hands of God,

He forms it with thousands and thousands of painful

and joyful devices. 

In this way He makes it more and more suited

to the task it must carry out,

and it can say with competence: I am nothing, God is everything.”
– Chiara Lubich

One of the four pillars of discipleship is communion. Those who have had an encounter with Christ (side note: an emphasis on the importance of this as a necessity in the life of every Christian has been a main tenet of Pope Francis’s teaching) and want to drop their nets, pick up their cross and follow Him – those individuals naturally want to be around other individuals whose lives have been similarly touched by the Holy Spirit. We aren’t meant to walk alone. This is a vital piece of the Christian life that helped St. Paul bring Christ to the Romans: “see how they love one another!” It is an invaluable mainstay of the Christian life.

A terrific flesh-and-bones example of this is Chiara Lubich, a 20th century Italian woman who founded the Focolare movement. Born out of a desire for unity – “that [we] may be one” as Jesus and His Father are one – this movement seeks to live a life in which community is not just a hokey word, but a transformative reality. A parish is not just a building, but also a family of those who live life side-by-side. It is a realization that we need, not just to hang out with like-minded people, but to be involved in each other’s lives through support, accountability, shared battles and joy.

Chiara founded this movement in the 1940s and today it has approximately 2 million adherents in 182 countries. At a time in history when people live, perhaps more than ever before, in isolated loneliness without any genuine relationships, Chiara has cast a vision for a “more excellent way” that embodies a foundational necessity for every disciple.

It is important to keep in mind that, though the movement she birthed is now quite large and expansive, it did not start that way. She was an “ordinary” Italian girl from Trent, but one who gave her life to Jesus as a total gift – willing to be whatever “instrument” He needed to bring souls to Himself. Is her life not a testament to the fact that equally great things can be made of our lives if we let Him have control, if we let Him transform us into what He longs for us to be?

The words of her life say to us, “We must give ourselves as this gift, and when we do, we will need each other.” But of course, she borrowed these words from Someone greater: Jesus. Let us intentionally and radically offer our whole lives to Him and, as we are led on the greatest adventure life has to offer, let us not listen to the lie of self-reliant, hyper-individualism.  Instead, let’s band together in communion in this battle for souls.

Disciples in the Marketplace

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This past Saturday, i.d.916, together with the Ann Arbor chapter of Legatus, held our first annual conference, Disciples in the Marketplace, at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, MI. It was a rousing success. We praise the Lord for his guidance and His Spirit that gave such tremendous life to the event.  The event was attended by approximately 90 young adults from Iowa, Canada and all over Southeastern Michigan–ranging from lawyers, medical professionals, IT specialists, teachers, and those in career transitions. In large part, the success of the event was due to the professionals who came to mentor the young adults. We were blessed to have around 20 successful, seasoned professionals from a wide array of fields impart to us their wisdom about how to be faithful followers of Jesus in whatever marketplace we find ourselves.

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We heard talks and presentations from Bishop Michael Byrnes from the Archdiocese of Detroit, Deacon Larry Oney from New Orleans and a variety of others. In addition, we also had fourteen discussion groups in which we explored the realities of living as a disciple. We closed the day with a casual hour of mingling, networking and face-to-face time. Though the day was jam-packed, it was a very productive, fruitful and encouraging time to band together as Catholics, meet new people and discuss a very important aspect of our lives.

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As the day concluded, we had the attendees fill out evaluations.  Here is what few of them had to say:

“My experience at this event will dramatically change my work life and my discipleship.”

“Inspiring and challenging – like God is asking more of me.”

“Left wanting more of this!”

“Well worth a beautiful Saturday.”

Thank you to all who helped make this event possible.  May the Lord continue to guide and bless us all as we walk in His Spirit.

4 Minute Apologetics: Redefining Marriage

This is a first in a series of short apologetic clips on the redefinition of marriage.  In this video, Joey McCoy examines the union that marriage is founded upon.

Link to “What Is Marriage” by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson and Robert George

http://www.amazon.com/What-Is-Marriage-Woman-Defense/dp/1594036225

Converting Society

Presidential DebateAfter watching the presidential elections and the preceding campaigns a few months ago, I was struck with the vehemence in which people fought for their particular issues and agendas.  Nearly every group and individual seemed willing to throw aside basic manners, let alone Godly virtue, in order to promote their beliefs about society and our government.  As Catholics we are often reminded to vote according to our conscience which often leads to a striking limitation when investigating politicians and policies.  This approach is often criticized and ridiculed as narrow-minded and naive.  I’ve heard things like, “Sure abortion is wrong, but it’s just one issue.” Or, “what harm is it to me if gay marriage is legalized, it’s the economy that affects my life.”

Those statements or similar ideas reveal two problematic trends.  1) People refuse or don’t understand voting according to their conscience because their conscience is not formed according to the truth of Christ and that transformation is only possible through conversion.  2) Even converts fail to recognize conversion necessarily involves working towards the conversion of society.

Here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) has to say about these two issues: “Conscience must be informed and moral judgement enlightened… it formulates its judgements according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.” (1783) “In formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path…we are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.” (1785)

The CCC affirms the necessity of a well-formed conscience that is taught by the structures Christ established and is enlivened through a life with Christ.  Once we accept this premise of needing a conscience grounded in Christ we must then participate in the promotion of the values and virtues we know to be true.  This proclamation has the conversion of society as its end not only for the individuals who need to hear the Gospel but for the protection and strengthening of our own spiritual lives.  This next quote gets at the heart (no pun intended) of what I’m trying to say.

“It is necessary, then to appeal to the spiritual and moral capacities of the human person and to the permanent need for his inner conversion, so as to obtain social changes that will really serve him.  The acknowledged priority of the conversion of heart in no way eliminates but on the contrary imposes the obligation of bringing the appropriate remedies to institutions and living conditions when they are inducement to sin, so that they conform to the norms of justice and advance good rather than hinder it.” (CCC, 1888)

Our own conversion is strengthened and supported when the society we live in promotes true Godly virtues and values.  Part of the reason for making disciples involves the promotion of a societal environment that appreciates the norms of Christian living.  This in part is why we must vote according to our consciences; consciences formed by the truth of Christ.  Hopefully as we move forward and more elections and policies arise we continue to recognize the need for life and participation in a society (CCC 1891) while remembering our responsibility to promote the Gospel of Christ.  I’ll leave you with one more quote from the CCC,  #1896: “Where sin has perverted the social climate, it is necessary to call for the conversion of hearts and appeal to the grace of God. Charity urges just reforms. There is no solution to the social question apart from the Gospel.” (Emphasis added)