(Why I didn’t want to get back into substantive blogging over here…I throw out half-assed thoughts poorly expressed and end up having to take more time to clarify…because of my initial sloth…ah well.)
I obviously didn’t mean to hate on the concept of “a small group of Christians sharing fellowship and formation.” Or some such. I meant to hate on the idea – all the rage back in the 80’s and some of the 90’s – that every parish must be divided up into cells or groups and real Christian community can’t arise in a Catholic parish until everyone is in a one of those small groups meeting weekly and sharing and such…
Some of you might not remember that…but I do.
What what was in my head was the truth I really believe that this laudable end – enabling Christians to engage in smaller settings – can happen in an organic way in a parish when the effort is rooted in Catholic stuff. Eucharist. Devotions. The works of mercy. Let me repeat – the works of mercy.
It’s my contention, moreover, that lots of parishes have lots of small groups already happening in which the goals of “small groups” flourish. It’s just that in our Catholic ways…we don’t invite. We don’t see those groups – sodalities, rosaries, and so on – as missional, but rather as enclaves.
And to expand on my central point – I stick to my guns on defining daily Mass as the original “small group.”
When I go to daily Mass in this town, where ever I go, there are at least fifty people there. During Advent and Lent, far more.
Think about it – in your parish, during Lent, probably 200 people gather daily in a “small group.”
They enjoy catechesis through the language of the liturgy itself, the Scripture readings and the homily. They enjoy the deepest fellowship of all through the Eucharist – being joined not only to the others present but to ever Catholic throughout the world, in heaven, and to Christ himself.
That catechesis, grace and fellowship are real. The power of the fruit depends on our receptivity and disposition, true. It is not magic or a vending machine. But honestly – when I go to noon Mass at the Cathedral here and see folks from all walks of life: business people, students, homeschooling families, drifters like me…I am awed by the moment. Awed that the members of this small group will walk out of the church building into the world, filled with the grace of Christ. Some of them greet each other and stayed behind to chat. Some rush away. Still others stroll outside, study the sky, and wandered off – perhaps in a different direction than they thought they’d be going before Mass started.
I don’t know where they’re going. I don’t know how their lives were impacted by the experience. I won’t be taking a survey of effectiveness. Even if I were in charge – I wouldn’t be doing that. I wouldn’t know, I couldn’t tell. I’d just trust that God had brought them there and now they’re off again..a bit more conscious and grateful for God’s graciousness and mercy than they were before, and perhaps a little bit stronger and braver to share it.
So…you are dismayed by low turnout at adult ed? (Not saying that’s not a legitimate concern)
You’ve got dozens of folks showing up every day for Mass to be nourished by Christ.
That’s a good thing. It’s not something to be waved away and taken for granted.
Starting with the reality of daily Mass as our foundational “small group” also releases us from ego. It provides a corrective to the trap of placing our own efforts and plans at the center of parish life. It works against the temptation to judge the “success” of a ‘small group” (or any parish activity) by how people respond to our efforts or by what we can see.
Sure…there should be more in a parish. It’s not a simplistic answer. Not everyone can go to daily Mass. There’s more that other types of gatherings can offer – more targeted and specific catechesis. More particular ministry to..the young…parents..the old…the sick. Traditional Catholic parish life is and always has been rich and diverse. But it all starts with prayer.
So I’m saying that when considering “small groups” in a Catholic parish…start with daily Mass. Thank God for what happens there…build on it…stop trying to invent, invent and invent some more.
…and maybe follow the old guys for their after-Mass coffee at McDonald’s and then their morning at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. Fellowship? Check. Works of Mercy? Check.
It all starts here.
(First church picture I could pull from my computer. Good Samaritan in Ellijay,Georgia)