Much is said these days about the relevance of religion and/or church/es to modern life. We might feel belittled at times, but in fact there is much merit in being a ‘church of little things’.
Agnostics seem to relish the fact that census numbers show a fall-off in church involvement. There is no shortage of imperfection in our Christian midst to give ammunition for critics.
People write aggressive letters to newspapers on the subject of religion. The news media choose to convey that most churchgoers are ‘doddery oldies’ (ie, ‘out of touch’) or angry, unlovable marchers, if not ho-hum ‘spokespersons’. Faith people are on notice, in a sense.
The fact is, believer and agnostic alike know of Jesus’ core teaching, that Christians must ‘love one another’.
As a faith community, we don’t set out to attract bouquets for our ‘love quality’, and our nationwide profile doesn’t aim to compete with particular others who brand themselves extensively.
Even our highly principled Caritas International with its strong social justice ethos doesn’t compete in public profile against the plethora of expensively advertised organisations with their employed marketers.
We may not always be aware of the many gifts in our own circles, though there is comfort in knowing that, if the need arises, support will be there. What is done in care and kindness goes largely unnoticed.
Recently, the leaders’ group at St Joseph’s, New Plymouth, was touched to receive a moving letter from a person whose life has undergone considerable adjustment due to the Alzheimer’s condition and rest home residency of a spouse of many years.
( Names have been changed in the following extract.)
‘I had not met any of your parish ministers until last Sunday morning when I purposely headed to the rest home after 10 am and had the privilege of being with Jane Jones when she gave Communion to Chris. It was lovely to witness and I could see just how receptive Chris was. Chris does not have many happy moments these days but the awareness and calm in the presence of the Lord is clear to see.
‘I just loved the way that Jane physically comforted Chris when some distress showed and was absolutely delighted when told that Jane had also organised attendance at the Anointing Mass. These acts of spiritual and physical kindness are just something very special indeed. Thank you for what your parish is doing for Chris.’
Whether serving in ministry or in daily interaction with others, we don’t set out to award ourselves for kindnesses given—those who serve in Jesus’ name, least of all. It is (should be) just what we do.
The above letter brings home the potential of possibly unheralded actions to affirm life with a domino effect. Heroic deeds and noble courage will earn deserved accolades.
The Catholic church badly needs its radical heroes, too. But everyday life offers no end of scope for releasing treasure and making it present in our parishes, families, workplaces and neighbourhoods.
In the words of poet William Wordsworth:
The best portion of a good person’s life are the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love…
Image: Shirley Knuckey of St Joseph’s Parish, New Plymouth