“Spiritual Cross Training”

Recently, I had invited a friend of mine who had fallen away from the Church to come to Mass. It was probably the first time he had been to Mass in three or four years. After Mass, he said to me, “I probably won’t come back – This did nothing for me.”

I am out of shape – It takes time to get back into shape

As it turns out, this friend and I are training together for a 5K race in July. We have been diligent about keeping a workout schedule and holding each other accountable. When he said that church does nothing from him I helped him to recall the beginning of our training a few weeks prior. I said, “Neither of us had run a yard in 10 years. What if we tried to run 3 miles in 24 minutes, failed miserably and then concluded ‘running does nothing for me?’” Really, if I haven’t run in years, how can I expect to be able to benefit from the sport in the first workout?  Can I run around my neighborhood for five minutes and get on a scale and lament – “I haven’t lost any weight yet!”?

Spiritual Workout

The practice of our faith is a spiritual workout.  If you only go to church on Easter and Christmas, how could you possibly expect to be in good spiritual shape?  If you don’t make prayer a habit, how can you expect to benefit from the exercise?

I have NEVER in my life run a 5K race. I thought it was out of my reach. But, by running only a mile for the first week, then a mile and a quarter the next and so on, I slowly learned that completing a 5K is attainable. On occasion, I dare think that perhaps a marathon is somewhere in my future.

Even a marathon starts with a small step

For those who have fallen away from the Church, I imagining returning to spiritual shape is a similar process. I image that for some, the process of turning one’s life over to Christ is a process that starts with one mile, then a mile and a quarter and so on……

I am still working on my friend. I would love to hear how some of you are working to get some of our brothers and sisters back into spiritual shape.

7 Replies to ““Spiritual Cross Training””

  1. As I’ve said before, my experience is that the Church is not particularly welcoming to outsiders, albeit not intentionally so. Here are some easy, EASY things parishes can do so that visitors and those who attend infrequently feel less excluded from the in-group:

    1. Announce the names of the celebrant and homilist. People like to know who’s talking to them.

    2. Announce which setting of the Mass is being used, and where in the missal the setting may be found. It is EXTREMELY frustrating to be precluded from participating in the liturgy because one isn’t familiar with the music.

    3. Have a visitor register. Follow up with an email or postcard thanking them for coming, inviting them back and welcoming questions about the parish.

    Now, these things will be a lot harder, because they involve behavioral changes on the part of parishioners:

    4. Keep an eye out for unfamiliar faces. Greet them and introduce yourself.

    5. Stay and chat after Mass instead of immediately fleeing to the parking lot.

    6. Those in charge of various ministries must immediately respond to those who express an interest in participating.

    The tag line for the Lutheran church I attend is: God’s Work, Our Hands. If seekers do not find Christ in us, they may not find him at all. If we make no effort to welcome, to touch those who enter the doors of our churches, the seekers will walk back out, never to return, and we will have failed the community of faith.

    1. I guess you are saying that it takes a village to bring them fully back. I agree! I can make someone fell welcome but, if I am alone, my hospitality can go unnoticed.

      1. Deacon Turner, yes it DOES take a village. One person, even if he is the pastor, cannot a welcoming parish make.

  2. Very helpful analogy. For many years now I have been praying for my sister to come back to the faith. When I first started on this task I thought success was going to be to see her going to mass like in the old days when we all did it because mom and dad did it. I stiil dream of going to mass with her but now I know is going to take a marathon of conversations and love to keep myself on trak.

    1. To take the analogy a step further, perseverance is key. I often feel like quitting in the middle of run. I also often feel like quitting on my friend and others that don’t go to church. Evangelism is indeed a marathon.

  3. I agree with Cynthia BC’s comments. I have found, however, from being a church nomad that many times I have to be the one to make the first move and introduce myself. Among friends, I leave the door open all the time for them to come to church or church events if they wish. I try to show them how much my faith helps me, but if they aren’t interested in hearing it, I don’t force the issue. I am training for my second marathon, and in training I don’t see results right away. I have to keep training to develop my wind, and gain muscle. With faith, it can be the same thing – you have to keep going to see results, in a sense, as you mentioned. Some days my faith isn’t very strong, just as some days I have to force myself to go out for long runs and go to the gym. But when I’m on that run, and I’m in that gym, I feel so much better about myself. It’s like when I force myself to wake up and go to daily mass, even if I really want to sleep, I feel so much better, and I have such a great start to my day, by making it to mass. I figure if I’m still tired later that’s what naps are for.

    My experiences with different churches have mostly been good ones. Most churches have been very welcoming, and I have gotten the sense that if I ever needed a good parish home (aside from where I’m at now) that I have several good churches to choose from. What did those parishes do that was different from my childhood parish, which wasn’t welcoming at all even after I’d been a parishioner there for 18 years? Those parishes introduced themselves to me after Mass and made me feel welcome. They told me about parish activities and invited me to join them in their Bible Studies, groups, etc. The priests introduced themselves to me and/or asked me about myself and where I come from after Mass. It’s parishes like that that will make people want to come to the Catholic Church.

  4. Let’s pray that all parishes can make us feel as welcome as the ones you have encountered.

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