Friday, April 11, 2008

Lay Ecclesial Movements in Parish Life

According to the Vatican, there are 122 "International Associations of the Faithful", also known as Lay Ecclesial Movements; there are countless others that have not developed into the international scene. The local incarnation of these communities can be seen in opposition to parish life, and some promote themselves as such; however, these communities must be fully integrated in the life of the parish.

While the most primal unit of the Church is the domestic church, that is, the family, our faith finds its fruitfulness when we interact with other domestic churches in the parish. The parish is intended to be the center of the local Catholic community; much like a town or city, every member of the parish is not identical, nor even close. On every issue, people of different minds come together in local community to celebrate the Living and True God, and we are enhanced by seeing these differences. There is a great difficulty in cursing the local city council member's decision on a vote to rezone land near you when you see him every Sunday singing in the choir, when you know him and you know he is doing the best he can to be a faithful person, true to himself. Beyond that Jesus Christ lived, suffered, died and rose again for us, there may be nothing else you hold in common with some fellow parishioners.

Without ecclesial communities, we may feel, at times, alone within the parish. While you may share a great devotion to Mary by way of a certain revelation or to a certain aspect of the Catholic theology of work, it can be quite difficult to find someone like-minded who can help you grow within philosophy. Ecclesial movements enable the faithful to find people who they may align with the greatest in terms of spirituality and philosophy and that is truly great.

However, the parish needs you too! The parish is not, and should not be, a home to those who have not found an ecclesial movement, or have no idea what one is, or who feel no need to seek out such a community. The parish is home to all of us.

Ecclesical movements bring new spiritual fruits to members, and members in turn have an obligation to share what is given to them. For me, I may feel called to one group, really dig into the spirituality of that group and come from that with a new understanding about an aspect of being Catholic. For you, you may not feel called to that group, the spirituality may not enrich you personally, but by my sharing of my new understanding, you were able to see something in a new or different way that enhanced your walk along the pilgrim pathway toward salvation. Likewise, the reverse is true, whatever you gained in your spiritual journey, with a movement or not, is a gift that can help me along my journey.

These new movements are inspiring a New Springtime within the Church, but all should see the fruits.

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