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Wanted: Spiritual Fathers and Mothers – my latest column @PatheosCatholic

Do you have spiritual heroes? I do. They are people who remain dear to my heart. They are men and women who have showed me the way to change my life for the better, and many of them, through their friendly mentoring helped to grow me up in the faith. I could list many names from years gone by beyond my family circle. They were church folk, school folk, older women friends. Somehow they generously took time to love me and encourage me even when I could not offer anything of value in return. They were magnanimous spiritual mothers and fathers to me. I’m fortunate to still know a few today.

I could also list the names of many favorite saints who have inspired me along the way.

I thank God for all of them, the saints, and the good Christians I met who have shepherded me, especially as a teen and younger woman. Somewhere along the way, I started to want to be like them.

If you read my book, Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, you’ll find that I make the case that Christian women are called to grow and mature in such a way as to be able to make disciples through their holy influence in their spheres of life — to be physical and spiritual mothers. Whether single, married, or religious, women are baptized and called to participate in the universal mission of the Church that ignites faith and light and love in others. That we not only come to know, love, and serve Christ ourselves, but that we bring others along to Heaven with us as well.

Yet we live in a society that often demeans parenthood and degrades or ignores the spiritual dimensions that are so necessary to human flourishing. As I wrote in my latest column at Patheos, we need spiritual heroes…

What the world needs now are spiritual heroes. Be they spiritual fathers or spiritual mothers, we need them. The Catholic Church has long known this and has produced spiritual fathers and mothers by the millions. We call them saints.

Besides all the famous names on the heavenly rolls like the Blessed Mother, St Joseph, the Apostles and Martyrs, and the rest, there are millions more –- unnamed and lesser saints — who started their days just like you and me. They got up in the morning and got to work.

Many of us mere mortals, while piously attempting to honor and revere saints, mistakenly see their heroic virtue as beyond our reach. What I’m saying is that many Catholics and others put saints on pedestals in ways that leave us fretting that such sanctity is unattainable for the regular folks, the Joe and Joan Q. Public sitting in the pew.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saints in heaven this very moment are looking at us and praying that we dispatch with this silly notion, and dispel this excuse from the responsibility and, yes, the privilege, each baptized person has to grow in holiness. That is, to try to be a saint.

Let me say this as forthrightly as I can: Get a grip, People of God!

The saints began with the same raw materials we do: A sinful life in need of God and his grace. Fortunately grace is not in short supply, for where sin increases, grace abounds all the more. (Cf. Romans 5: 20)

There’s more, of course.

Go read it. There’s a bodacious mission out there waiting for you.

One thing is clear: Our new evangelization mission was never tied to election outcomes.

First of all, thanks be to God that we have a Faith that is impervious to politics.

Second, I’m grateful that I live in the United States of America. We may not feel very united all the time given some of the deep divides we face in our politics, but we are, still, a single country. We must remember that. We must continue to respect one another, by respecting the dignity of each human person. Respect for one another is the foundation of loving one another — part of the Golden Rule, even if loving our neighbor is challenging, or our love goes unreturned. Our call to love is not based on outcomes. We love, period. Love is hard. Love requires sacrifice.

Third, and the reason I’m writing this post: Regardless of which candidates and laws got voted in last night, our mission as Catholic Christians remains the same as it was before the election: to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the ends of earth until the Lord returns.

Over the last few weekends I have had the privilege to be a presenter at different Catholic conferences and parishes. I remain convinced that people need the Lord, and people need to know his love, and we —  the Church — are to feed their hunger. After those events, and after this election, I’m even more convinced that this Year of Faith, and our more longterm call to a new evangelization becomes crystal clear. And that word “clear” stays with me. If we want to see change in our culture, it must come from the changes that comes from deeper conversion within each one of us.

Our Catholic mission is clear.

We must make our faith and morals more clear to all Catholics… the faithful in the pews, and the non-practicing ones who still identify as Catholic even if they do not embrace all of the Church’s teachings.

We must make our faith and morals more clear to all non-Catholic Christians… finding points of connection and intersection where we can walk in fellowship and dialogue in sharing this work of renewal and restoration.

We must make our faith and morals more clear to all non-Catholics, period. This requires us to continue to bring our message to the public square, and to be good examples of what the integration of faith and life look like. While the formalized systems of new evangelization is the work of the bishops and pastors, the work of intentionally evangelizing the people we know and love is the work of every one of us who bear the blessing and anointing of Christ by virtue of our baptism.
Once upon a time Jesus and his apostles and the early church were in the minority in their country and their culture. Yet their faith and holy influence was the seed of the faith for millions through the last two millennia. Governments comes and go, but the magnitude of the Church in size — in the communion of saints in heaven that surrounds us — is greater than the size of our church membership on earth.We are not alone. We must stay on track. Come what may. If you feel defeated by the changes the election cycle brings, remember our faith is anchored by something greater than a hope in human endeavors. We hope in God alone.
Let’s not be distracted, or set back. Let us dig in and evangelize the culture with truth, beauty, and goodness of the unchanging Gospel.