Welcome to Food For Faith to parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Heaven parish, Lake Charles, Louisiana, where I have been leading the parish mission since last weekend. The Mission began with preaching at the five weekend Masses and was followed by three evening sessions and a further two workshop evenings finishing last night. I am now at the airport about to board the flight home.
Such missions were once common in NZ parishes with the distinctive sight (remember the Marist Missioners’ blue capes) and sound (flamboyant oratory with good stories and vivid examples) an annual highlight of every parish year. The beauty of such an intensive mission is that people are more able to commit to a few nights within one week perhaps with early morning Mass. For this week’s mission the evening sessions drew around 300 parishioners and the confessional was busy from before 6am each morning.
Many of the tales I hear of missions of old tell of the fire and brimstone style of the priests who gave these old-style missions. Fear was the method of choice back then. While fear-focussed preaching may have been entertaining in the days before TV, and even provided a fearsome glue to stick people to church and church to people, little may have been achieved in helping people to a more intimate and mature life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. Fear is the opposite of love, and while fear often frightens the hell out of people it is never successful in bringing people into loving relationship with Jesus.
This has been our mission theme over the past week: the centrality of Jesus Christ who is God living among us, a God of real and intimate presence, of love and of mercy.
I want to thank the people of OLQH parish for your witness to me over the past week. It has been a privilege to journey these days with you. Let us keep each other in prayer.