I recently heard a most interesting story that ran in the Washington Post more than ten years ago. Post author Gene Weingarten covered the story of the international genius violinist Joshua Bell. Bell masterfully plays a violin handcrafted in 1713 by the legendary Antonio Stradivari. His instrument is reportedly worth more than 3 million dollars. Joshua Bell sells out orchestra halls all around the world and is called the world’s greatest violinist. This virtuoso and his amazing violin played one Friday morning in January 2007 at a Washington, D.C. Metro Station. He simply stood in one location, dropped his instrument case on the floor, and played some of the most challenging pieces for violin, including “Chaconne” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor.
Well over 1,000 commuters rushed past this greatest violinist with his greatest violin. Six minutes in, one man paused a moment to listen. A few children wanted to linger, but rushing parents pulled them along. In the 45 minute concert, only seven people stopped for a minute or so. Twenty-seven threw some change in, for a total under $33.
This amazing man who has received an award naming him “the best classical musician in America,” selling seats for over a hundred dollars apiece in world class theatres, was unnoticed, if not ignored, by crowds of people.
How much are we like the rushing commuters, so focused on our business that we push past something so stunning and valuable? How many other things are unseen right before our eyes? Do we realize the beauty and worth of what we have as Catholics? Two thousand years of brilliant intellectual minds explaining the mysteries; uncomparable priceless works of art and heart-soaring music; selfless acts of service on a grand scale for the ill, poor, homeless, orphaned and refugees, not to mention the deposit of Faith given by Jesus and the Apostles in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. We have the Sacraments!
Are we aware of the life-giving Real Presence of Jesus in our midst?
I wrote in a previous bulletin last month that overall the Catholic Church is getting smaller. The number one reason people are fleeing is not the immoral scandals, not a conflict with trending social issues, and not disagreement over any particular teaching or doctrine. The number one reason people leave is simply because they don’t believe.
Many of us are not seeing the enormous treasure right before our eyes!
Our Popes and Bishops have been talking about the New Evangelization for decades. St. Pope John Paul made it clear that we do not propose different theology, we aren’t trying to make the Catholic Church more Protestant, but we need to approach our evangelizing and formation with new methods and ardor. I like that word. Ardor means enthusiasm and passion.
The passion we bring to passing on the Faith cannot all be targeted at the kids. Creative methods and enthusiasm must be used to impact parents as well. Dr. Christopher Smith from Notre Dame has been doing research for many years with teenagers and their religious practices. Despite the influence of media, the internet and peers, the number one force that shapes a young person’s religious perspective is still PARENTS. If parents are engaged with their own faith journey, and if they talk about religion with their kids, the chance of those young adults STAYING in the faith is 82%!
Our Faith Formation team at St. John is including more encounters with the parents and the whole family. We are intentionally targeting more of our Sacramental preparation toward parents and expecting at least one parent per family to join us in the adult class at our Sunday Morning Religious Education. If we don’t get parents more involved we will lose most of our kids.
The plan is not to just add “classroom learning” for mom and dad, but to engage families with heart-felt and winsome opportunities for explanations, prayers, Q and A, media at home ,and experiences—all while building deeper friendships with our fellow parishioners.
Fr. James Mallon wrote a book a few years ago, Divine Renovation, in which he detailed his parish journey into similar changes. Fr. Chas has attended a Divine Renovation Conference in Canada. Our staff has prayed about this for several years, read and researched best practices, and attended a Franciscan University of Steubenville conference. We’ve been counseled by Fr. John Riccardo’s staff at Our Lady of Good Counsel in the archdiocese and have talked with parishes all around the country who have made similar moves.
Eyes are opened to what was unseen. That is our prayer! Please pray alongside us that we can help in our own little way in our own little parish to influence our families to see the beauty of Catholicism and believe!