“We need to get ‘Back to Basics!'” I see this often in the open-ended comments of the surveys I conduct with parishes. Many of the respondents indicate that either they or people around them need to have a better understanding of the basic building blocks of the faith. Why do we do the things we do at Mass? What do we believe about Jesus Christ as the Son of God? Where does Mary fit?
Well, I’m assuming that’s what they typically mean because they don’t quite explain themselves entirely in the comment box. Honestly “Back to Basics” seems similar to saying, “We need to communicate better.” When parishes tell me that I say, “Define ‘communicate’ and define ‘better.'”
Recently I was listening to the latest episode of The Gathering Place, a Blessed Is She Podcast and I got a different idea of what “Back to Basics” might look like. They interviewed the church planter who started the ministry “Upper Room” in Dallas. Before listening to the podcast, I’d never heard of this ministry, but I think we can learn some useful things from them.
The Prayer Room is open from 6 am to 8 pm daily with corporate services three times a day during the week and twice on Sunday. They invite you at anytime to come sit “in the presence of the Lord” in the prayer room. This sounds familiar to the way Catholic Churches sometimes operate. The Church is open throughout the day for private prayer with Our Lord and Mass once or twice daily during the week and typically three to four times on Sundays.
Most parishes aren’t discouraging the idea of coming in to the Church to pray and be in the presence of the Lord – but are you encouraging it? The first question to answer is this, “Is the Church open throughout the day for people to stop in and pray?”
If your answer to this is no, I’d encourage you to re-evaluate and see if you can change your schedule. Why? Because Our Lord is waiting for us in the tabernacle – this is the most basic thing we know to be true about the faith. Our Lord is waiting to spend time with us … how many of us are making time to spend time with Him each day?
While it’s true that we can spend time with the Lord anywhere – it’s also true that He is uniquely present in the Eucharist at home in the tabernacle.
Whenever I’m doing errands with my best friend and her two little boys, we make a point to drive past the Church to make a visit. The boys (ages 2 and 4) know that Jesus lives in the Church along with Mary and Joseph. They know to be quiet (at least as quiet as two little boys can be) when they walk in. They genuflect, walk up to the steps of the sanctuary and kneel down, then they tell Jesus how much they love Him.
Before leaving they walk over to the statue of Mary and say hello and tell her how much they love her followed by a visit to the statue of St. Joseph. The whole ‘event’ is less than 10 minutes, but the boys are comfortable in the Church and have a stronger devotion to a daily visit than I’ve had since I worked at a parish with regular access and my own key.
It’s these small devotions that seem so basic that we seem to be missing: a basic devotion to spending time with Our Lord in quiet prayer. What will you do to encourage parishioners to stop by to make a visit regularly?