Monday, February 16, 2009

A United Front

I suppose this posting could be part 3 in a related series of posts. In part one I discussed the fact that You Have and Enemy. In part two I discussed his plan to Divide and Conquer (actually posted on my other blog). In this post I would like to discuss the real and urgent need for a United Front in order for us to make any gains for the Kingdom of God.

Imagine a platoon of soldiers working to try and take a hillside in order to advance the front and push back the enemy. These soldiers, however, are scattered all over the hillside. They have no communication with one another. They are each surrounded by numerous enemies. They cannot see one another through the fog of war. In their disorientating they often cannot tell whether they are going up or down the hill.

This picture or parable, in my mind, is a image of the modern Christian life. There is an army of Christian men in the world but they have very little communication with one another. The communication they do have is often shallow or superficial either due to circumstance in life or the plans of the enemy. Every Christian man is surrounded by an enemy. He, with the light of Christ, is a special target for the enemy because he can be seen more easily. In the fog of this spiritual war we often hurt one another through words or deeds without really intending to. We are often hurt by "friendly fire" if you will. Finally, Christian men today often do not have a clear sense of where they are going let alone where they should be leading others.

This confusion, this disarray, this lack of a united front makes us all easy targets for our common enemy. We appear to him, and perhaps to some in the world, silly at best. We preach a good sermon but when it comes to battle were cutting each other and ourselves with our sword.

Our culture, and remember who has control of this world, preaches this macho-man image. It screams from the movies, magazine, and books that to be a man one must be a loner. Think of Rambo, Die Hard, or Death Wish. This is a farce. How many battles have been won by a single man? How many of the wars in history were fought by a single person? Even David wasn't alone when he fought Goliath, he knew God was with him! Yes, many a battle turns on the actions of an individual but no battle is won, no war is won, alone.

I feel this is the greatest problem in our Church today. We do not have a united front. We don't have a united front on many different levels. This is what is needed in order for us to go forward and win these crucial battles against our enemy. Let's look at what a united front could look like in our parish and in our home.

Before looking at these two areas I suppose I should give some sort of definition to what I am referring to as a "united front." A united front implies a united goal, purpose, idea, tactics, implementation, etc. It means that every person, at least on the leadership level, is united in what is presented. This doesn't imply that we need a bunch of robots spewing out the same message. Rather the idea or theme is the same while the presentation is different in respect to each person's gifts or talents.

It takes a great number of people to operate a parish. These may include the Pastor, Associate(s), and Deacon(s), secretary and other office personnel, religious education director, and maybe a school principal. Imagine if once a quarter all of these people met for a retreat. The goal of these quarterly retreats would be for the staff to grow spiritually and to plan for the coming months. This planning would include looking at both the liturgical calendar as well as the Sunday readings for the coming months or weeks. These items would be discussed and certain themes or messages would be drawn from them. Once the themes were established, the staff would consider the different ways each theme could be presented.

For instance, let's suppose that beginning with week X they saw that they Holy Spirit was guiding them toward talking about the need for frequent Confession in the life a Christian. Those with the duty of preaching would then gear their homilies toward encouraging Confession and perhaps offer extra Confession times for that week. The office staff would promote this through the bulletin and bulletin boards (examination of conscience inserts, CD's, websites, etc,). The religion director would make sure that materials were given to the adults and children to encourage Confession. The principal could do the same through their own means of communicating with the parents.

What happens here is that the parishioners see and hear a united message. The Sunday readings, homilies, inserts, and take-home literature all point to the same direction. There is a united front. There is leadership. There is support and encouragement in the Christian walk. This would naturally flow over into the family.

My wife and I try to meet once a month to discuss finance. We sit down with a beer, look at the spreadsheets, and talk about where we are heading. We make plans for our home and our money. We practice NFP so there too we meet and discuss not only the size of our family but our physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being.

We are united on so many fronts but not in the spiritual front. We pray the rosary as a family, when we remember. We pray at meals, go to Mass and all that but we don't have a set goal for the family. Even if we say our set goal is Heaven, we don't have a map on how to get there laid out for our family.

If we took a similar approach, as mentioned above for the parish, with our family, I believe we would see results. If we met once a month and discussed the readings, feast days, and liturgical calendar we would be able to see more clearly where God was guiding us. We could give each week or month a theme or focus for our family. We could focus on virtues, sacraments, prayers and more. We could work on coming up with activities for our family that would focus our attention on these themes and help us to be united in our spiritual life. We would have a united front.

This united front is so needed in our life today and I would encourge anyone who agrees to take up this idea and apply it their life and family. In my next post I will discuss how this united front is needed among men and couples and about the desperate need the Church has today for real community.

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