I heard a wise father once say “If I can just instill passion in my children’s heart for their faith and their God, then the rest will come.” He is right. Facilitating the desire for God is our vocation as parents. And there is no better way to facilitate that desire than to model our passion for God to our children. Sharing our passion with our children shows them who we really are and what we really value. Our true hearts are reflected in our passion. Ultimately, our children will learn that passion is what people seek. Because discovery of our passion is where we find our true selves. Living with passion gives our lives purpose and our souls peace.
Catholics call Jesus’ last day on this earth His passion. And it’s because His willing death is a true reflection of His heart which burns with great divine love for mankind. Love is Jesus’ passion and He showed us the boundless depths of himself and of His passion by willingly giving up His unblemished life for love of our unworthy souls. Jesus models passion for us just as we should model it for our children.
I have thought that I have found my passion at different points in my life. First, it was music. Then it was teaching. Of course I am very passionate about my family. But this week I think I found my true burning passion. I have been trying to put my finger on it since I was a teenager with little success. I now know that my heart was still forming and you have to have heart before you can have passion. As I reflect on all the moments that led me to my God, and then to the Catholic Church and see them in the light of the events of this week, it all makes sense. Everything ties so perfectly together and has brought me to this moment of discovery.
I think I can safely say that I had a very different experience growing up in the Southern Baptist Church than many of my Catholic brothers and sisters. The focus of my spiritual upbringing was on a personal relationship with Jesus. It was discussed constantly. We were encouraged to talk to Jesus, to turn to him in our hour of need, to celebrate with him in our hour of triumph, and to love him with all of our being. I was taught a simple faith devoid of all the rich history and tradition. Our only focus was to discover the love the Lord had for us and then to love Him back. It was a great experience and a vital part of my spiritual journey. Although I am somewhat jealous of the knowledge “cradle Catholics” have of the church, I wouldn’t trade my upbringing in the Baptist Church for anything. It was in this church where Jesus found me, watched me grow, challenged me, loved me and called me to Himself.
Walking away from the Baptist church hurt. My faith was challenged on many levels. It was like leaving home knowing you are not welcome back. Even though I know if I walked back into a Baptist church today they would welcome me with open arms, I still feel like I can’t go back. I left because my faith was challenged and the church of my childhood could not provide answers. Jesus placed people in my life that could answer my questions and light the path to the Catholic Church. When I arrived in the Catholic Church, my faith was still challenged. The Catholic Church was very different from faith in which I was raised. For a long while, it felt like I had no home. I was that weird Catholic who prayed to Jesus in my own words. Jesus wasn’t distant to me like He was to many of my Catholic friends. Many of those friends disconnected their faith from their everyday life. I was confused by that and I missed sharing my faith journey with my brothers and sisters in Christ. For a number of years, my life in the Catholic Church was lonely. But I couldn’t leave it. Jesus was there. I was hungry for the Eucharist. I was lonely for community but filled with my Lord.
Then I went on the CRHP(Christ Renews His Parish) retreat in my community. And I found the people who wanted to know and did know the Lord like I did. I discovered that I was not alone in the Church. I found the other weird Catholics and I couldn’t have been happier. Once again, I could share my journey with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I could sing with them, worship with them, and learn with them. But what I was most excited for is that I could pray with them. And I could ask them to pray for me.
While I was praising God for this gift of Christian community, my heart ached for my catholic brothers and sisters who lacked this personal relationship with Jesus. I have been privy to several conversations recently where it was admitted that the Catholic Church has failed to instill this desire for passion in at least the past two to three generations. Although the Lord touches us through the Eucharist, Catholics have not been encouraged to seek Him out with their hearts. The effect of this lack of evangelization by the Church to its own family of believers is still evident in the faith of many Catholics today.
This week, I had the pleasure of being on a mission. I have been on a core team that brought a Redemptorist Priest and Lay missionary from the Sacred Heart Apostolate to our parish community. The purpose of the mission is to begin a new ministry where families will enthrone Jesus’ Sacred Heart in their homes and lives. Now here is the exciting part- by enthroning Jesus in your home, you are engaging him in a personal relationship. There it is. There is the answer to my aching heart. Jesus set this up so perfectly.
I was brought up in an environment where I cultivated a personal, heart to heart relationship with Jesus. That relationship was culminated when I was received into the Catholic Church- a choice I made through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. In the Catholic Church, I encountered many Catholics who did not have this personal relationship with Christ. I was lonely. I was sad for them. Little did I realize that Jesus was forming my heart during this time. When I was ready, he gave me the community I so desperately needed and desired. He ignited a burning love in my heart for Him and His community. In this small way, He made my heart like His heart.
And then He called me. I was kneeling in the fourth row. It was the second night of the mission- the night where everyone is invited to venerate the cross and then go to reconciliation. Because I was in the fourth row, I had no idea how many people were in the church. For a church of our size, 50-70 people usually turn out for special events and we were hoping for such a turn out. I was so blessed to see over 230 of my brothers and sisters in Christ walk down the aisle one at a time, kiss the cross and then happily stand in very long lines for confession. My heart expanded with joy. I felt as if I were in the middle of 230 celebrations of the prodigal son coming home. I felt as if I were seeing this spectacular event through the eyes of Jesus whose joy overtook every ounce of my being. The call was very clear. Promoting a personal heart to heart relationship with Jesus to my brothers and sisters in Christ is my passion. It is the burning desire of my heart- the heart the Lord has spent 32 years forming in me.
For now, my call is to my parish community. I am called to promote this ministry. I am called to evangelize my brothers and sisters and invite them to know the Lord with their hearts. I am called to outwardly model this heart to heart relationship in my everyday life. I am called to fervent prayer for my brothers and sisters. By living this call, I am finally living with passion. And the endless joy and love placed in my heart will be the fuel for the passionate fire that burns first for my Lord and then for my brothers and sisters in Christ whom the Lord loves more than human hearts can imagine.