by Father Mark Goldasich
Here’s a poem for your consideration:
Ten little Christians standing in line. One disliked the preacher, then there were nine.
Nine little Christians stayed up very late. One overslept on Sunday, then there were eight.
Eight little Christians on their way to heaven. One took the low road, and then there were seven.
Seven little Christians, chirping like chicks. One disliked the music, then there were six.
Six little Christians seemed very much alive, but one lost his interest, then there were five.
Five little Christians, pulling for heaven’s shore, but one stopped to rest, then there were four.
Four little Christians, each busy as a bee. One got his feelings hurt, then there were three.
Three little Christians knew not what to do. One joined the sporty crowd, then there were two.
Two little Christians, our rhyme is nearly done, differed with each other, then there was one.
One little Christian can’t do much ‘tis true, brought his friend to a Bible study, then there were two.
Two earnest Christians, each invited one more. That doubled the number, then there were four.
Four sincere Christians worked early and late. Each brought another, then there were eight.
Eight splendid Christians if they doubled as before, in just seven Sundays, we’d have 1,024!
(Adapted from “True Evangelism,” found in “World’s Greatest Collection of Church Jokes,” edited by Paul M. Miller (Barbour Publishing; 2003).)
I don’t know about you, but I’m relieved that the primaries are over. If you live in or around the Kansas City metro area, you’ve been barraged over the past weeks with the increasingly nasty political ads for races on the Missouri side of the line. Sadly, that divisive negativity seems to be spreading to all aspects of our life, even into our churches. A most extreme example of that occurred this past Sunday in the horrific attack of the Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
On a much less physically violent level, though, divisiveness and a lack of charity can be seen in all of our parishes. Many people can probably identify with the first part of that little poem that began this article. There seems to be no shortage of reasons why people leave their parish or, even more tragically, the practice of their faith altogether.
That poem would be very sad if it ended with that one little Christian. But it doesn’t . . . and neither should we. Its second part reminds us of the task that is always before us: Keep proclaiming the good news of Jesus and keep inviting others (even — or especially — those who have left).
Ours is a community faith. While it’s important to have a strong personal life of faith, we can never forget that we are many parts of one Body. That means that we’ve got to be aware of one another, care for one another, respect one another, and love one another.
Perhaps our focus for this month of August might be to review our connections with others. First and foremost, if your church connection was “interrupted” this past summer, due to a glut of other activities, promise to get back on track now that school is gearing up. Shake off the laziness of summer and recommit to a vibrant faith. Also, make sure that the kids are linked to the parish, through either the Catholic school, religious education classes or youth groups.
Don’t forget to explore other possible ways to connect with others, such as:
• Remember someone who might be lonely. My mom has a wonderful neighbor, who calls her at seven every morning just to say hi and check in. This neighbor lives alone as well, so it’s a great routine for both of them. They may only visit for a couple of minutes, but it’s a comforting connection and a marvelous start to the day.
• An offshoot of the point above is to contact your parish and see if there are shut-ins in the parish who would love some company. Also, if you’ve never visited folks in an assisted living facility or nursing home, try it once or twice. Bring the whole family, if possible. You won’t believe how grateful the residents will be . . . or how good it will make you feel.
• Stay in touch with family and friends, particularly if they live far away. To keep things fresh, vary how you contact one another. One week (or month) it might be by letter, next by phone or Skype, another time by email or Facebook, then via a quick note by text, and, best of all, by a personal visit.
• Find a prayer partner. Make a commitment each day, at a particular time, to pause and pray for one another and for each other’s particular needs.
• Are you a procrastinator? If so, and you want to get a project done, tell someone about your goal. Believe me, that person will have a memory like an elephant and will keep your project always before you. Eventually, you’ll get so tired of — and embarrassed about — making excuses when you see this person, that you’ll just get the task done. (This comes from personal experience!)
There’s no substitute for positive connections with others. Just for fun, try putting the last line of that little poem into practice. Here’s hoping that, in seven Sundays, you won’t have a place to sit in church.