Holiness is the work of the church, according to chapter five of the great Constitution on the Church from Vatican II. It is, therefore, appropriate for us pastoral leaders to consider how we can make our parishes into “holiness centers” that highlight this call to holiness. Parishes that do this work find themselves utterly re-energized: participation levels and financial giving both rise; apathy and absenteeism decline.
In A Culture of Holiness for the Parish¸ author and pastoral leader Bill Huebsch helps us imagine and plan for how a parish can launch and sustain a culture in which the call to holiness is sounded often and people are helped to respond. This would be a culture of self-giving love and dying to self; one of corporal and spiritual works of mercy; one in which people’s hearts are dedicated to the poor; a culture of shared faith, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – all grounded in the liturgical and catechetical life of the parish.
Indeed, article 42 of the Constitution on the Church connects the self-emptying love of Christ with the very love we are also called to have for one another. Such love, the Constitution says, directs and gives meaning to all the ways we grow in holiness. “Hence the true disciples of Christ are noted both for love of God and love of their neighbor,” it says.
Just imagine what the church and the world would be like if we took this teaching seriously! Parish life would take on a new tone and quality, a new optimism and energy. Ministry would happen with real vigor. That, plus “The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the wretched of the earth have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them” (Luke 7:22b, The Message).
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