“You know, Father, I should be Catholic. I just sort of drifted away. I miss belonging.” The man who offered this self-assessment to me at a charity reception was clearly troubled about his admission, adding, “Even though I was never the best of Catholics, I miss being a part of it all.”
Many of us probably know someone like that. Like any family, the Church faces challenges. Some have chosen to leave home, perhaps feeling that they had good reason to walk away. Others just sort of drifted away. Some may say they are “spiritual” but not “religious” and therefore not affiliated with the Church. Still others may never have really known what the family is all about, or they may have had a bad experience.
The members of our Archdiocesan Synod understood that this is the social reality before us. While our local Church is thriving in many ways, they widely agreed that more needs to be done. Too many who were baptized as Catholics are not engaged today by the Church and the Gospel message. Whatever their motive for leaving, they are simply not with us. Synod members felt strongly that it is time to invite back home our Catholic sisters and brothers who feel alienated from the Church. Additionally, too many people in our community, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, are living on the margins of society, and Synod members recognized that we are also charged to go out and bring the saving love of Christ to them and all who do not know him.
This task is not an easy one. The Christian way of life and the Gospel vision of right and wrong, virtue and God’s love seem to be eclipsed by various social, cultural, and political trends that seek to bleach out recognition and appreciation of God and marginalize the Church in her ability to function and live out her Gospel mandate to serve others in charity.
It is against this background that we are called to a New Evangelization, to revitalizing and sharing life in the Lord who makes all things new. Our Archdiocesan Synod affirmed – in its recommendations and in the statutes which have been promulgated and will govern the Church of Washington in the future – that the antidote to our spiritual malaise is for each of us to know and deepen our knowledge of the Crucified and Risen Jesus and build up his kingdom in our community. The love of Christ should be seen in all our activities. This is our perennial mission.
To help us and comfort us in this work of manifesting the kingdom in the face of many challenges, in addition to asking the Father to send us the Holy Spirit, Jesus has also given us his mother Mary as our mother too. By her divine maternity, there is a royal dignity in the Blessed Virgin and today the Church celebrates this Queenship of Mary.
It was on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary in 2012 that I announced publicly my intention to convoke the Synod. Likewise, it is appropriate that we begin the implementation of the Synod with our Blessed Mother, Star of the New Evangelization.
Mary knows well the difficulties and adversities we face. Through it all, “as a true mother, she walks at our side, she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love,” Pope Francis reminds us (Evangelii gaudium, 286).
Similarly, Mary exercises her queenship of service and love, explained Pope Benedict XVI, “by watching over us, her children: the children who turn to her in prayer, to thank her or to ask her for her motherly protection and her heavenly help, perhaps after having lost our way, or when we are oppressed by suffering or anguish because of the sorrowful and harrowing vicissitudes of life” (Audience of August 22, 2012).
Our Mother and Queen, Mary is a sure sign of hope in trying times and thus we earnestly implore her protection. Let us always be open to her care as we take on the challenges of the day and proclaim anew the Good News of her Son Jesus Christ.