Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
Where would I be, had they not invited me? I’m referring to a couple young men on my dormitory hall at the University of Michigan back in September 1982. The men were part of a group called University Christian Outreach. They invited me to a course called “Basic Christianity”. At the very first meeting, I found myself in a room with about 100 or so people. University Christian Outreach students in all the dormitories on campus had invited new friends to join them for this course. In hindsight, I think I could sense divine love in that room. So many young people, who knew they were loved by God, sang the opening song robustly. So I sensed they loved Him in return. These people knew God; and that was because of what God had done for them in Jesus Christ – dying on the cross to take away their sins, and filling them with the power the Holy Spirit, to bring them one day to heaven. That very night I was struck to the depth of my being by the Divine Presence around these people. Where would I be, had my friends on the dormitory hall not invited me?
My whole life changed. That very night I told God I would live for him from now on. I started praying, and the prayer was dynamic. I started reading the Bible, and it was speaking directly to me. Sunday Mass became a joy to attend. How would any of this have happened to me, had these two new acquaintances on my dormitory hall – slowly becoming my friends – not invited me to come and check out this religious event.
Truth be told, the last thing I wanted was some type a religious event that might be similar to what I had just gone through in high school. And just the prior year I had been part of a so-called philosophy course in school in which the teacher attempted to get us to doubt things of the Faith. Given all of this, I’m sure it had to be the relationship with these new friends that convinced me to give a religious meeting a try. Where would I be, if these real university disciples of Jesus Christ had not invited me? The University of Michigan – like so many universities of our day – was ever increasingly contrary to wholesome life in Jesus Christ. Where would that environment have led me, without the awakening in faith that I experienced through an invitation my very first semester?
This past weekend – and on a couple other occasions this summer and even this past year – a handful of our parishioners have gone through training for our upcoming ALPHA course. ALPHA is an 11-week course that was first used in England for evangelism. It is very, very similar to the basic Christianity course that I attended my first year of college. The most foundational truths of the faith are explored: Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? Who am I? What is the Church? Who is the Holy Spirit? Top-notch, professionally produced videos provide the content of the course. The video segments stop frequently to allow participants plenty of discussion. The meetings include some food and fellowship as well. All of these elements come together to provide a rich environment for individuals to enliven their relationship with God.
One priest friend of mine, pastor of a large parish in another diocese, actually canceled all parish activities, just to enable all of his parishioners to experience the ALPHA course. Many, many parishioners came… And many, many lives were changed. Numerous parishes are saying ALPHA has helped in this way. The course can serve to deepen and enliven the faith of those already in our pews; and it certainly can be instrumental in enlivening people from outside who now don’t attend church for whatever reason. The course is open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Of course, we will be discussing these foundational tenets of the faith from a Catholic perspective.
Please ask the Lord whom you should invite to ALPHA. Or, maybe this first time around He simply wants you to attend. The course will start in October. We will publish all the necessary details to help you plan to attend, and help you to register. Let’s pray that the Lord use this effort for His glory!
On another note, once again we will begin our RCIA classes. These classes are more specifically designed to help non-Catholics to discern if God is calling them into the full Faith of the Catholic Church. These classes meet on Tuesday nights, and they will begin in September. Once again, please ask the Lord if there is somebody you ought to invite.
Have a blessed week!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,