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Features » International

Does your church truly welcome potential converts?

How to avoid the 'self-referential' trap

Does your church truly welcome potential converts?

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Phil Lawler for Catholic Culture International

August 15, 2013

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What does Pope Francis mean when he speaks critically about the “self-referential” church?

The Pope has warned repeatedly against thinking of the Church as a club, a benevolent group, or a non-profit organization. He has insisted that the Church cannot be understood solely in terms of beliefs or rules or patterns of behavior. He has reminded Catholics that the Church is not something that we own or control. The Church belongs to Christ; we are only stewards—and fairly inept stewards, at that.

The “self-referential” church loses sight of these essential truths, and pays more attention to the human, material needs of the institution than to the divine mission....

....How do you—or how does your parish, your diocese, your parochial school, or your religious order--respond to someone who shows an interest in entering the Catholic Church? The response might be a good way to judge whether or not you have been trapped by the “self-referential” church.

The first question, of course, is whether you are ever approached by friends and acquaintances who are interested in Catholicism. If you aren’t, maybe you’re hiding our lamp under a bushel basket. Many of your neighbors are probably searching for the truth, longing for spiritual support, aching for redemption. Father C. John McCloskey has written that our challenge is Winning the World, One Friend at a Time; he has a number of useful suggestions on how it can be done. If an entire parish is failing to spark interest in the faith, something is definitely wrong. The parish may be focusing its energies inward, forsaking its missionary duties.

But let’s suppose that a neighbor does ask about the faith, or a local resident shows up at the rectory to inquire about becoming a Catholic. What sort of attitude will that potential convert encounter? The first response could be critical; it could encourage someone to continue down the road to the Catholic Church, or it could scare him away.

Full Story: Does your parish really welcome potential converts? Here's a test.

Source: Catholic Culture

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