Engaging others

One of the great benefits of social media is that we are able to remain connected to people from our past that prior to its existence we would just lose contact with and they would become simply a memory of our past. Certainly, there are many struggles and dangers that we need to be aware of, however, there have always been dangers and struggles that we have always needed to be aware of: Don’t talk to strangers, don’t accept candy from a stranger, look both ways, etc.

I’ve noticed that there are more than a few people from my past, particularly people I knew as a kid, who have become active with their religion. Some were living lives or holding beliefs that were far from religion or God. 

Others, like myself, were indifferent to the whole thing. Oh, there were times I had an interest, that I was intrigued by a belief or a practice. But I usually wandered back to a stance of indifference.

Something happened, with myself and with those from my past. I’m sure you know of others who have had this change in life. Perhaps you are one as well. While we all have different journeys of faith, I suspect that there is something similar in all of our stories. I suspect that each of us has had some type of encounter with the Risen Christ.

This encounter probably wasn’t Jesus ringing our doorbell. It was more than likely that He was present in someone else who rang our doorbell, called us on the phone, consoled us, challenged us or said something that we needed to hear (whether we wanted to hear it or not!).

I have had many encounters with the Risen Lord throughout my life, many I didn’t recognize as such, others I did. I can’t say there was one particular moment that everything changed in a split second. I feel I’ve been more like St. Peter or St. Thomas in the Gospels. I get it for a moment and then stray off course, but I keep looking for help from the Lord and with His help, pick myself up, dust myself off and try to take another step.

The one thing that consoles me greatly and allows me to persevere despite tripping all the time is that I have come to understand that I am a work in progress and that God’s love for me is perfect and as a result He continues to reach out to me to console me, to heal me and to challenge me. He hasn’t given up on me so I guess I shouldn’t either.

I am not a great theologian. I do not have all the answers. 

However, God has provided the means to connect to those answers: the Scriptures, the writings of the saints and the Church. If these are going to make any difference in my life though, I need to take time to utilize them, to listen, to question and to learn. Patience is also going to be necessary, lots of patience. 

In all the talk, analysis and theories about the “nones,” — that is those who profess no religion — we can forget that the vast majority of them are experiencing what so many of us experienced in our lives. One big difference from my journey and many of the “nones” is no one has engaged them in their searching. By engagement I mean shared their stories, their journey from doubt to deeper faith, their experiences of God’s presence and love and what they have learned.

Pope Francis has been repeatedly reminding all of us who have been baptized we are meant to engage others, to listen, to share and to be patient. It is the only way that others will come to a relationship with the Lord.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. George Parish in Westport and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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