Dear friends,
“My faith has deepened, and plays a larger part in my life.” “I feel a deeper sense of belonging – to the Catholic Church and to this parish.” “I find my religion coming more and more alive for me – I pray more often, and ask myself ‘What would Christ
want of me?’ when I have an important decision to make.”
These are reactions of people like you – parishioners in this and other parishes – to an experience they have had. What experience? A sudden conversion? An extraordinary spiritual event? Well, something like that, but far more ordinary than extraordinary, more earthly than heavenly, and yet something that can have a major impact upon one’s life of faith.
What I’m talking about is the experience of being part of a Small Christian Community, which we refer to as an “SCC.” The Small Christian Community experience has spread throughout the United States in the last thirty or forty years, and has taken root here at St. Catherine’s as well. There is nothing mysterious about an SCC. It’s a group of usually eight to twelve parishioners who meet together on a regular basis, following a program that gets them to reflect on a Scripture passage (for example, the gospel of the upcoming Sunday), apply it to their daily lives in conversation within the group, and pray together.
The group pretty much makes its own way, though as pastor I guide the overall program through a Core Community that keeps touch with all the small communities.
There are several kinds of SCCs here at St. Catherine’s. There are what we call Seasonal Communities, such as the ones that we are forming right now to meet weekly here at the parish for the four weeks of Advent. It’s a wonderful way to direct our thoughts to the spiritual meaning of the Christmas season that will soon be upon us. We ask ourselves, “What is God saying to us this Advent?” And the answers can be wonderful. We form similar Seasonal Communities during Lent. There are other SCCs that meet monthly throughout the year. What happens in these communities is very significant. Our overall purpose is to connect faith and life. So often, religion can seem to be a Sunday affair – go to Mass, and then “get on with it. . .” – with life, that is. A regular meeting with an SCC connects people to the Source, to Christ himself, and to his Body, the Church, the context for all Christian life. We have to stay connected! Without the reminders of Scripture, reflection and prayer, our good intentions and our good works can become dried out – and we can become burned out! Many have before us.
We live in a society that treasures its anonymity. We lives on our phones, distract ourselves with digital noise, and endure the chaos that society puts us through. But we stay resolutely alone. We Americans call it “self-reliance.” But we today live it in an extreme way. The Catholic tradition, on the other hand, while it prizes the dignity of the individual, sees us as social beings, meant to share ourselves with others, even beyond family and friends. We are created for community. When it comes to living out this Catholic faith of ours in the world around us, Christian community becomes essential. We were never meant to do it alone. In today’s anonymous society, we absolutely need a place where we can talk about the struggles of living our faith, and the victories we can see when faith is relied upon to center our lives. In the word of the old sit-com, it’s a great thing to have a place where “everybody knows your name.” A Small Christian Community is small by design. People get to know one another, then come to a unique kind of friendship that arises from sharing faith, and in time the common search for Christ in daily life becomes a binding force (we call it the Holy Spirit) that makes my SCC a very important part of my life.
That has certainly been my experience. I have been part of a priests’ SCC for more than 35 years. I know the treasure that these men have come to be in my life. As a matter of fact, I cannot imagine my life without the inspiration, support and challenge they have given me all these years. Christ has truly worked through them. I would really like you to have the blessing of the SCC experience in your life. I know it has made a difference in mine.
Yours in the love of the Lord,
Msgr. Robert H. Slipe