Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Archbishop Sartain Takes it to the Mountaintop

A high point of the already towering program for World Youth Day 2011 was Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain's talk at Theology on Tap to English-speaking pilgrims. Co-sponsored by the National Catholic Young Adult Ministry Association (NCYAMA) and the Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth office of the USCCB, the archbishop's talk could have come at the conclusion of World Youth Day rather than the eve of the pope's arrival; his message focused on the everyday realities awaiting pilgrims when they returned home.

He urged them not make unfavorable comparisons between the euphoria of World Youth Day and their other experiences, particularly experiences of their faith lives. He recalled the Apostles, who literally experienced the highs of some "mountaintop moments" only to have Jesus warn them not to tell anyone. (Archbishop Sartain stopped at this point to read a Gospel account of the Transfiguration.) In short, the archbishop explained, a follower of Christ should not become fixated on the highs of the Gospel at the expense of the rest of the Christian message and lifestyle.

In an effort to help pilgrims build a solid faith practice on the heights of their World Youth Day experience, the archbishop then offered a reflection on how to grow in a relationship with God, complete with a handout for them to take home.

So here's the resource for use by the rest of the Church:

Growing In Our Relationship With Christ
(A few simple steps)
Archbishop Peter Sartain

How does one strive to know the Lord? How does one become God's intimate friend? Perhaps these simple points will help.
  • Speak to God. Carrying on a conversation with God in prayer, the same kind I have with close friends, gives me a chance to tell him what's in my heart and on my mind. As in all friendships, honesty is required. Why lie to God?
  • Listen to God. Prayer is much more than getting things off my chest. It also involves quietly giving God the opportunity to respond. As St. John of the Cross once remarked, God speaks his everlasting Word in silence. In our noisy world, we must not forget that silence can be much more intimate than speech.
  • Read what God has to say. This is another way of saying, "Read the Bible." The bible recounts what God has revealed to us about himself through creation, history, prophecy, and most especially through the Son, his perfect self-revelation. And as Rabbi Abraham Heschel once wrote, the Bible is also God's book about man. We learn both about God and about ourselves by opening the Sacred Scriptures.
  • Learn the faith. Faith has an objective component: the truths we are to believe. By studying the Church's teaching, we give heart and mind to God.
  • Become true disciples of God's Son. The Father sent the Son so that we could abide in the deep intimacy they share. "Father, they are your gift to me... I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them" (John 17:24, 26). Jesus is The Way, and giving our lives in discipleship takes us to the bosom of the Father.
  • Commit yourself to a life of conversion. Being a disciple of the Lord Jesus involves allowing his grace to go to work in me -- to transform me more and more into Christ himself. This is entirely the work of grace, but God calls me to cooperate with grace. I am called to discover my sinfulness and repent. I am called to accept the gift of God's merciful forgiveness. I am called to change what needs to be changed in my life. I am called to do good and avoid evil, to relinquish habits and ways of living which are not compatible with faith in Christ and thus not compatible with Christ's living presence in me. The goal is to say, with St. Paul, "For to me, life is Christ!" (Philippines 1:21)
  • Call on the Holy Spirit. From the beginning to the end of time, whenever the Father sends the Son, he also sends the Spirit, because their mission is inseparable. The Spirit keeps us faithful and makes intimacy with God possible.
  • Seek out the presence and action of God. The sacraments are the public worship of the Church, but they are first and foremost the work of Christ. If we want to know God better, we look for opportunities to be where he is at work, especially the sacraments of Eucharist and Penance.
  • Love the Mother of God. As the first disciple, the Blessed Mother gives us the best example of giving oneself to God, and she is our powerful intercessor. She presents our need to Jesus ("They have no more wine") and directs us to him ("Do whatever he tells you").
  • Make friends with the friends of God. Reading the lives and writings of the saints reminds us that we are surrounded by great witnesses who insire us to live faith to the full. Likewise, surrounding ourselves in daily life with friends who share our love for God helps us stay the course.
  • "Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart," wrote Abba Poeman. Poeman was referring to the fact that we often amue ourselves and spend our time with things -- entertainments, conversations, etc. -- which can never nourish us because we were made for greater things. That which seems harmless on the surface can gradually erode the quality and depth of our commitment to the Lord.


Unknown said...

Wherever you find Archbishop Sartain, you find him preaching Jesus Christ. God bless you, Archbishop and Godspeed.

Unknown said...

Congratulations Archbishop Sartain for speaking such inspiring and relevant words to our youth. You are an inspiration to me to live a Christ - centered life.

Sr. Cathy

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this. I was at the talk in Madrid, and could not find the sheet. Archbishop Sartain is truly a man of the interior life. I am teaching Confirmandi on prayer tonight and this is great.

Fr. Brad