This month begins the Year of Faith - and none too soon. There is no question that teaching, nurturing, spreading, and living the faith is on the mind of Pope Benedict XVI. Evangelization is the participation in making the faith evident and real in the lives of the faithful; yet all the while remaining pure mystery. Insouciance and ambiguity in viewing the moral condition of society must come to an end. Faith and the person it forms must arise. The task of making this year one of faith surely will be ignited in various methods within the creative mind and massive machinery of the Church. But the most efficacious and the most necessary force must come from the individual believer.
Many would consider the Bible of Rock-N-Roll or, perhaps better stated, the Jerome Biblical Commentary of Rock-N-Roll is Rolling Stone magazine. In an article in Saint Anthony Messenger by James Breig, the story of the origin, steadfastness, and evangelizing spirit of Rolling Stone rock critic, Rob Sheffield strikes a sonorous cord. A native of Massachusetts, Rob was born in to a loving, Irish-Catholic family in the early Post-Vatican II era. He felt that his youth was spent in a time of a new sense of lay involvement in the Church. The task of spreading the Catholic faith did not rest solely on the shoulders of the clergy and religious, but upon every Catholic. He was caught up in the sacramental expression of the mysteries of faith. Inspired by the sacramental system and how it revealed the grace and presence of Christ, he speaks of living that Christ-like presence:"... there was a sense of interpreting the day-to-day details and challenges of your own life as sacramental signs, and looking for spiritual challenges and spiritual opportunities in every moment." Rob Sheffield faces the joys and sorrows, the accomplishments and tragedies, sunrises and sunsets of everyday living in, as he says, "a Catholic way."
The "Catholic way" of life draws its energy from the "bread of life" himself. Responding to the call of the Lord to come to his table and receive the nourishment of his body and blood gives the believer the fuel necessary to live the challenges of faith and to move within its mystery. We only need to look at the recent events in Syria, or Colorado, or in our own neighborhoods to recognize the need of that Catholic way to influence the world community. As Rob Sheffield noted, the responsibility to evangelize the Good News includes the laity. In truth, most people outside of the Church would not find exposure to the Catholic way of life in encounters with the clergy, but in the Catholic people that they know in their daily lives. Every profession and activity can be enhanced by a flourish or two of Catholic theology administered by a devout Catholic.
Keeping with the tenor of our subject, the late evangelist, Billy Graham said, "The young people around the world today who are having the best time are the young people who know Jesus Christ." This statement ought to resonate with people of every age. Catholics who "keep it real" are capable of showing a better way of coping with daily existence. The moral beliefs that are active in the faithful can weigh against the often thoughtless and tragic actions that seem more and more a part of modern society. Having the "best time" in life obligates one to knowing the definition of "best" in terms that concur with the Author of what truly is best in life. I believe it was the duo, Seals and Crofts who sang the lyric, "If you want me to be closer to you, get closer to me." An open heart, seeking closeness with God greatly increases the possibility of an improving closeness between people. The Church, a community of faith, a community that should manifest the closeness of which I speak, ought to be an incubator of true discipleship to this wearily desultory, spiritually unenlightened world of ours.
Neither arrogant, nor bombastic, nor overt, there are multitudes among the human number who make the voice of the Holy Spirit, the influence of a righteous power, and the presence of the faith a palpable presence in the world. These are the great men and women who are the foundation stones of Mother Church. They are yawning out of sleep to make breakfast for their families; they are walking into buildings to greet the work of the day; they are opening stores in the rarified early morning air; they are using their minds and their muscles, their voices and their movements, their talents and their wits to contribute a wholeness and a holiness to the ambient existence; they are the saints around us.
In the words of Rob Sheffield, "I couldn't really ever decide not to be Catholic. It would be like deciding not to be tall or not to be Irish or not to get sunburned when the temperature gets above 60 degrees. It's just a fundamental, permanent part of who I am." Rock on! Rob.