With Valentine's Day right around the corner, we naturally turn our thoughts to the romantic side of love. Valentine cards and gifts are frequently exchanged among those united in love or who wish to be.
The Church even celebrates World Marriage Day this weekend, to emphasize the importance of selfless love between husband and wife.
Not far behind, this year, is the season of Lent. This time of penitence, prayer and almsgiving reminds us of the love of God for us as well as the call of God to us to love Him above all things and our neighbors as ourselves.
When we live our faith in loving service, we evangelize; we bring God's message of mercy, care, and salvation to life in the here and now. Most parishes offer Lenten faith-sharing groups, devotions, and confessions to get us in deeper touch with the call to evangelize. More focused programs like "Disciples in Mission" and "Why Catholic?" have already helped many parish communities to grow in their appreciation of what it means to evangelize.
Since 1983, however, our archdiocese has been preparing committed Catholics for more dedicated service in the Church. Our Ministerial Development Center has prepared over 2,000 men and women through its outstanding three-year process: Christian Foundations for Ministry (CFM).
With accreditation from the Washington, D.C.- based United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (Web site: http://www.usccb.org) CFM offers a basic overview, through prayer, instruction, discussion and reflection, on topics such as Scripture, sacraments, liturgy, morality, Church history, spirituality, evangelization, and community — all in the context of the Documents of Vatican II, the Code of Canon Law, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Far from being a dry series of lectures, the CFM process engages partici¬pants and instructors in lively dialogue. One of the superb features of the win¬ter cycle of the third year, currently under way, is the challenge for each member or group of members to plan an evangelization project and then put it into practice. This helps concretize
in real ways all that they have learned.
Last year’s "graduates" came up with projects as varied as discussion series on social concerns issuesand scriptural themes, outreach to those in nursing homes or shut-ins needing assistance in their own homes, linking adults, youth and young adults, hosting a movie afternoon with pertinent sharing afterwards, conducting a reflection day for all parish ministers, arranging a First Friday Eucharistic Devotion, and establishing support groups for single mothers and for people who recently lost a loved one to death.
Lessons learned include all the little details necessary to start something new as well as the challenges of getting permissions, assistance, and participants. On the other hand, it also reinforces the truth that each of us, either alone or with others, can do something to bring the Good News of God’s love to somebody else.
CFM meets in many parishes throughout the archdiocese. Currently over 300 men and women are participating. The Spring Cycle will begin in April. Contact Sister Virginia Stanton at 973-497-4350, or online at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the upcoming possibilities.
Be it Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, today, or any day, may we never let even one pass us by without our having said or done something to bring Christ’s love to life anew.
(Rev. Msgr. Richard J. Arnhols is pastor of St. John the Evangelist parish in Bergenfield, and archdiocesan vicar for Pastoral Life.)