The reflections on our Parish Mission statement continue as we focus on the direction in our mission statement that our parish "…acknowledges its mission to pass on our Catholic Tradition."
Tom McGrath, the executive editor of U.S. Catholic magazine writes in one of his articles, "Faith is spread not by teachers but by witnesses." Our parish has passed on our Catholic Tradition and will continue to do so by being witnesses to the Gospel. So what exactly does that mean?
Take for example: The powerful poem from the prophet Isaiah speaking of what great things the Lord has done and what the Lord will do. This message of hope continues in the Gospel. We hear John the Baptist proclaiming that the days of fulfillment are at hand. These words mean nothing if we, the faithful, do not write them on our hearts and continue this message of hope by the way we live. This is what being a witness means. The Gospel does not end when we exclaim, "Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ!" It continues! We continue the story (pass on our Catholic Tradition) through our witness.
Boston College theology professor Rev. Michael Himes writes, "Before our Tradition was called `Christianity,' it was simply referred to as `the Way' (Acts 9:2). First of all, it is a way of life. One has to do the doctrine before one can understand the doctrine. One does not know and then do. After all, if you had to understand the doctrine and mystery of the Eucharist correctly before you celebrated and participated in it, which one of us would ever have received our First Communions? Long before I was taught religion lessons, I was taught to pray. And that is just how it should be. Practice precedes doctrine."
Many of us are passing on our Catholic Tradition and we do not even know it. Parents who love their children unconditionally are witnesses to what our Tradition teaches us about God the Father. Parishioners who welcome new parishioners into their homes for a meal are witnesses to what our Tradition teaches us about Jesus the Son. Friends who reach out to friends in grief are witnesses to what our Tradition teaches us about the Holy Spirit. The truth is that our parish community is surrounded by the lived experience of the Gospel.
So as you can see, our understanding of passing on our Catholic Tradition applies to all of us who are baptized (not just priests, staff and catechists). We do not begin passing on our Tradition with Catholic teaching and doctrine. We begin by witnessing to the Gospel everyday in everything we do and say. Catholic teaching and doctrine are the end result of our witness.
The Prologue to the Catechism of the Catholic Church concludes by quoting the Roman Catechism. It is fitting to conclude this reflection with the same quote:
The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.