On Monday, June 2, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles, shared on his Facebook page the following: “Today I want to pray for all those who have fallen away from the faith. May they come back home — and may they be received with open arms by you. By me. By everyone.” As I reflected on his prayer intention, an almost overwhelming sense of hopelessness came over me. I found it difficult to conceive how so many people could ever come back to the faith. If anything, it seems that more people are leaving the Church than returning. However, this feeling of hopelessness began to disappear once I recognized that they don’t have to return to the faith all at once, but a person at a time.
I have come to know many people who are highly effective at this – bringing people back to the church. What is the secret to their success? It’s simple really. They extend them personal invitations to join their communities of faith. These communities of faith vary in nature. They can either be the general parish community, the local prayer group, the young adult group, the youth group, the local Knights of Columbus council, the bible study group, etc. Each one of us has a local community of faith that we belong to, not because we are forced to be a part of it, but because we recognize that belonging to such a community helps us in our spiritual journey to heaven. Let us, then, invite those around us to join our communities of faith recognizing that they too can benefit from such fellowship.
It is not realistic to expect individuals who have been away from the church for a long period of time to commit to the things we invite them to. It is precisely for this reason that we should spend time in prayer reflecting which communities or activities might be more appealing to the person we are thinking of inviting. If it is a young adult, maybe instead of extending an invitation to the local rosary group, it might be more fruitful to extend an invitation to the next upcoming Theology on Tap gathering. But regardless to what we are extending invitations to, let’s keep doing just that, inviting.
Let us once again regain a missionary spirit, recognizing that we cannot only leave it to the clergy to bring people back to the faith, but that we as laypeople have our fair share of work in this mission.
By: Guillermo Jimenez