By Morgan Davis
The bells of the churches rang out Oct. 8 and our eucharistic Lord made his way through the streets with his flock. That Humble Host saw all of our prayers, joys, hopes and burdens. The joy and gratitude were as tangible as the incense and chants that wafted through the streets of Davenport and across the Mississippi River to Rock Island and Moline, Illinois.
Lay faithful, children, priests and religious brothers and sisters walked together with eyes set ahead. Heaven and earth mingled in worship of the one true God. Proudly and authentically, people witnessed to their faith and were noticed by young people peeking their heads out from windows and people with gentle smiles or looks of awe on their faces and even some who seemed perplexed. Only the Lord and those onlookers know what took place in the deepest parts of their soul that Saturday morning; however, it was true evangelization.
As part of the Church and a diocese, many of us know of statistics about the decline in priestly vocations, sacramental marriages, confirmations, baptisms, tithing, belief in the true presence and morality. The numbers are bleak projections, so what is the answer to all of this?
In church circles, people often hope for quick fixes and miracle solutions. “If only we had this program or did things this way, then we would be doing better!” I’m not saying that we should do away with programs but I believe that we can take a hint from the Emmaus Procession and the dynamism it generated. We should live out the faith authentically. From there, beauty will attract.
As Scripture repeats, we are not a people of fear! Yes, projections of the future may be bleak but we are called to hold fast to the authentic faith and live it in its full beauty. The answer is not compromise or a watering down of the faith. As a young person, I can attest that the “wishy-washy” faith does not attract us. We’re tired of the fear that hides the fullness of truth. We’re tired of being starved. We want authentic Catholicism proclaimed boldly!
Similar to a permissive parent who only wants to be a friend, sustained laxity provides the façade of success for a time. Some people revel in the “freedom” it provides; however, in the long run, it harms them and doesn’t allow them to progress in the spiritual life. They become stagnant pools that don’t care to explore the springs of living water that Christ’s Church possesses. I’ve seen a trend; young people want more processions, bold preachers, moving sacred music, authentic connections, reverent Masses, beautiful marriages and holy priests. Ultimately, we want the faith that is unapologetically and authentically lived out.
A good snapshot of this concept took place in the Emmaus Procession. One-thousand people took action and simply witnessed to their faith by walking, praying the rosary and chaplet, singing and chanting praises and allowing themselves to be an authentic example of Catholicism in the Quad Cities. They weren’t afraid of offending anyone and they were proud of Jesus Christ and his Church. They were cloaked in brotherly love that drew hearts to a foretaste of the heavenly Jerusalem. That type of beauty attracts and I know we will continue to see the fruits of it as we go forward.
If you want to look at numbers, see where the young people are actually going. They are in the growing religious orders, church communities that challenge them to live the faith authentically and in parishes filled to the brim with unapologetically loud and crying babies! They are attracted and evangelized by truth lived out to its fullness. Yes, the quantitative projections may look bleak, but we need only to trust in the Lord and live out the truth that is saturated in beauty and goodness. Journey through the streets and do not be afraid to live Catholicism fully, as we did in the eucharistic procession with our Lord. Do not settle for less.
(Morgan Davis is director of Faith Formation and Evangelization at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf.)