To be a Catholic is to hold certain beliefs. We need to understand, claim and celebrate our Catholic identity.

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CATHOLIC IDENTITY
Called to be Missionaries
By Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.

If you are a Catholic, you are a missionary. All of us Catholics are called to be missionaries. That doesn't mean we have to leave home and go to some distant land to preach the gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus, although this way of being a missionary is the vocation of some. Every Catholic is a missionary because we all participate in the mission of Jesus Christ.

What it means to be Catholic can be described in various ways, but following Jesus is at the heart of it. We are Catholics because God has called us to follow Jesus. We follow Jesus out of love, and love is generative. That's the very nature of love.

For example, as a husband and wife grow in their love for one another they will seek ways in which their love can grow and find expression beyond themselves. They may decide to have children and start a family. They may decide to express their love in a ministry of service. Love always seeks some outward, generative expression.

This generative love is at the heart of our understanding of God as Trinity: the love of the Father generates the only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit proceeds from their love. This generative love is the reason for creation; it is the reason for the Incarnation. "God so loved the world...." It was Jesus' mission to proclaim this love or, in the language of the Bible, to announce the Kingdom of God.

It was love that moved Jesus to open his arms on the cross and to breathe the Holy Spirit into the Church. "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20:21). Jesus has commissioned us to continue his mission of announcing the Kingdom. At the Eucharist we as Church gather to give our "yes," our "I do," to God's offer of love.

To the Ends of the Earth

Through the Eucharist we are continually being transformed into Christ's Body and empowered by his Spirit. As Catholics we are to be the sacrament—the outward sign—of the "I love you" that God spoke in Jesus Christ. God doesn't want this great love to be kept a secret. God wants this "I love you" to embrace every man and woman and to reach the ends of the earth. In order for that to happen, the Catholic Church must be a missionary Church.

Being a missionary is what makes being Catholic so exciting! Being Catholic is not just being the member of a club. It is not something we do from time to time at our local parish. Being Catholic means that we are missionaries of the Good News, that we are living signs of God's generative love.

We announce by our words, but especially by our deeds, that the way things are is not the way things have to be. We do not have to live in fear. God's love is more powerful than evil. Peace is possible. Even the "little ones" are important. God is a God of abundant life. Sins are forgiven. Justice will triumph. Death is not the end. Easter holds the final word! To carry this message—to participate in the mission of Jesus—is the joy of being Catholic.

Living Signs

Truthfully, not everyone finds "being Catholic" a joy. I think of the man who, when asked why he no longer went to Mass, replied: "Because I see all those Catholics in Church looking so holy that they could be Jesus Christ himself. But when they walk out those doors, you can't tell them from anybody else."

That's where being a missionary kicks in. When we walk out those doors, can people see that we are different? I don't mean "different" in some superficial way. Are we more generous, more tolerant, more open, more truthful, more just, more concerned about the poor, more generous with our wealth, more focused on growth, more inclusive? In short, are we more Catholic?

If our mission is to announce the Kingdom of God, we ourselves must be living signs of that Kingdom.

Father Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M., S.T.D., has a doctorate in liturgy and sacramental theology from the Institut Catholique of Paris. A popular writer and lecturer, Father Richstatter teaches courses on the sacraments at Saint Meinrad (Indiana) School of Theology. His latest book is The Sacraments: How Catholics Pray (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

Next: Our Missionary Church

Questions for Reflection:

• Where in the Church do you experience the outward sign of God's love?

• In what places are you most comfortable sharing God's love? How do you share it? Where are you least comfortable? How do you share it?

FAMILY CORNER
Maintenance and Mission
By Judith Dunlap

Both parish and family are about maintenance and mission. Both worry about finances and upkeep as well as the daily jobs/ministries that maintain their existence. But their primary objective is mission: making sure their members go into the world empowered to be all they are called to be.

When I was young, being a Catholic meant going to Mass, doing what we were told and supporting the Church financially. Priests and nuns did everything. They were responsible for maintaining the parish and they were the missionaries. Vatican II reminded us that the people are Church and we each have our own unique mission in the world.

When I talk about the Church today I sometimes compare it to my own family. All of my children are adults now. They are busy with their own lives. We support each other, sharing our basic values. We enjoy family rituals and traditions, and we work together so that our children/grandchildren can appreciate the same. We are there to nurture, encourage and challenge each other. When we get together we often share a meal. We take turns cooking, serving and cleaning up. I know my children appreciate the mutual effort that goes into maintaining their relationship with family, but as adults they realize that their main responsibilities are outside the family of their childhood.

It is similar in parishes. Adults share the responsibilities. We spend time working, sharing, praying and celebrating together. This builds up the parish and strengthens our bonds of fellowship and love. But that fellowship should empower us to share that love beyond our parish. Otherwise maintenance has become our mission, and we have forgotten that the main purpose of parish is to send each of us into the world as missionaries of the Good News.

For Family Response:

Talk about what family members see as their individual mission. Decide together what the mission of your family should be.

Media Watch
Two Brothers
By Frank Frost

Anyone who is drawn to cute animals will love Two Brothers. But this tale of two tiger cubs is more than just a warm, fuzzy movie. It's a dramatic live-action story that, while suitable for children, also holds the attention of adults.

Kumal and Sangha are adorable newborn twin cubs when we first meet them under the watchful eye of their mother, who has established her lair in an overgrown ancient temple deep in the jungle.

The cubs' father keeps watch over the family in their idyllic Indochinese habitat set in the 1920s. From the beginning the two brothers have distinctly different personalities. Kumal is a hapless "fraidy-cat" while Sangha is bold and fearless. The expressions of the brothers at play and the parents caring for them create an irresistible family and characters we care about.

Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce), a British big-game hunter and callous antiquities poacher, discovers the family when he raids the temple treasures. He shoots the cubs' father. Meanwhile, mother escapes with Sangha, but Kumal gets left behind.

Sangha's mother is soon killed and Sangha is coaxed out of his hiding place by the young son of the territory administrator, Raoul (Freddie Highmore).

The movie follows the lives of the two brothers until they intersect again as adults. Kumal, initially nursed by Aidan, is sold to a circus where he is "adopted" by a performing tiger that Kumal eventually replaces. Sangha becomes Raoul's pet until he turns on the aggressive family dog and is banished. Sangha becomes the property of a weak and insecure local prince who uses him as a killer fighter and as a surrogate for his own machismo.

The story of Kumal and Sangha is intertwined with and structured by the lives of humans: Aidan, who through a mild love interest with a local woman turns away from his destructive career; a British territorial administrator who is attempting to save the ancient treasures of the jungle by creating a tourist park; and the prince who cannot live up to the memory of his father.

The lives of Kumal and Sangha cross when the prince pits the two huge and ferocious tigers against one another in a fight to the death. (Youngsters needn't avert their eyes, but you'll want to see how it ends.)

Kumal and Sangha are definitely the stars, and their compellingly told story renders the hokey human story forgivable. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud has perfected his ability to anthropomorphize the animals with close-ups and behavior that tell a surprisingly complex story. Using new hgh-definition camera and computer technology, he was able to safely film the tigers in their natural environment for much of the film.

Two Brothers strongly romanticizes the "law of the jungle" but also says important things about respect, compassion and environmental responsibility.

For Media Watch:

What values do you find in this film?



SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball

St. Gregory the Great (540?-604)

The word "great" is easily overused. But not in the case of St. Gregory—one of only two Western popes in history (the other being Leo) so designated.

Born into a wealthy Roman family, Gregory was a standout. By age 30 he was serving as the equivalent of mayor of Rome. He held the post for five years, demonstrating remarkable administrative skills. The times called for greatness: Rome was under siege by powerful Germanic invaders, the Lombards, and Gregory organized for the city's defense, distributed food and handled policing and judicial matters.

All the while he was delaying a call—one he answered only after the death of his father. Gregory turned the family home into a monastery. His new life as a contemplative monk, later abbot, was a perfect fit. But that life was interrupted by yet another call when, at 50, he became the first monk ever elected pope. It was an inspired choice for the Church but a difficult one for him to accept.

Still, Gregory plunged into his new responsibilities, drawing on his proven administrative talents and revealing outstanding pastoral gifts. Italy, including Rome, was in chaos from the invasions; lawlessness and civil disorder were rampant; famine and plague had left the people frightened and vulnerable. Gregory's wise head and strong hand were a gift to Church and state.

While responding to the immediate crises all around him, he kept his vision clear. He sent the Roman monk Augustine (now St. Augustine of Canterbury) west to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons, initiated liturgical reform, became a model shepherd and influential writer, promoted choral liturgical music, advanced monasticism.

His feast day is September 3.

Dr. Francine Cardman

Throughout its history, the Church has been led by popes of every stripe: some outstanding men of vision; some ordinary; some forgettable, even corrupt. "Yet somehow the Church endures—sometimes because of them, sometimes in spite of them," says Dr. Francine Cardman.

"The papacy is a human office occupied by people who can be just as flawed as the rest of us," notes the professor of Church history at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But there are times when an amazing pope comes along—a man such as Gregory the Great, whom she admires for his accomplishments.

Pope Gregory, Dr. Cardman told Every Day Catholic, was a man of great learning known for his holiness and for his skills as a pastor as well as administrator. He believed in serving rather than seeking personal power. He had the foresight to send Augustine to Canterbury to re-establish the Church in England, and to offer the insecure missionary gentle, measured advice through handwritten letters. As the Western Roman Empire teetered on the brink of collapse from barbarian invasions, Gregory saw to it that breadlines were established and the people's basic social needs were met.

Just as it had with the Church's other "great" pope (Leo I, 440-461), the office of bishop of Rome "took on a new stature" during Gregory's papacy. And Gregory himself became an important bridge between "the old and the new—the early Church and the Middle Ages."

Dr. Cardman has many other heroes from Church history. "Reading and studying history on its own terms, in its own historical and cultural setting can be liberating. History can empower us."



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