At present, I am in Saint Louis, where I am attending the 19th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America. Monday morning’s plenary session of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America’s 92nd annual national Convention is about to begin. As its members seek to find answers as to how they can grow in their ministry to the Orthodox Church in America, I see that the FOCA and our parishes have one thing in common: how to grow our parishes and ministries in light of how busy our families are today. This is something I have struggled with ever since I became a priest in 1994, and with which I continue to struggle today.
When it comes to forming the life of Christ in the family icon of a little church, can we “have our cake and eat it too?” Is the business of family life just a fact that needs to be accepted with the Church working around that? These are among the many questions that I haven’t answered. I will endeavor to do so in the next four weeks.
The business of family life is a symptom of a stewardship issue, not of money, but of time. Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “Where your heart is, there is your treasure.” When people say they can’t give to the Church or participate in her life, one will often find one’s time is devoted to things such as sports, learning musical instruments, recreational/entertainment activities, and attendance at various sporting events. So, if one’s time is given to these things, the money needed to support these activities follows. So instead of the Church receiving the first check one writes for the month, it may be the last (if there is anything left over).
So to form the life of Christ in families, how do we make room for Him?
“A farmer went out to sow his seed…. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants…. This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God…. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature [Luke 8: 5, 7, 11, 14].
Some of the things we have going on in our lives that make us so busy are the thorns, which choke out and hinder the growth of the healthy, life-giving seed in us. Parents along with their children need to work with their parish priests to discern what those thorny things are. Then by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, they are to unloosen the chokehold they have in their lives. I will offer additional specific insights relative to family life in the next few weeks as to how to address this.
The Lord’s blessing be upon you,
+Paul of Chicago