by Fr. Timothy Guthridge, C.PP.S., Director of Initial Formation
During the July retreat at St. Joseph College, Fr. Barry Fischer, c.pp.s. focused on basic themes central in Pope Francis’ writings and sermons. The first and most central theme of the retreat was “Christ centeredness.” In a church as institutional and dogmatic as ours, being Christocentric can be a challenge. During my time at Creighton University, one of the more challenging ideas was that one of the Church’s greatest sins is idolatry. To an extent, the Church has turned some of God’s greatest gifts and revelations—Sacraments, Scriptures, Community, Church councils and teachings—into false gods by treating them as ends in themselves. Church itself is a means to an end—the end always being Christ.
Fr. Barry quoted a poem by Pedro Arrupe, s.j. that begins, “Nothing is more practical than finding God.” In a society that often sees religion and seeking the divine as fluff and foolishness, I have always found spending time with God most practical. If as Christians, we truly believe that God is truly the essence of all there is, then spending time with God every day only makes sense. When I see all the human energy used on things like gambling, watching hours of television every week, maintaining professional sports, I think spending time with God is a better use of time and energy. I once heard a radio commentator say that as a society we are entertaining ourselves to death. I enjoy entertainment as much as anyone, but I also know that if God is not at the center of my life, all the entertainment in the world isn’t going to make me happy. Regarding formation, in the midst of all the community activity, classes, workshops, and retreats, having Christ at the center of everything is the main component in forming a Missionary of the Precious Blood.
Our community’s charism is rooted in reconciliation and renewal. Fr. Barry spoke about the need for reconciliation, not just in the world, but also in our own lives: we have to look at our own woundedness. Until we take a good hard look at our own lives, we will not be good agents of reconciliation in the lives of others. Forgiving a person is not just an act of liberation for the person who wronged us, but for us as well. Fr. Barry said, “The acid of hate destroys the soul.” Hatred destroys lives like a cancer. Bearing grudges only hurts us in the long run. Jesus did not tell us to forgive others because it is a nice, pious think to do; Jesus told us to forgive to bring healing into our life as well as the lives of others. During formation, candidates will be given ample opportunity to reflect upon their own lives and seek the healing and reconciliation they need.
Fr. Barry gave us one admonition I think all of us need to reflect upon. He reminded us of the damage we can do with our mouths. In the Precious Blood family, we don’t hurt people much physically, but with words said in anger, sarcasm, cynicism, overt criticism, gossip, and hurtful humor, we can do a lot of damage.
As Precious Blood people, we are called to be merciful. We want God to be merciful to us; we need to be merciful to others. Fr. Barry reminded us that Jesus is the incarnate compassionate heart made flesh and that Jesus is the compassionate face of God. As people made in the image and likeness of God, we are our truest selves when we live as compassionate and merciful people.
One of the conferences was on being Missionary. Fr. Barry quoted Pope Francis saying that the church needs to get out of itself and into the world. Instead of being pious and holy, the Church is better off being bruised, hurting, and out in the streets. The Church needs to be less inward looking and less self-absorbed. The nature of the Church is missionary and Jesus is the prime model. Jesus was always on the move.
The Church’s Mission is Christ’s Mission. The Mission is about the Kingdom of God. Church institutions can make self-preservation a primary goal and form Christ’s mission to a business model. Pope Francis encourages us to get away from this kind of thinking. The Church is to be a living, dynamic, and organic groups of people participating in Christ’s vision of God’s Kingdom.
As our new house of initial formation begins a new year, we will try to reflect upon the themes Fr. Barry shared with us. We will study The Joy of the Gospel together. We pray this year will be a good year of grace, formation, and transformation as our candidates continue to discern their possible vocation as Missionaries of the Precious Blood of Christ.