Julianne Stanz’ new book, Start With Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church starts with a simple story of trying to get her three year-old to get up for Mass.
After a few attempts to rouse her son, and his inevitable response of “I don’t want to go to Mass,” Julianne asked him why. His response was heartbreaking:
“I don’t want to go to church, Mama,” he whispered, “because nobody looks happy there.”
That little guy’s response brought numerous memories of my own experiences visiting other parishes. No one smiled. No one greeted. No one acknowledged. It made me wonder, “Is this the face of the Catholic Church that the world sees?”
Julianne then begins the process of explaining how a parish (or an individual) can “reclaim the fire and excitement for faith so that is visible to all, especially to the least among us.”
Prayer is at the heart of everything in this book. Real prayer. Yes, we pray before meetings, but our prayer should be a renewal of our personal encounter with Jesus Christ and our willingness to speak about Jesus. In Chapter 4, “The Parish that Prays Together Stays Together” Julianne discusses how to pray together as a parish and how powerful those prayers can move a parish forward in their mission and faith journey.
In Chapter 7, “Missionary Discipleship and Culture Change, Julianne discusses the beginnings of changing the parish. Anyone who has ever been to a parish meeting of any sort has probably heard, “But we’ve always done it that way!” In this chapter, Julianne discusses how to make a pastoral plan to discern, purify, and reform some of the things that a parish might be doing that are no longer bearing fruit. The perception is that people will complain when something is no longer done, but in most cases that’s not true. A great quote from this chapter:
Jesus tells us to go and make disciples, not bingo players or picnickers!
A lot of parishes suffer from “busyness.” There are so many activities, but what are the people getting out of all those activities? Is the activity bringing us to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ or is it a calendar filler and just another reason for yet another endless meeting?
In Chapter 10, “Follow the Leader: Your Parish Process of Missionary Discipleship,” there’s a quote from the late Billy Graham:
“I pick up the Bible in one hand, and I pick up the newspaper in the other. And I read almost the same words in the newspaper as I read in the Bible.”
Some of us don’t see the connection. We live a separate faith life from our every day life. It doesn’t work that way. When I think about this quote, I realize the Bible is heavier than a newspaper. Those weighty words contained within that book are tools to navigate the stories in the newspaper.
Start with Jesus is a process. Julianne’s insights into faith community are enlightening and the processes that she uses to guide faith communities are simple yet make a profound impact.
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Copyright 2019 Pam Spano
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