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Catholicism as a team sport

At the Easter Vigil on March 30 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C., a woman receives the sacrament of Confirmation from Cardinal Wilton Gregory. (Catholic Standard photo by Mihoko Owada)

During a pre-Mass encounter that I had last week with the catechumens and candidates at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, one of them asked me an intriguing question: “How can I continue to grow in my faith?”

It was a very welcome and important inquiry for every Catholic to raise. I suggested that our newest Catholics should partner with some of their more experienced Catholic members for the ongoing deepening of their faith. In other words, Catholicism is a “team sport!”

This sports analogy is a good image of how we all should pursue the life of faith. The pandemic ought to have provided some insight into what we were missing when we could not gather for worship, for close association and fellowship. We Catholics and other believers as well found ourselves isolated during these past several years. and that has taken a deep spiritual toll on us all.

We can all sense the happy anticipation of a number of sporting events during these past several weeks – the start of the baseball season and the energy of March Madness both bring much excitement. Whether our teams eventually have a successful season or not, it’s important to observe the excitement of the anticipation of the new season. We also know that while any team may have one or two stupendous players, unless the entire team coalesces and works together, the season may not turn out to be a winner.

So too with our journey of faith. We need each other to pursue holiness of life. Our Easter liturgical prayers underscore the fact that we are a community of believers. While each one of us is called to develop a personal relationship with the Lord, we must support one another in that journey toward Christ. We need one another to live a fruitful and authentic Catholic life. In a real sense, that is the primary and enduring responsibility of godparents and sponsors. New Catholics – young ones and adults – should be able to find in the lives of those who have presented them to the Church for the sacraments a rich source of encouragement and spiritual guidance.

Not every person has the same need for such familiarity and a few individuals even choose a life of quiet separation – hermits or those living in a cloistered community for example. But the Church is never a loose affiliation of solitary individuals – it is always a communio of brothers and sisters. Our liturgical life is primary in achieving a spiritual closeness with neighbors. Liturgy is always an expression of the communio of an assembly of people encountering the living Lord.

I’m glad that this question was raised in our pre-Vigil conversation because it is now the responsibility of the entire Church to help to provide the encouragement and support that these new Catholic brothers and sisters need in their neophyte journey of faith. They are our rookies on this team of faith, and we must all assist them in finding Christ. Because as we do help, support, and show them the ways of fruitfully living our faith, we will also find Christ as well.

(Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, writes his “What I Have Seen and Heard” column for the Catholic Standard and Spanish-language El Pregonero newspapers and websites of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.)