December 2, 2011

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Catholics are sent forth to serve those in need

David SilerCatholics probably have the richest tradition of any faith for gathering rituals.

We gather together as a community of believers, bound together by our common faith. Of course, our gathering for the holy Mass is our most important gathering ritual.

Many of us gather at Mass at least weekly, and many even daily, to be fed by the word of God and nourished by the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. With the many time zones throughout the world, it can be said that there is not a moment of the day in which the Eucharist is not being celebrated.

In addition to the Mass, we gather numerous other times at our parishes, chapels, gymnasiums, meeting rooms and schools to pray, learn, worship and plan. It would be interesting to add up the number of times a week that more than two gather in our parishes for some purpose connected to our Catholic faith.

Of course, gathering, especially for the Eucharist, is central to our Catholic faith, but what is the purpose of all of this gathering?

I submit that all of this gathering is for the purpose of the sending. In the new translation of the Mass, the celebrant can say to us in the concluding rite, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Just like Jesus sent out his disciples during his time here on Earth to spread the word of God, he sends us out for the same purpose today.

Our Catholic faith is not really faith at all unless it has some impact on the way that we live outside of the confines of our churches. I attended Mass at a church in another state some time ago that had this sign above the doors as you left the church—“You are about to enter the mission field.”

Like any Catholics in the U.S. attending Mass over the past year, I have been hearing quite a bit about the new translation of the Roman Missal. This next year or so should be quite interesting as we all learn the new prayers and responses.

One change that caught my attention is one of the other options for the celebrant in the concluding rite that reads, “Go in peace, glorifying God with your life.”

Now isn’t that the real challenge of being a Catholic? Isn’t that the true sign of a follower of Jesus? It isn’t measured by how many times I went to Mass or how many rosaries I’ve prayed or how many Bible studies I have attended, but rather how I live after I am sent.

Jesus made it clear what being sent forth should look like, too. He told us that it would look like service to the poor and vulnerable—those most “in harm’s way.”

He said that it would be among these “least among us” where we would serve him. This is how Jesus told us that we would “glorify God with our lives.”

In my next column, I will explore ways that our parishes can prepare and send us into the mission field.

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

Local site Links: