Success predicted for Why Catholic? program by third week of Lent

Published: March 10, 2007

By Dr. Linda Webster

I’m going to make a prediction. By the third week of Lent, the Why Catholic? program will be a resounding success throughout the Diocese of Little Rock. Why? The program is such an exciting opportunity to do something positive during Lent; something almost indulgent. Visiting one another. Sharing ideas and personal stories. Listening and growing together in faith. As Catholics across the state gather in small groups to read and discuss the first book, “The Profession of Faith: What We Believe,” they’ll be living the Gospel message in Luke 13:6-9. Just as the gardener cultivated the fig tree, lavishing attention and energy on its well-being, we will be cultivating one another in new ways of interpreting our faith. The key is that we will be doing this together. But like anything done with others, it may take a session or two to figure out how to balance personality and faith. That’s why I’m predicting success by week three. Faith sharing is a risky business. It takes practice. First of all, it’s difficult to articulate something you believe when it seems self-evident. The word “Why” in Why Catholic? is deliberate. Reflecting on the catechism, the Scripture readings, and the prayers selected by the publishers is only the first step in moving toward a mature faith. That reflection needs to be articulated to be given life, to have credibility. Second, it’s a challenge to hear others react to your own experience of faith or your search for faith. What if they don’t like what you have to say? What if it doesn’t make sense? The gardener in the parable (Luke 13:6-9) was taking the same sort of risk. He had faith in his abilities as a gardener, but there were no guarantees that the fig tree would bear fruit by the next season. It was up to the tree to respond to the gardener’s care. Much like the tree or a garden, a faith sharing group will flourish if all of the members encourage one another. Really listening to what a member is saying and reflecting on that faith experience, even if it is not perfectly articulated, is a moment of spiritual growth. The group learns from one another and grows together, bearing more fruit than one would think possible. In a group, members can re-fine and re-shape their approaches to their faith. What we believe as a result of our individual prayer and spirit-filled reflection is certainly valid, but it becomes ever more real — more realized — when it is articulated in the presence of other believers. In our faith sharing groups, we have the opportunity to take small pieces of Scripture and explore so many meanings that are personal, contemporary, outside the bounds of conventional thought and writing. We get to know one another as Christ-centered pilgrims, walking different paths toward the same destination. In our busy and segmented lives, we’re being given the gift of time and thought and reflection and companionship to contemplate that destination and how our own journey is affecting others. Even though it’s early January as I write this column, I’m confident that Why Catholic? will be a huge success in the diocese, one faith-filled group after another. Dr. Linda Webster, a member of St. Mark Church in Monticello, has a bachelor’s degree in theology from St. Gregory University in Shawnee, Okla.