What Does the Word “Church” Mean To You?

Atour Presbyteral Council meeting today, we had a discussion on how to connect to young adults in our ministry.  Each generation has its own way of looking at things.

I ask you “What does the word church mean to you?”  Do you think of the “building” where you attend Mass?  Do you think of the “church” as an “institution” with a hierarchy and a set of “rules”? 

We experience “church” most vividly in the parish building we call a church but that building is not “THE CHURCH.”

As a Catholics we certainly have an institution that we call church but the institution is not “THE CHURCH.”

THE CHURCH is experienced in the physical but it is not the same as the physical.  There are rules in the church but the rules do not exist for the good of the institution.  The institutional church exists to bring us closer to God.  We have rules in the church but the rules does just exist to ensure the survival of the institution.  The rules are to there to help guide us on the path God has laid out for us.  Everything we do as a church is meant to draw us into a deeper personal relationship with Jesus.

The problem is that we get caught up in the rules.  For instance, when we teach religion to children we become focused on teaching them facts, rules, and prayers to memorize but we don’t teach them about what it means to have a relationship with Jesus.  Now, granted little children aren’t going to grasp what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus but that is our goal as the child grows.

As a child grows, do we help them grow from rules that tell them what they should or shouldn’t do to why we should or shouldn’t?  For instance, our sacraments are meant to be an encounter with God where we receive grace.  A child might know that in Baptism we use water, oil, a white garment, and a candle but do we ever talk about why?  God uses the “things” of this world to help us connect to him but it isn’t about the “things.”  Having a personal relationship with Jesus calls us to see what the “thing” represents.

Likewise, we teach little children to know the Ten Commandments.  As the children grow, we need to give them the skills to interpret how the commandments apply in our world today.  If we don’t give them the skills, then our faith can seem irrelevant.

Do you see how our faith is relevant today or does “church” seem like a bunch of rules that don’t mean much today?


Fr. Jeff

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