Father John Catoir

Father John Catoir

There are two things to remember about your spiritual life: 1) it extends way beyond your prayer life to the way you treat others, the way you spend your money, the way you maintain your self-respect and even to your politics; 2) it also includes the way you relate to God through your local parish.

The parish Mass on Sunday is an act of worship, and participating joyfully in this primary duty of the people of God is essential for achieving holiness. How any particular parish or individual builds the spiritual life will vary of course, but the goal is clear: We are all called to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul.

For Catholics, the parish exists to help individuals carry out the mission that Jesus proclaimed for his people; namely, to proclaim the kingdom of God and to become living examples of Christ in service to God and to one another.

As a community of faith, hope and love, the parish community teaches the parishioners how to live in the Holy Spirit. It exists as a sign of the kingdom of God in the world. The parish also points to and anticipates the kingdom of heaven by realizing and extending the reign of God through our worship and service in all areas of life.

Granted, I’m talking about an ideal here; we all know some terrible, discouraging stories from parish life or ministry, but still, parishes are called to strive for holiness. One way we do this is by creating community subgroups, which serve the common good and the special personal needs of its members.

Prayer groups, senior citizen gatherings, hobby clubs, scouting groups, grief ministries and the like: All of these activities have their own distinctive way of serving the diverse needs of the body of Christ. We use the various talents of our volunteers to form special group ministries.

I grew up in the parish of St. Joan of Arc in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York. The diocesan Catholic Guild for the Blind held regional meetings there for members. As a teen, I watched blind people being brought to the parish hall, and I was curious.

I volunteered to help and spent many enjoyable years working with the blind. We even took them bowling. A guide rail was all they needed to enjoy the sound of their ball crashing into the pins.

Because they met in our parish every week, a whole world opened up to me. I discovered how brave a human being could be despite suffering a serious disability.

In summary, a person’s spirituality, far from being simply his or her private prayer life, is basically one’s whole life in and with God. The parish community is there to offer support and aid us on our journey.

We need to face life’s challenges by trusting God in all circumstances and helping one another make this a better world.