By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Some people like to look spiritual but they are not; Pope Francis calls this “the spirituality of appearances”. Cathedral Administrator, Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju told members of Towers of Strength Community (ToS) that on the contrary, they must be examples of “genuine spiritual life”. The Pope’s comment was contained in a letter to clergy for the August 4 Feast of St John Vianney, the patron saint of priests.
Fr Sirju was presiding at Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to celebrate the community’s silver anniversary, with Fr David Khan, spiritual director concelebrating.
Fr Sirju said with religions like Catholicism, which had “plenty clothes and plenty rituals”, persons who are “not very decent” could hide behind these. They can also hide behind titles like bishop, monsignor or vicar general.
“That is a danger for priests like us because we can get caught up in the spirituality of appearances…that is very destructive to spiritual life,” he said.
He likened some of the challenges facing the Church to the “misery” Moses felt in the first reading Numbers 11:4–15. “The world in which we live creates a kind of a misery as well inside of us. If you have not felt any misery of the modern Church you are probably not open enough to the Holy Spirit because the world in which we live in today creates for us a kind of angst…of misery and dread inside of us and it is not easy to cope,” Fr Sirju said.
He illustrated the loss of reverence for sacred spaces, in the posture of people receiving communion, talking on cell phones while at the Tabernacle at the Cathedral, Catholics not sure of how to respond during liturgies like baptism due to poor formation and catechetics.
Fr Sirju said the fruit of Church is life and Jesus came so that believers can have life and have it abundantly. He however was not seeing this vibrancy in the Cathedral. Sometimes he noticed visitors entering the Cathedral but not bringing “life” from outside to enliven and invigorate.
He asked ToS, which holds a lunch hour prayer meeting every Monday at the Cathedral, to commit this to prayer and for members of the congregation even if they did not belong to a specific parish to “come on board” and assist. “Whatever you can do by your prayer, your fasting and so on…it is not a problem that does not exist in other countries…” he said.
He commended the work of the charismatic movement and prayer groups in getting people to “look at themselves differently” disclosing that many women have informed him they changed their decision to leave the Catholic Church after they joined these groups.
Fr Sirju went on, “We have to bring the life into the Church by making people aware of their talents, their gifts, their charisms, and to use that for the building up the Kingdom of God and fulfilling the missionary mandate of the Church.” He told the members of ToS in attendance, “When you have done that for the Church then you can truly call what you are called—a Tower of Strength.”
In 1994, Bernadette Patrick and three other women inspired by the Holy Spirit began meeting to pray the Rosary in the conference room of the Finance Ministry. The group grew and the meetings had to be moved to the Central Bank Auditorium. During lunch hours charismatic prayer meetings were held and the first Life in the Spirit Seminar held under the Spiritual Direction of Fr Ian Taylor.
The main purpose of the group is to bring people to encounter the presence of Jesus Christ through praise and worship, teaching, proclamation of the Word and fellowship; thereby enabling them to become conscious, active and fully participative witnesses in the Catholic Church and society.—LPG