Q: Archbishop J, why a Christmas book giveaway?
Many people were very surprised by the Christmas book giveaway. They had not experienced a Christmas gift like this one from the Church before. The point: to give a gift that offers each family a way to deepen their relationship with Christ, or rather to offer Christ anew at Christmas.
One person said it brought back memories of childhood and a family tradition: “I started to read this morning, the book that you gave to all families. What a wonderful gesture! That one gesture has such a profound message for me. It said that we are all just one family. One Catholic family. It reminded me of when we were children, my parents would give all of us an identical gift in addition to whatever else they gave us individually. It was something small but significant. It caused problems too when somebody lost or broke theirs and decided to replace it with a sibling’s gift. I’m looking forward to the wonderful work that we have to do next year . It’s an exciting time for us in the Church. I appreciate being a part of it.”
We are integrally one family. The Church is a family of families. This is our deep identity we need to remember and live more intentionally.
Matthew Kelly is a dear friend who chose to leave his business to dedicate his life to be a Catholic evangelist. He had an HR company that worked for the Fortune 500 companies. He was doing well. Then God called him to dedicate more and more of his time, talent and treasure to the evangelisation of the Catholic Church.
Matthew pulled together a group of like-minded people to work with him in Dynamic Catholic, the organisation he founded. They did a survey to discover what makes a Catholic a dynamic Catholic. The results were startling.
First, it showed only seven per cent of Catholics were “dynamic”. They also realised dynamic Catholics contribute 80 per cent of the volunteer hours in a parish and donate 80 per cent of financial contributions. Further, they were surprised to learn there is an 84 per cent overlap between the two groups. This study gave an insight into the average Catholic parish and offered a different way to evangelise.
Reflect on your parish. What percentage of parishioners contribute their time to ministry in the parish? Wherever I checked it stands between six and eight per cent. The mistake many make is to begin new initiatives and overburden the seven per cent of dynamic Catholics who are already stretched with the responsibility of parish ministry.
The Dynamic Catholic approach to evangelisation is very different. If we could increase the seven per cent by one per cent annually for seven years, this would have a profound impact on the life of the parish.
Just a one per cent increase in dynamic Catholics would produce a 15 per cent increase in volunteer hours and donations. A seven per cent increase in dynamic Catholics would produce, correspondingly, an over 100 per cent increase. This is how the parish will have the people and funding to do vital ministry: focus on incremental growth over the long term.
As the parish unleashes the potential of its people who are engaged passionately, it now has the resources to do all the programmes it had been dreaming of. With each one per cent increase, the evangelisation potential of the parish deepens.
This potential has to be managed prayerfully with deep discernment, so the parish can shepherd its people into lifelong growth in discipleship. The overall impact of the Dynamic Catholic approach is seen in a parish where more parishioners are vitally connected to Christ.
So why the book?
The study showed that dynamic Catholics have four characteristics in common—prayer, study, generosity and evangelisation. Kelly and his team brainstormed ways to assist people growing into dynamic Catholics. One of their approaches is the Christmas book giveaway. Provide people with good Catholic books, do so regularly. Invite them to read and grow their discipleship.
The book we gave is the story of the journey Kelly and his team made. It is the road map to becoming a dynamic Catholic. The gift is intended to assist you and your family to grow discipleship.
Why is this important? Well, a living relationship with Jesus is vital to deep and sustained growth and happiness. It is vital that your family grows in sacrificial love and that each member grows in prayer; that your family becomes more like the Holy Family, so vital for salvation.
The family is the domestic Church, the first place where Christ is proclaimed. In the baptismal rite the Church says to parents: “May you be the best of teachers to your children”.
As you read the book, it is my hope its content becomes a point of conversation for your family; that you would be prepared to walk the path to discipleship it offers.
The four signs of the dynamic Catholic are a roadmap to discipleship. Commit to growing in each of these characteristics and you will find a major difference in your focus, your happiness, connection as a family, peace in the face of challenges and depth in the midst of adversity.
Prayer is the gateway to a new relationship with Christ. We do not grow our discipleship without deepening our prayer.
Study is essential to growing. It gives us a good reason for the faith we hold. Through study we contemplate the sacred mystery that is Christ and gain a deeper insight into how we live.
Generosity is a portal to happiness. Generous people are happy people. As we learn to give, we learn to trust God for all we need. We learn discipleship.
Evangelisation is essential for growing faith. Through sharing faith, we realise our need for more prayer and study. We also gain more confidence in our relationship with Christ. Catholics can evangelise in different ways: sharing a book, a YouTube video, a prayer. We all can evangelise.
Key Message: Dynamic Catholics are more engaged in their faith and in their lives, which are marked by prayer, study, generosity and evangelisation.
Action Step: Read the book—Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic. Encourage your family to read it.
Scripture Reading: Mt 8:18–34