Of Halloween Candy and Evangelization

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When I was a kid, my favorite stop on Halloween was a house one block over from ours. Besides being friends and super-nice people, they gave out large boxes of Cracker Jack to the neighborhood kids. (And keep in mind this was in the era of good Cracker Jack prizes.) We also had a number of houses that gave out full-size candy bars and other treats that made our little hearts warm when offered in lieu of “tricks.”

In contrast, my heart always sank when I would hold out my bag and watch as some off-brand chocolate (sure to be chalky), Halloween-themed gummy things (sure to be flavorless), or hard pink gum pellets (sure to glue your mouth shut) fell in.

It’s a safe bet which houses were remembered and put on the mental “must visit” list for next year, and which treats languished in the bottom of the bag until all the good stuff had been consumed.

For better or worse, our parishes are in a similar position to those Halloween stops of my youth. Some have much to offer those who cross their thresholds: a welcoming community, well-celebrated liturgies, opportunities for outreach and education, and beautiful church buildings. Others — too many, if surveys and statistics are accurate — offer the ecclesial version of waxy chocolate bars and stale bubble gum.

Is it any wonder that so many people leave our parishes on Sunday morning without spiritual fervor when we offer them cheap treats? The crisis of evangelization in the Church will not be fixed by bland, flavor-less programs or communities that seek to preserve “our way of doing things” at all costs. The New Evangelization begins with quality outreach designed to serve the local community.

A big box of Cracker Jack or a limp purple lollipop. Which type of parish do you think seekers will come back to again and again in their search for meaning and a spiritual home?

Photo Credit: .robbie via Compfight cc

17 Insights from FDLC (in Tweet Form)

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Last week I attended the 2014 National Meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC). I’m not a liturgist (and don’t even play one on TV) but I was invited by our diocesan director for worship and the catechumenate to participate in a consultation process with the US Bishop’s Committee on Divine Worship regarding edits […]

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Don’t Forget: Building a Better Disciple Series

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Next Monday I’ll be launching the first in my five-part series of webinars entitled “Building a Better Disciple.” This series will focus on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ through the lens of Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the […]

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Book Review: When Other Christians Become Catholic

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Tomorrow I will head to Chicago for the annual meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. It’s not my usual annual conference — and I’m not even a liturgist! — but the attendees will be participating in a consultation process with the USCCB’s Committee for Divine Worship on the National Statues for the Rite of […]

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How to Break In Your Liturgical Books

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Recently my office purchased a complete set of the Lectionary for Mass. Wanting to make sure the books lasted a long time, I asked our director for worship and the catechumenate how he prepares liturgical books for regular use. Here’s a video demonstrating the technique he shared with me: Image by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP, […]

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Who’s In Your Braintrust?

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I recently read Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, one of the founders and president of Pixar Animation. The book is a wonderful lesson in the business of creativity, told through the history of Pixar’s rise as the most respected animation company in the world. In the fifth chapter Catmull talks about the Pixar “Braintrust,” a group […]

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Parish Employment and Parish Membership

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I am sometimes asked by parish catechetical leaders (especially principals) whether they should become members of the parish that employees them when they are hired. I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule (and in my rural diocese there are certainly circumstances where worshiping at a different parish would be impractical), but in […]

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Preview: Sunday Prayer for Catechists 2014-2015

As I’ve previously mentioned, I was privileged to write this year’s Sunday Prayer for Catechists book from Liturgy Training Publications. The book is out now and I’ve received very positive feedback (including notes from two of my childhood catechists!). A preview of the book is available on Google Books: Sunday Prayer for Catechists 2014-2015 is available […]

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Free Webinar Series: Building a Better Disciple

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I’m pleased to announce that this fall I will be offering a free webinar series entitled “Building a Better Disciple.” Over the course of five webinars we will explore what it means to be a Christian through the lens of Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, […]

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Designing a Great Catechetical Office

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Our catechetical office recently learned that we will be moving into a new office suite in a few months. Our existing suite is being converted into new meeting spaces that will be larger and more convenient for people meeting at our pastoral center. With this move we have the opportunity to design our new offices (within […]

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