Go Beyond Parish Programs

Go Beyond Parish Programs

I was having a discussion with some very strong Catholics from around the United States. We were discussing our distaste with all of the “parish programs” that seem to “thin out” or even “Protestantize” our Catholic faith, all in the name of “meeting people where they are at.”

The consensus, in this discussion, was that far too many parish planners seem to believe that we should be embarrassed of what is truly Catholic, and so offer “something else” that might be more palatable to modern tastes. However, we all believed this was erroneous. We believed that if a true, more pure version of Catholicism was presented, this would be as attractive as it has been for centuries.

We all believed that there is something to be said about offering the basics at first, as we help the unchurched and uncatechized enter into the fullness of our Catholic faith. But, the frustration among all, in this discussion, was that it seemed that many parishes rarely move on beyond this “basic level.” Most “parish programs” remain at this most basic level.

For the sake of discussion, I would like to present what we are doing, and allow folks to offer their ideas which might add or subtract from this …



I am blessed with a great staff at my parishes. They have a very devout Catholic faith and a drive to give our people the best we can offer them. For the sake of this discussion, I am focusing mainly on adult formation.

My Coordinator of Adult Formation also works at the diocese in the office that deals with this area. So, she is made aware of every program made available to parishes. Also, our diocesan office tends to be more orthodox than most, so they are able to weed out the less desirable programs.

Not too long ago, we decided to tap into an excellent resource entitled FORMED (You can find it HERE). Much of what FORMED offers are the things we have already been offering for years. But, we found that it seems to be offering the “Best of the Basics” available today in one complete website.

Usually, like many parishes, we offer these programs in two different series … one that begins around October 1 (after the kids are settled into school, and before the rush of the holidays), and the other is offered during Lent (some years we may begin just before Lent, if the added time is needed).

As you can see on the FORMED website, the content focuses on many of the basics of our faith. This is meant for those beginning their exploration of their faith, as well as those looking to continue to build that rock-solid foundation of their faith … we should all have that sturdy basic understanding of our faith.



Those words – Duc In Altum – were memorialized for our era by way of St. Pope John Paul II’s new millennium encyclical, Novo Millennio Ineunte. In it, he beckoned us to go deeper and deeper into our faith, discovering all of the amazing treasures but, primarily, he urged us to go deeper in our relationship with Christ, contemplating the face of Christ. And, as our discussion revealed, we are all looking for “the more” of our faith … the many treasures beyond the basics.

So, inspired by this call to enter into this deeper relationship, I began monthly (Sept. to April) “Evenings of Reflection” about 10 years ago, and now we have recently added an additional monthly evening for women. With St. Pope John Paul II’s great love for the Divine Mercy devotion, we called these the Knights of Divine Mercy and the Ladies of Divine Mercy. These evenings then became the inspiration for the new movement, headed by Cardinal Burke, entitled, “The Holy League.”

Along with St. Pope John Paul II, we felt it was important to “Rekindle Eucharistic Amazement.” And so these monthly evenings include Eucharistic Adoration.

Pope Benedict XVI wrote,

Receiving the Eucharist means adoring Him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with Him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy. The act of adoration outside Mass prolongs and intensifies all that takes place during the liturgical celebration itself.


In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration.

I cannot count the stories of those who have broken through to a new and deeper level of faith by way of Eucharistic Adoration. Sure, it is a supernatural encounter, but there is something profound that moves the soul when they encounter our Eucharistic Lord in that golden monstrance, with swirls of incense, chanted Latin hymns, and surrounded by those who kneel in silence before Him. Any “taking for granted” we may have done during Mass is halted in this beautiful and traditional form of prayer.

The Sacrament of Confession is offered throughout these Evenings of Reflection. St. Augustine tells us: “This very moment I may, if I desire, become the friend of God.” Indeed the Sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God (Lk 15:32).

return-of-the-prodigal-son-1670I love the painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo entitled, “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” In fact, I hung a copy of that painting in our new Confessional over in Church (And it is on my new App). As you can see, the Father is embracing the son who has returned. One of my favorite parts of the story is that “the Father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him” -Luke 15:20. The Father was looking on the horizon every moment of every day hoping *this day* would be the day he saw his son return home again. That’s what our Father in Heaven does when we stray … he hopes we choose to come home again to His embrace. Then the son thinks he is “forever garbage,” never again worthy to be called his son. The Father will hear nothing of it … “get the robe, the ring and the sandals” (all signs of being completely restored as his prince), and then they had a party, much like one would hold for dignitaries. WOW!! (check out the little dog … he is happy he is home too 🙂 ).

Every Evening of Reflection, we invite a different priest to come and offer a teaching. We have even had the bishop here a few times. We invite these priests to “not hold back” … don’t be afraid of giving us the “best” of what is found in our Catholic faith. The topics have been incredible as we have explored such works as Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Fr. Gabriel of Mary Magdelen, Thomas Aquinas, and more. We have had topics such as Exorcisms, Sacramentals, The Devout Life, etc.. This month, the Vicar General of our Diocese is coming to speak on “Discerning Spirits.” Next month, we are inviting Mr. Samuel Guzman who is the author of the popular website, “The Catholic Gentleman.” This is the place we come to “go deeper in our faith.”

The evening concludes with a social, that includes some kind of food and beverage. This is a great opportunity to make connections with our fellow Catholics.


Starting Your Own

These Evenings of Reflection have born great fruit, and we wanted to share our experience with others. We felt this was a great place to form saints, and so we approached Cardinal Burke with the idea of fostering this format to spread in other parishes. Cardinal Burke’s first response was, “This is exactly what is needed today,” and he enthusiastically agreed to be the spiritual head of this movement.

We were inspired to give the name “The Holy League” to this movement, because it is akin to the raising of remnant armies from various nations that came together in 1571 for the Battle of Lepanto, under the spiritual leadership of St. Pope Pius V. The need is great today to raise an army of saints to battle against the forces contrary to God’s will in our times.

If you and your parish would like to join this movement, simply go HERE to gain all the information you need.


Our Evenings of Reflection continue to mature. After a while, we developed the Knights of Divine Mercy Schola Cantorum, and we chant Solemn Vespers (something that may have to come after time, for groups just starting out).

In the video below, here is Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, with the Knights of Divine Mercy Schola Cantorum, chanting the Magnificat during Solemn Vespers.

Category Latest Posts, Soul