This past summer, I had the most amazing experience of going to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate World Youth Day with the Catholic youth of the world. I traveled with not only friends from McGill, but with students from across Ontario (and a Newfie!). It was an exhilarating two weeks, and the people I met on that journey were most definitely life-changers. They amazed me, they inspired me, they challenged me to become more than I was, and I’m honoured to be able to call them my friends. And not only these friends, but the many people who were a part of that journey – among them the wonderful guides and translators, the people we stood next to in those crowds, the Australian that traded me for a much sought-after koala – showed me the ever-present love of Christ. More than anything, it reminded me of that community of brothers and sisters that exists outside of the parish, outside of the Centre, outside of Montreal.
We are members in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. That Church is so much larger than ourselves… so much larger than we can imagine.
Let’s think about that first phrase, the one we profess in the Creed at Mass. I’d like to draw your attention to a particular adjective in it: ‘one’. When we pray, we unite with the rest of the Church in reaching towards God. There is a unity in how we can pray the Divine Office, knowing that religious around the world are doing the same, keeping the world alive in constant prayer. There is a unity in how we can walk into any church in the world on a given day and join in the Mass, knowing that it would be the same that day at home. But on a practical level, we’re all on different walks of life. The Church is made of students, teachers, janitors, scientists, married, singles, priests, parents, children, 9-to-5ers… within that unity there is an amazing variety. And in that variety, we find our own ways to bring ourselves closer to Christ.
But what about everyone else? What about our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who are not always physically present in our lives? What about those friends of ours who live far away, and are in contact with through the likes of social networking? What about the other Catholic groups in campuses across the country? How can we bring these people into our lives?
Through prayer, we can lift each other higher towards God. We can unite ourselves to the lives of those far away by offering our prayers. On a local level, that’s a lot simpler to achieve than we think. Asking the community to offer up a daily Mass for the intentions of another group, or group prayer (perhaps guided by Scripture or the Rosary) – these are wonderful ways to join in lifting the universal Church towards heaven. And even if it’s at a time that you can’t make it to join your group, just offering up your work at the time and lifting that up for the glory of God is a way of praying for them. We’re in the era of Facebook and Twitter, where information on our friends reaches us so quickly. Doesn’t that mean that it’s so much easier to offer up what we’re doing at that moment for them?
So I encourage you to reach out to friends and churches from afar and pray for them! Make prayer indicator exchanges with other universities. Find those community initiatives that need your support and get involved. Organize prayer nights where you and another group pray for each other at the same time, even if you’re not physically together. Ask others to pray for you, too! Us members are connected in the same Church, even if it doesn’t always feel like it, and this oneness is so integral to what the Church is. It is in reaching out to our brethren that we will all – as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church – grow closer to God, together.