Liz Kelly: Holiness is not just an ideal for saints, but what everyone is created for
Liz Kelly vividly remembers going to a day-long retreat as a sixth-grade student in southern Minnesota at a Catholic school. Her class visited Schoenstatt On the Lake near Sleepy Eye, and she experienced what she described on June 4 “like a kind of beginning in me.”
“I recognized at that moment, for the first time in my life, that there was something very special, something very sacred about choosing to go and seek the face of the Lord with great intentionality, and moreover, that there was something about creating an environment in which others could enter into this encounter, thus seeking the face of the Lord,” she told the 500 people. gathered at Cretin-Derham Hall in Saint-Paul for the Assembly of the Archdiocesan Synod.
“And even if I might not have been able to articulate it at 11 years old, I understood that the retreat, the prayer, the search for the face of the Lord, was invigorating, that this authentic encounter, this invitation to meet the Lord in a real way, was exceptionally important for the life of the children of God.
An author, retreat leader, and speaker whose ministry focuses on Catholic women, Kelly gave a short reflection ahead of the table discussion on Synod Focus Area #2, Forming Missionary Disciples Who Know the Love of Jesus and respond to his call. Previously, she had written a theological guidance document on the subject and presented her ideas for the Parish Leadership Team Consultation, a day-long event in February and March that was part of the 2022 Archdiocesan Synod process.
“Of course, this is the main theme of our efforts this weekend: to ask ourselves to what extent we – as a Church and as individuals, in our small groups, in our service to the poor, in our adult education programs or large-scale events – how well do we carry out this sacred task of creating opportunities, experiences and environments that will foster a living and authentic encounter with the Lord, and an opportunity for greater conversion deep?” she asked. “And then, to what extent do these encounters nurture and bring about real change in us?”
A parishioner from St. Pius X in White Bear Lake and St. Mary in Lowertown St. Paul said it is “a sacred task to create opportunities, environments and relationships that invite others to seek and find the face of the Lord”.
“And we want to be a people where others find in us the gaze of the Lord,” she added.
Each person is a soul deserving of reverence, she said, emphasizing that reverence is reflected in listening without judgment, criticism or trying to fix or change it. “We want to receive others and listen to them as Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and in adoration listens to us and receives us.”
In encountering Jesus, “we cannot stress enough the real presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. … And that requires my imagination to be well ordered, to ‘believe in all things seen and unseen,’” Kelly said, citing the Nicene Creed. “I need to submit my imagination to the Holy Spirit, so that I can see in the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ.”
Once a person establishes a relationship with the Lord and recognizes their need for a savior, repentance ensues, as does an ongoing process of deeper conversion.
“And we jump into this terrible and wonderful river that leads us to paradise,” she said.
To many, “holiness” may seem like an intimidating word, an ideal reserved for saints, or at least other people, with demands that seem unattractive or out of reach.
“Rather, I want to invite you to consider that you were truly created for holiness,” she said. “You thrive, you are at your best when you work and cooperate with the holiness of God.”
Holiness is “choosing the highest good,” she said. “The highest good leads to the deepest joy, a joy that can never be taken away from you, no matter what happens to you – to your body, or around you, or in the world – that joy cannot to be raptured, and you were created for it.
Kelly encouraged Synod Assembly attendees to seek humility and its “twin,” magnanimity, “the aspiration of the spirit to do great things.”
“We want to pursue what is great in the eyes of God and organize our lives in such a way that we become worthy of this great thing,” she said.
Following Kelly’s presentation, assembly participants spent the afternoon in prayer, including multilingual decades of the rosary, two separate periods of table discussion on proposals or action points, related to topics such as adult formation, small groups, prayer and retreats, encounter with Christ through service to others, large-scale events that foster an encounter with Jesus, discipleship in life daily life, networks of faith relationships, resources for those in need, marriage preparation and ongoing support, ministry for separated and divorced people.
After the two discussion tables, some delegates were chosen at random to share their ideas with Bishop Bernard Hebda. Among the topics they discussed were the need for adult faith formation, the need to reach people who are not yet practicing faith, the need to help people build personal relationships with God and the success of small faith-sharing groups.
“I really think a small group initiative would have the potential to cover so many” challenges that people observed and shared during table discussions and with the Archbishop, one woman said. “Through small groups, you can deepen and grow in your faith. During this time, you are able to connect and bond with each other and increase that sense of belonging.
A man asked how Catholics could adopt “the Christian way of life in the modern world”.
At the end of the session, the Synod Assembly delegates voted on the top three proposals they “believe the Holy Spirit invites the Archdiocese to prioritize.” Early results showed that the proposals that received the most votes were Adult Training, Small Groups and Discipleship in Daily Life.
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