Are We Growing?
The 2020 census results are out. It has the slowest growth rate since the 1930 census. The population of our country grew at a slower rate of 7.4. The slow growth rate is attributed to the aging population of a certain demographic group, lower fertility rate, and a decrease in immigration. So if the figure is accurate, it is clear that certain integral and organic factors for population growth have declined: immigration has dipped, the birth rate has gone down, and life expectancy has reduced due to factors such as drug overdoses, obesity, suicide, and the pandemic as well. We have also observed a slow growth rate in the church population. In the last reported statistics from the Vatican, though the Catholic population has generally remained stable, there were areas of decrease in the membership of the missionary church. In Europe and America, there was a significant decrease. Why does this matter? It raises the question of what makes for growth? Why did the population of Christians reduce? How may it increase?
But a more pertinent question of growth is in the area of relationship with God. Even if we are not adding the number to our population, how are we growing in our faith? “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower,” Jesus says. We are the vine branches, and we are to remain a part of the vine to grow. We must grow; it is expected of us to grow in our relationship with the Father and the Son, in the Spirit. We are to remain in Jesus to grow and be productive. “Remain in me, as I remain in you” ( (John 15:4 ). In eight verses of Chapter 15 of John’s Gospel, the word “remain (abide)” is mentioned eight times. Isn’t that remarkable? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit impress on our mind the importance of remaining in Christ after receiving Him in baptism, confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist? How do we keep attached to Him and be productive? How do we allow ourselves to be pruned by Jesus to get rid of what is unproductive so that we may grow? In what other areas do we need to see growth? These are questions for our reflection this week.
Are we growing as a parish? In some regards, our parish grew this past week. Twenty of our children received the Sacrament of Confirmation on April 24, and seventeen received First Holy Communion on May 1. This is growth at our parish level; spiritual growth, to be precise. These are signs of Christ remaining in us, in our children. We pray that they remain in Him by being consistent and passionate in their love for Christ and his Church. They will demonstrate this in their love for the Eucharist and services to the parish and the community. They will prove so through their daily witnesses. As followers of the Way, let our life bear fruits of the spirit. Let us be loving, kind, patient, faithful, and joyful (see Gal. 5: 22-23). These are marks of spiritual growth that will flower and blossom into an increase in church population.
Have a blessed month of May. Remember to come to Adore the Risen Lord in the Eucharist on the first Monday of the Month.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Fr. Bernard, OP