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Father Muench Says...

Of MASH and Mass... a vision for parishes

Oct. 19, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Recently, I have again been watching some episodes of that old favorite TV program, “MASH.”  My TV cable people have introduced a channel for several of those former TV programs including “MASH.”

Do you remember “MASH”?  It was a series of episodes that followed the activities around a “field hospital” in Korea during the Korean War.  The programs center on the various American doctors and nurses who treat the soldiers who were wounded during battle.

Thinking about this idea of a “field hospital” I remembered Pope Francis’ way of describing our Catholic Church as a “field hospital.”  Like this MASH unit, Pope Francis sees Catholic parishes as places of refuge.  The parish is a place for help and spiritual healing.  Pope Francis envisions Catholic parishes as places where the right people are always ready and prepared to help those in need. 

The Catholic parish is a place where all are welcome to come and seek help and comfort, especially the suffering and disturbed.  Among other things, the parish is about bringing Christ’s healing power to those in need.

I see the idea of a “field hospital” as giving a perfect vision of what every Catholic parish is meant to be.  Every pastor hopes that their parish is a welcoming place for all who are in need.  When I say needs I mean all sorts of difficulties – especially spiritual concerns – each parish has so many ways to help through all that Jesus gives to our Church to help all form a good and sound spirituality. I am thinking first of all our sacraments which unite us with our God and with each other in the Holy Spirit as the Church of Christ as the Body of Christ.  I think first of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist that is ours through the celebration of Mass. 

Through Sunday Mass, each Catholic parish unites together in prayer with a readiness to work together to help those in need, locally and throughout the Church Universal.  All are united in a new and powerful relationship with our God to send this parish community into the world to make it a better place. The Mass is such a powerful event in every parish.  The Mass becomes a time to bring the people of a parish community into a group ready to be a force that unites a parish and truly makes it ready to be a “field hospital”.

The other sacraments unite us as well into a powerful answer to the call of Our Savior to bring God’s help and peace to others as a blessed community.  Through Baptism, a parish welcomes an infant or an adult into a new life in unity with our God. 

In Confirmation, the baptized receive and live in the power of the Holy Spirit to live well and become an integral member of a parish community, ready to do their part in bring help to others.  The Sacrament of Penance brings those of us whose life and dedication to God may become broken through sin.  In repentance we turn to the forgiving mercy of God to recover our relationship with God so that we can become actively involved in the work of the parish.

Through the sacraments of our Church, the parishes of our Church become strong communities of refuge, become “field hospitals.”As such, the parish will be a community ready to welcome and help the confused and disturbed.  Many today find a need for support and wisdom because their lives have become difficult and unhappy.  Literally, they do not know where to turn.  The Catholic parish through dedicated pastors and dedicated communities is always ready to stand with and serve as a guide to those in need.

The Catholic parish as a “field hospital” must reach out to help all in need – especially the poor – a dedication given us by Jesus.  Our Lord Jesus Christ gave his disciples and all of us a directive to always remember and care for the poor – first of all.  Pope Francis continues that call and urges his Catholic Church to never forget those who have little.  In fact, he encourages us to be a Church of the Poor – those who are poor in this world’s goods and those who are poor spiritually. Our parishes must be a refuge for those who have lost their relationship with God that they may again find faith and renew their love and peace through a closeness to a parish community.

To accomplish all of this the Church community – the people of a parish – must be united and dedicated as a family, dedicated to bring God’s love and help to those in need.  Our task is to make our parish a place where all are welcome and where all will find help – love and peace.

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