Pastoral creativity is an intentional process that begins with prayer and reflection guiding you to identify a community of concern. Listening with compassion to the members of that community leads you to ponder what you learn in light of the Catholic imagination. The fruits of these movements are put into action through creative pastoral response to the needs you encounter.
As demonstrated in the previous installment of this series, the first movement in exercising pastoral creativity is adopting a posture of prayer and gratitude. This cultivates an interior space for reflecting on your own gifts and identifying the community that God calls to your attention to serve. Grounded in gratitude for all that God has given you and all you are able to offer back in love, the next movement is turning to listen to those people whom God has called you to serve.
With the uncertainty and pain of the coronavirus pandemic compounded by the injustice, suffering, and division rampant in the world today, the need for compassionate outreach and pastoral creativity is ever more apparent. Entering into an intentional process of pastoral creativity begins with a commitment to engage in movements of prayer, reflection, and attending to others that can open your heart to the ways God works within and through you.
At the heart of Notre Dame Vision is the mission to empower young people to recognize grace at work in their lives and respond to God’s call by offering their gifts in service to the needs of the world. For the past eighteen years, this mission has been carried out each summer through four week-long conferences for high school students and parallel conferences for campus and youth ministers.
I glanced up as the young man approached, next in line for Communion. He lifted his face, his eyes brimming with emotion as I held up the host and said, “The Body of Christ.” Looking into his eyes as I placed the host on his outstretched hand, he held my gaze with an intensity that took my breath away. He breathed out a soft “Amen” as he closed his hand around the host and lifted his clenched fist up to his chest. Grasping the Bread of Life, clinging to the source of love, he took a deep breath and with every fiber of his being uttered “Thank you!” as tears filled his eyes and flowed freely down his face. His response evoked something deep within me and I could only watch in awe as he consumed the host, a smile breaking across his face as he turned to make his way back to his seat. An encounter of no more than a few seconds, yet one in which God’s abundant mercy and love touched both his heart and mine.