Medford parish launches yearlong campaign to ‘develop holy habits'
As do any wise travelers preparing for an arduous journey, the parishioners in St. Mary of the Lakes have been consulting a faith-centered roadmap designed to examine their actions and enrich their Advent preparations and beyond.
The Medford parish has begun a yearlong “Increasing the Size of Your Cross” self-assessment spiritual campaign inspired by its pastor, Father Daniel F. Swift.
“All during the year, we're preparing. We are in a constant state of Advent … an almost constant state of waiting,” said Christine Brandt, parish pastoral associate. “We are waiting for the second coming, and I’m hoping that the program will help people strengthen their faith.”
The idea stems from a homily preached by Father Swift. Discussing the Lord’s declaration that "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… [and] love your neighbor as yourself [Mt. 22:34-40],” he likened the Gospel to the vertical and the horizontal dimensions of the Cross.
The vertical beam represents the relationship one has with God, and the horizontal dimension symbolizes Christian spirituality, or the way one treats one’s neighbor, he said.
“People with a high vertical spirituality carry a tall Cross, and invest most of their spiritual effort praying regularly, spending time in Adoration, going to Mass, studying about God and participating in religious events devotions and traditions,” Father Swift told the congregation. “People with a high horizontal spirituality carry a wide Cross, and are always recognizing others in need, performing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and sticking up for the underdog. … The goal is to grow your Cross into one that’s tall and wide, a Cross that shows you love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and that you love your neighbor as yourself.”
Over the next year, the congregation will have a “spiritual life profile” to offer them an accurate picture of the role faith has played in their own lives, as well as weekly suggestions to know, live and share their faith.
For example, strengthening one’s faith (vertical beam) might include reading the Bible, Catechism and other books; frequenting Catholic media such as television, radio and websites, and delving deeper into the writings of the current and former popes. Living the faith (horizontal beam) could be fulfilled through prayer or Eucharistic Adoration; tithing and donating to the needy, or participating more prayerfully in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Sharing faith might involve inviting others to pray or attend Mass; sporting Catholic T-shirts or bumper stickers, and standing up for your faith and morals publicly.
“I think the pandemic has hit people in a lot of ways: financially, emotionally and spiritually,” Brandt said. “I thought this [project] would be a nice thing. If we continue on this path of not being able to gather in groups, things that people can do at home will be more important to develop holy habits to strengthen their faith.”
Brandt noted the faith project suggestions could evolve into telephone conversations and friends teaming up to work on a similar project in their quest to develop their horizontal or vertical beams. Though the parish offers it suggestions, “maybe the Holy Spirit will inspire them [faithful] with their own ideas. Just keep moving forward in our faith, let's not grow stagnant.”
For more information on the “Increasing the Size of Your Cross” program, visit smlparish.org.