Appleton, WI

July 10/11: Day by Day with Father Bill – Weekend Edition

With guest columnist Mary Ann Otto, St. Mary Minister of Missionary Discipleship
I was raised at a time when parents would dictate what radio stations and yes, vinyl records we would listen to in the general areas of our home.  Thus, I was raised on country music from a young age and can still go “Crazy” with Patsy Cline, “Walk the Line” with Johnny Cash and go “On the Road” with Willie Nelson. l continue to enjoy listening to many country songs today.
There was one particular love song that I remember from 1980 recorded by slow methodical singer, Don Williams that always touched me in a particular way entitled “I Believe in You.” In the lyrics, Don Williams professes what he does and does not believe, ending with the proclamation of trust to and faith in the woman he loves. Here are some lyrics to help trigger your memory:
Well, I don’t believe that heaven waits
For only those who congregate
I like to think of God as love
He’s down below, he’s up above
He’s watching people everywhere
He knows who does and doesn’t care
But I believe in love
I believe in old folks
I believe in children
I believe in you
(songwriters Sam Hogin, Roger Cook)
Even though the song is somewhat simplistic, it touched me because it called me to consider things that I truly believed in and trusted. I wondered if I had written the song what my lyrics would look like? For those of us on the discipleship journey, it would be interesting to reflect upon what we truly trust when it comes to God, Jesus and our Catholic Church.  It may seem like an odd question, thinking, of course, we believe in it all because many of us have been lifelong Catholics.  Studies, however, have told us otherwise.
In Sherry Weddell’s book Forming Intentional Disciples-The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus, she talks about the importance of trust on the pathway to becoming a full-fledged disciple. She states it is impossible to begin the journey without having a positive association with Jesus Christ, the Church, another Christian believer or something identifiably Christian. She also states that it is complicated.
Weddell, in interviewing lifelong, “active” Catholics, she discovered an array of things that people actually trusted. One gentleman, a youth leader said he distrusted God but trusted the Church. Some trust God but not the Church. One woman said she did not trust the Trinity or the Church but had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary. One person actually started down the path of trust to Christianity by his connection to Linus telling the Nativity Story in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yes, it is complicated.
I’m sure if we had a one-on-one visit with members of our parish family, we would have some very diverse responses.  What might your response be?
The insights of Sherry Wedell are helpful on several levels for you and me. First, is our own self-knowledge and evaluation.  How do I live out my faith in the context of what I trust and believe?  Second, if I were to tell my story of faith to someone, where would my emphasis be?  How might my story affect my relationship and commitment to my parish family at St. Mary’s? Third, do I have friends and family members who have left the Church or are not practicing?  Am I able to hear and understand their beliefs and trust level as valid for them in that moment? Can I be supportive.
As the discipleship pathway unfolds in the year ahead, let’s write our own “I Believe” song (even if it is in our own mind).  I am warning you though, if you happen to pull up the YouTube version of Don Williams song for inspiration, it will be hard to get out of your head for awhile.  Humm, Humm, Humm, Humm, Humm….
Summer Blessings,