Put on the armor of God! How many of us actually do that? If you were to look out over the congregation in your parish what would you see? Would you see people well-prepared and equipped for spiritual battle? Does the level of training that parishioners receive reflect the seriousness of the battle?
There is a need for effective training within our church congregations. It is wonderful that a seminarian will receive years of dedicated study and training before being ordained a priest. He will be equipped for the work that lies ahead. However, it is of the utmost importance to also equip the laity for the journey ahead. We cannot be complacent and content with formation and training that reflects mediocrity. Church leadership has a duty to provide solid education, training, and formation for all the members of the Body of Christ.
Can you imagine what the Church would look like if parishioners trained as diligently as military personnel? We would pursue academic study with vigor, physically train with tenacity, and practice drills repeatedly and diligently. We would be proficient in our knowledge and understanding of the core principles of our faith. We would eagerly put these things into practice. We would welcome opportunities to share our knowledge and understanding with others. We would be missionaries. Excellence would be a word used to describe our preparation. Zeal would be a word used to describe our implementation of what we have learned in training. Is that what we typically see of our parishioners?
The reality of Christian formation and education is very different from what it could be. In too many instances we have made Catholicism a soft religion rather than a faith which truly requires us to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. Too many parents have delegated their roles to the local Church or to the Catholic school in regard to being the first and primary teacher of their children in the faith. In order to meet other academic requirements many Catholic schools are decreasing the amount of time spent on studying religion. Religious education programs in the parish are content with sixty to ninety minutes of instruction per week, and much of this is far from stellar formation. Hold an education session to enrich the lives of adults in the parish and see how many show up. Do we even care about being equipped for spiritual battle?
Many people dismiss the idea of the existence of hell and think that everyone gets to heaven. That would explain why there is such little effort being put forth to truly be equipped for battle. The battle doesn’t really exist. A careful reading of Sacred Scripture would refute that line of thinking. It is time for Catholics to train seriously. Individual Catholics need to demonstrate desire, discipline, and initiative. Enthusiasm for the faith is contagious. Watch what happens when we put on the armor of God one person at a time. The transformation of our churches and our communities will be immense. Are you ready, willing, and able to be part of it?