I'm in Des Moines, Iowa giving a parish mission this week at Christ the King parish. You can tell by their web site (www.christthekingparish.org) that this is a lively parish. Their pastor Msgr. Frank Bognanno is committed to nurturing the holiness of the parishioners.
The parish mission I'm giving is based on the first part of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. Here's how the nights and talks break down:
Sunday Night: "What is my Life's Purpose and Goal?"
Monday Night: "Dealing with the Obstacles to my Goal"
Tuesday Night: "Experiencing Mercy from the Heart of Jesus"
Wednesday Night: "Following the Call of Christ the King"
It's really a very simple process. We begin by considering why God created us. The Baltimore Catechism said it well: "To know God, love God, and serve God in this life and to be happy with God forever in the next life." Created in the image and likeness of God, we're made by Love and for love, love of God and love of neighbor. We're made for union with God. We're made for heaven.
But because we're made for love, we're made with freedom. Love requires freedom. The history of the human race and our personal histories all show that we have misused our freedom, choosing not to love God and neighbor. Sin is the basic obstacle to attaining our goal and it comes in many varieties.
Yet God has not abandoned us. God reached into our helplessness by becoming human and sharing our life. Jesus is the truth about what it means to be human and the way that we can follow to attain our goal and the life that we will find when we attain our goal.
Knowing the mercy of God that comes straight from the Heart of Jesus, we can be free of the obstacles to achieving our purpose. We are free to follow Christ the King--the Way, the Truth, and the Life--who invites us to follow Him in a life of service on earth and eternal happiness in heaven.
That's St. Ignatius' simple formula for conversion and spiritual growth and it continues to help people centuries after he developed it.