Reflections on Mission

Mission and Spirituality
The third in the Catholic Charities USA Reflections on Mission series, this tool is designed to help staff and volunteers in your agency explore spirituality as the basis for living mission in their specific work. This resource combines process with information and invites active listening and sharing among all participants.


Opening Prayer
We begin today with two readings—a passage from Scripture and another from a book. Scripture—Matthew 13:13-16 (ask someone to read) “That is why I speak to them in parables, because they look and yet do not see; they hear, but they do not listen or understand. In them the words of Isaiah come true ‘Much as you hear you do not understand, much as you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” Silent reflection A Reading (ask someone to read) From Robert Barron’s, And Now I See: A Theology of Transformation, 1998, published by Crossroads Publishing Company. The word so often and so misleadingly translated as “repent” is metanoite. This Greek term is based upon two words meta (beyond) and nous (mind or spirit) and thus, in its most basic form, it means something like “go beyond the mind that you have.” Jesus urges his listeners to change their way of knowing, their way of perceiving and grasping reality, their perspective, their mode of seeing. What Jesus implies is this: the new state of affairs has arrived, the divine and the human have met, but the way you customarily see is going to blind you to this novelty. In the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Jesus expresses the same concern: “The Kingdom of God is spread out on the earth, but people do not see it.” Silent reflection All Pray Together God, you in whom we move and have our very being: Open our eyes to see the beauty of your creation in all that we touch today. Open our ears to hear your wisdom and your calling in the midst of all the noise we may encounter in our day. Open our hearts so that we will be compelled to love one another as you love us, to do the work that you call us to do. May our awareness of the opportunities you give us each day to build a more peaceful world become expanded so that hope becomes as natural as breathing. May our every breath be taken in awareness of your gifts. In your holy name, we pray... Amen.


What is Spirituality?
First Reader In the movie Hook, the character Peter Pannie, played by Robin Williams, is a grown up Peter Pan who has forgotten his other life. At a turning point in the movie, the grown up Wendy shows Peter a picture of himself as the legendary Peter Pan in a book. She says to Peter, pointing out the uncanny likeness, “Peter, don’t you know who you are?” As a viewer, Wendy’s question sends shivers down the spine. Surely he will realize who he is! On the screen, the grown up Peter Pan continues to deny his identity and, as a result, refuses to take on the task that must be done to save his children from a vengeful Captain Hook. It is not until he is absolutely desperate, literally starving, that Peter’s imagination opens and he begins to see what has been before him all along. He then acts differently as a result, eventually saving the day. Second Reader Catholic Charities has been given a clear and vital mission: to serve the poor and the vulnerable in our midst in the name of the Church. Our task of providing food pantries, addictions counseling, housing and other services cannot be separated from who we are. To accomplish our mission, we must be very aware of who we are. Spiritualize: (1) to impart a spiritual nature; to purify (2) to invest with or treat as having a spiritual sense or meaning At Catholic Charities, we are encouraged, if not implored, to understand that our work is not mere toil, but has spiritual significance. This is true whether we are working on the front lines with people in need or if we are working behind the scenes in finance, computer support, or maintenance. Though it is easy to point to the beatitudes and other scriptural readings and point to how Catholic Charities employees are feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, even those employees directly performing these works often fail to see their work as infused with spiritual meaning. All the more so, those in finance offices, supervisory positions and computer support desks often struggle to see the spiritual meaning of their work. Third Reader To be able to see the spiritual meaning of our work, we must become more skilled at seeing the spiritual side of our own selves. Spirituality, as it is used for this series, is the method through which one becomes aware of the interaction between the divine and one’s self, life and work. Whether our spirituality is fed through prayer, time with nature, music, art, relationships, worship, contemplation or else, our spirituality compels us to see and act differently. Silent Pause


Process 1. After reading/hearing the description and importance of spirituality, please answer these questions—just for you. You may write them on paper or answer in your mind. a. Do you see your work as having spiritual meaning? b. Do you see others’ work in your agency as infused with spiritual meaning? 2. When responding to the next question, please write the name and he response on a piece of paper. You will share this later with the person whose name you write. If you cannot identify anyone, write the name of a co-worker you admire and why you admire him/her. a. Are there co-workers you feel are nearly ready for sainthood? Why? Is it what they do, or how they do it? And would they be surprised to know?

Seeing Differently (Please read for yourself )
Peter Pannie did not become Peter Pan until he began to see differently. He was looking at the same reality, but suddenly, he was aware of things he had never been aware of before. In the mundane, think of the Magic Eye posters that were so popular years back and we now see on kid’s cartoon pages from time to time. One can stare at it forever, but until one looks at it just right, determined to find something in the picture, it remains just a jumble of shapes. However, once you find the picture within the picture, it become much easier to see it to the point that only a glance will reveal the hidden mystery within. At Catholic Charities, it is our mission to help the poor and the vulnerable on behalf of the Church. The Church gives us this mission because it is convinced that this is what the Kingdom of God is about. We are the arrival, the announcing of the Kingdom of God…of the perfect world, where all are given dignity, where those who weep are blessed, for they shall be comforted. This begs us to see our daily trials and tribulations differently. Process 1. Think on the following perspective differences in relation to your own approach to work at Catholic Charities. Where does your perspective lie on the spectrum? a. Are we on the clock or on a mission? b. Are we serving dregs of society or the body of Christ at its most vulnerable? c. Are co-workers a means to an end (at best) or fellow missioners?

Christianity is, above all a way of seeing. Everything else in Christian life flows from and circles around the transformation of vision. Christians see differently and that is why their prayer, their worship, their action, their whole way of being in the world has a distinctive accent and flavor…Origen of Alexandria once remarked that holiness is seeing with the eyes of Christ.
— Robert Barron And Now I See


d. Are vendors and support services thieves lying in wait or potential guardian angels providing food and water for weary travelers? e. Are volunteers extra paperwork or cheerleaders and coaches on seeing the mission for its profound impact on the world? 2. Share with the person sitting on your right one of your thoughts as you reflected on the questions (3–5 minutes)

The root-word buddh means to wake up, to know, to understand; and he or she who wakes up and understands is called a Buddha. It is as simple as that. The capacity to wake up, to understand, and to love is called Buddha nature.
— Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace, Parallax Press

Acting Differently
Fourth Reader When we talk about Catholic Identity we ask, what makes Catholic Charities different from similar agencies that perform some of the same services? We should be doing it differently. Our work, our services, our very being should have a spiritual sense about it Think of a monastery. In many ways, the activities that go on at a monastery are no different than the ones in any other home - work in the garden, work in the kitchens, making beds, office work, etc. True, the monks or sisters pray together and alone often, but they also approach their work differently. Their prayer life leads them into often quite mundane tasks with a different spirit about them which leads visitors to peace and renewal. In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton writes of the monastic life “We [monks] take a different attitude towards these things, for we belong to God. Yet so does everybody else belong to God. We just happen to be conscious of it and to make a profession out of this consciousness.” “The second gem (in Buddhism) is the Dharma. Dharma is what the Buddha taught. It is the way of understanding and love – how to understand, how to love, how to make understanding and love into real things.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace Why is it important to develop a sense of one’s spirituality? So you don’t miss the opportunities that daily exist to transform one’s work from the ordinary into the extraordinary. Process Write your thoughts for your own use on the following: 1. How would I act differently if I were always and everywhere aware of the God-given dignity of each client? 2. How would I act differently if I were to learn that Catholic Charities is the only source for a particular vendor we work with to learn of this different vision of being? 3. How might I act differently if I considered all of my co-workers as Godgiven partners in the mission of building this different world?


Supporting One Another in the Practice of Seeing
Fifth Reader Back to the movie Hook. In the movie, Peter Pan re-learns how to fly once he holds on to a “happy thought,” which in his case was the birth of his first-born son, Jack. Whenever he falters, he thinks of his happy thought, and finds his way again. In my own life, I have benefited from spiritual direction. Much like Tinkerbell for Peter Pan, my spiritual director had urged me to think of that one thing that matters, but she spiritualized the question. She asked me “If God were to try to reach out and grab your attention, what or who would God use?” My response was immediate and unequivocal “my kids.” So I started viewing and listening to my kids differently, and the insights just started rolling in. God is always reaching out to us. It is simply a matter of us finding the wherewithal to see God in our lives. Just as important as seeing God is acting on that relationship. Again, just as our lives are filled with God if we but see, our lives are also filled with opportunities to reach back to God, if we but act This has been a very important dynamic in my own spiritual journey. So often, part of my awakening comes after a missed opportunity, a time when I am kicking myself for not acting. It is important to remember to not spend so much time regretting past inactions that we fail to see the opportunities to act in the present. They are always there. Also in the movie Hook, Peter Pan does not act alone. He has Tinkerbell, who remains his most faithful fan even when he isn’t acting like Peter Pan. He has the Lost Boys who help him to recapture his imagination. Even Hook’s evil actions serve to prompt Peter Pan to remember who he is and to become, in the end, a better father to his son. Part of a mature spirituality is to begin to see others as bearers of insight and spiritual meaning. Tapping the spiritual takes practice, thus the term spiritual practices. There are as many spiritual practices as there are people. Retreats, prayer services, nature walks, journaling, contemplation, ways abound to open the heart and mind to the workings of the divine in the present day. Reflections and prayers at meetings are but one way for Charities staff to collectively remind ourselves of this different way of viewing our day to day work. Whether we take five minutes or fifteen, it is important to stop, enter the moment in a way that allows the distractions and noise to fade away long enough to focus on the mission.


Sixth Reader Thich Nhat Hanh writes: The Sangha is the community that lives in harmony and awareness. Sanghakaya is a new Sanskrit term…If you have a bell in your home, the bell becomes part of your sanghakaya, because the bell helps you to practice. If you have a cushion, then the cushion also becomes part of the sanghakaya. Many things help us practice. The air, for breathing. … You have to discover your sanghakaya, inviting a friend to come and practice with you, have tea mediation. All those efforts are to establish your sanghakaya at home. If we seek to fulfill our mission at Catholic Charities, we must support one another in our spiritual journey, not just our professional growth or our strategic objectives. We must begin to see not only ourselves, but all we come into contact with, as spiritual beings. Process 1. Please take five minutes to write your responses to the following questions. After this time, you will be invited to share your response to the third or fourth question with the person on your left (2–3 minutes) a. What is one way you connect with the divine? b. Who or what would God use to communicate with you? c. Does working at Catholic Charities help develop your sense of the spiritual aspects of being? Explain. d. How could Catholic Charities staff be “sanghakaya” for each other? 2. After the sharing of responses, invite the staff to join in.

Closing Prayer
Reading (ask someone to read) From Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions, John Fire Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, Washington Square Press. Lame Deer will say ‘All religions, all good beliefs, rest upon some vision. The trouble with white religion in America is this: If I tell a preacher that I met Jesus standing next to me in the supermarket, he will say that this could not happen. He’ll say ‘That’s impossible; you are crazy.’ By this he is denying his own religion. He has no place to go. Christians who no longer believe they could bump into Christ at the next street corner, what are they? Jews who no longer think they could find God in a pillar of fire, why would they go on being Jews? Silent pause 7

Psalm 139 (pray by sides according to directions given in the group)
Side One Side Two Side One

Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too. If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea, Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast. If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light”—darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth, Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.

Side Two

Side One Side Two


Before leaving or before the week is complete, please go the person whose name you wrote on your piece of paper. Please give it to the person and tell them in your own words about what you wrote or why you wrote what you did.

About the Reflections on Mission Series
Reflections on Mission was developed by Catholic Charities USA to assist agency staff with understanding mission as a concept and to facilitate integrating mission into their work. These resources are meant to be practical; to provide information that will further your understanding of varying leadership skills within the context of mission and to offer questions that will stimulate you to think about how you are a living witness of this mission in who you are and what you do at your agency. The tools in this series are designed to be user-friendly and to allow for your imaginative self-expression.

Providing Help. Creating Hope.


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful