My mother’s funeral liturgies, both the evening prayer and Mass the next day, will be a central memory of my priestly life, even if I live as long as she did.  My father’s funeral was also exceptional, although of course there were no vigil prayers since his funeral was on Easter Monday.When our Ontario relatives heard about the evening service for Mom—my brothers and sisters couldn’t stop talking about Father Jeff’s homily—they were a little confused.  The custom there is to have visitation at a funeral home, not prayers at the church the night before.So, since I come from Ontario, I knew exactly what Cardinal Timothy Dolan was talking about at the Upper Room conference last weekend when he related a conversation he had while standing before an open casket.A man beside him paying his respects was weeping copiously. So the young priest put his hand on his shoulder and said “you must have cared for him very much.”Weeping even harder, the man said, “Bob saved my life.”Cardinal Dolan let the man compose himself before he asked him to explain.  It turns out that the deceased had been a co-worker of the crying man, who was what was sometimes called a hopeless alcoholic.The man, whose name was Rod, had reached that stage where his life was falling apart in every way.  He turned to Bob, whom he had admired for his good nature, patience, and kindness, and asked how he did it.“Well,” Bob said after thinking about it for a moment, “I suppose it’s my faith.”  And that began a conversation that led Rod into the Catholic Church—and, as he said, saved his life.At the end of the story, Cardinal Dolan paused, and said, “Bob was my father.  We were standing at his casket.”Despite the dramatic ending, the Cardinal’s point was simple.  Every single Catholic has the ability to be a missionary. To be a life saver.And the point of last weekend’s Upper Room Conference was equally simple.  Every single Catholic has the call to be a missionary—a life saver.Our Upper Room was much bigger than the one in Jerusalem where the Apostles, the Blessed Mother, and other disciples—both men and women—gathered to wait for Pentecost.  More than a thousand people gathered in Vancouver for the launch of the Proclaim movement.I certainly wasn’t the only one in the Upper Room who felt a lot like those first disciples.  And I didn’t doubt for a moment that this was a kind of Pentecost, something entirely new for the Church in the Lower Mainland, something that was going to make history—something powerfully inspired by the Holy Spirit.It’s not easy to describe this experience to those who weren’t there, and it’s even more difficult to explain what the Proclaim movement is.  But I’m sure going to try!Brett Powell, a senior Archdiocesan leader who was one of the conference organizers, offered a short definition: “Proclaim is a new missionary impulse with a strategy and a structure.”  I’m going to repeat that: one, a new missionary impulse; two, with a strategy; three, with a structure.This new missionary impulse responds directly to a call from Pope Francis.  In his letter “The Joy of the Gospel” he wrote: “I dream of … a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”The strategy is based on three principles.  I’ve already mentioned the first:  making every baptized Christian a missionary disciple.  The Proclaim movement promises to invite, equip, motivate, and commission lay Catholics to share the Gospel in effective ways.A second key principle will make it clear that the mission field is right here on our doorstep.  We are called to share the Gospel message with our family members, neighbours, co-workers, and friends.  Archbishop Miller said we won’t find the people we need to evangelize in foreign lands, but on our soccer fields, in our minivans, offices, and at Tim Horton’s.The third element of this strategy is narrowing our focus for greater impact.  Brett Powell mentioned that there must be a hundred good programs to help Catholics become missionary disciples.  But it’s not possible for the Archdiocese to offer training and support for a hundred programs, or even for ten.Instead, the Archdiocese of Vancouver has committed to offer first-class training and central support for two proven methods of spreading the Gospel.  And—here is something truly wonderful for our own parish—those two programs are the two we’ve already concentrated on at Christ the Redeemer: Alpha and the Discovery faith studies.This strategy reminds me of the politician’s wife who slipped him a note half way through a major public statement.  All she wrote, in capital letters, was KISS.  When the politician asked her later why she was so affectionate in the middle of his speech, she said “KISS stood for ‘keep it simple, sweetheart.’”This raises the question some have already asked about our parish’s focus on Alpha and Discovery: why these two?  Brett Powell explained that Alpha Canada and Catholic Christian Outreach are organizations with good track records, and they will be partners with the Archdiocese who will bring a great deal of support and experience.  He added that their materials, especially Alpha’s, are available in a number of languages.As for the structure, we’re talking about a carefully-planned cycle.  Brett Powell assured us that the Upper Room was not a “one-off”.  There will be an annual Upper Room conference designed to keep the momentum going and ensure we measure results.  A gifted long-time CCO missionary has been hired full-time to direct our Proclaim movement.The Archdiocese is going to provide resources galore to help us grow these two activities and use them to make joyful missionary disciples. There will be promotion, training, and coaching, starting right now.Is this risky?  Sure it is!  We’re shifting the Church’s resources to the folks we’re trying to reach, instead of those we’re trying to keep.  Mission is going to trump maintenance for a while around here. Is this scary?  Well, it’s scary for me, anyway!  I already hear some people say “Oh, enough about Alpha already.  Let’s talk about something else for a change.”  Brett Powell had an answer for that in his speech at the conference: “Repetition is our friend.”  Most successful movements rely on one or two great ideas repeated endlessly until they become deep-rooted in our hearts.Just like most Catholics, I’m scared to share my faith with those who don’t believe.  I can preach to you with total comfort, but put me in a situation where I have to talk about Jesus with a stranger and I would much prefer to shift the conversation to the performance of the Canucks.Yet Archbishop Miller says this is not the time to play it safe.  In fact, he told the conference this is exactly the right time for a new and daring initiative.  He quoted St. John Paul II at World Youth Day in Denver: “This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel.” I was on the altar with the Pope and heard him speak those words back in 1993. What was true then is even truer today.  Scandals, embarrassments, attacks of every kind—nothing can separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ nor cancel our calling to make him known to the world.Apart from our shy Catholic culture, the big reason we don’t evangelize is because no one ever taught us how.  Proclaim will help us to use Alpha and Discovery as tools with which to share the Gospel.  It will also show us how to deepen our own relationship with Jesus.  Because, as is often said, you can’t give what you ain’t got.Archbishop Miller seriously challenged every one of the thousand people gathered at the Upper Room. I give the same challenge to each one of you today: “Don’t be afraid to be bold—go out on a limb.” That’s exactly what we’ve been striving for at Christ the Redeemer during these past months, as we charted the discipleship path. And we intend to stay boldly out on the limb, grateful for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the leadership of our chief shepherd.And perhaps, as with Bob Dolan, someday someone will stand weeping before your casket, saying “he or she saved my life.”Because that’s what we’re called to do—to save lives. “For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”Lots to learn on the Proclaim website.  And check out the Proclaim Podcast here or here. 

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