Catholics have been "dared" to share their own faith stories with friends this Lent. Benedictine monk Bishop Ambrose Griffiths, of Hexham and Newcastle in North-east England, called on Massgoing parishioners to renew their enthusiasm for their faith and spread it in their own words to neighbours and friends. he said: "If every member of the parish did that the effect would be electric and we would be ready to celebrate Easter with real joy." Bishop Griffiths wrote in a pastoral letter read in every parish on February 23, that Catholics tended to keep their faith private. "When was the last time that you dared to share that precious experience of God's love with someone else or told them in your own words what God means to you? We do not often do it, do we. We may think that our experience is unimportant or unremarkable, but there is nothing like the simplest story of personal faith to stimulate and encourage faith in others." Declaring that it was time to "renew our enthusiasm," the bishop called for parishes to become "increasingly open, friendly, united, non-judgemental, inclusive, lively, vibrant, prayerful and open to change." He pointed out that only 25 per cent of baptised Catholics practised their faith. "What are we doing about the other 75 per cent? Do we write them off? Many of them have been hurt in the past or just got out of the habit and do not know how to come back. Some are just waiting for someone to befriend them, to listen to them and give them a helping hand. "If we really believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ, we will want to share it. And God will give us the strength, the opportunity and the courage." Bishop Griffiths warned that Catholics had for too long only "looked after ourselves." Numbers had fallen as the stalwarts died and were not replaced by younger people. "If we continue like this we shall eventually die out. We need a new outlook, to set ourselves new priorities. "So many people in our society are spiritually hungry and are searching for something to give a meaning and purpose to their life. If only we can discover the joy of sharing in the most simple and humble way what is precious to us - what we call the Good News - we could make a real difference."
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