Saturday, May 28, 2011

For the Body of Christ, Not a Parish

My husband and I and our parish friends have waited months for the BIG DECISION. I surprised myself by leaving Mass tonight oddly unaffected by the Bishop's announcement that our parish will be changing its name and merging with two other parishes.  I felt nothing, absolutely nothing.

As I pulled out of the parking lot and headed to the grocery store, I turned on the car radio. Matt Maher's "Christ is Risen" was playing.  I realized once again I'm not Catholic because of a parish. I am a Catholic because I believe, as Pope Benedict XVI says: “In a world seeking human certainties and heavenly security... Christ is the solid rock upon which to build the edifice of one's own life, and placed in Him is never placed in vain."

Like many Catholics in the Northeast United States, we worship at a parish with a dwindling membership in an area undergoing dramatic demographic change. My husband and I have been deeply involved with the life of this parish. And both our sons are too. They made their First Communions here and are altar servers. One problem with our neighborhood parish is that members do not reflect the faces in our community. About one-third of our sixth grader's public-school classmates are Latino, yet few of those families choose to worship at our church, which is within walking distance. Instead, these families choose to drive to another town, where the parishes now are overflowing. One parish was so crowded at Christmas, that 200 worshippers had to stand in the sanctuary to pray.

Our bishop, keenly aware of the problem here and elsewhere, recently oversaw a process to merge and combine churches. I went to a few public forums at our parish. Frankly, I was deeply disappointed by some of the adults, who sounded scared of worshiping with folks from cultures which differ from their own. These past few months I have heard some most uncharitable words and attitudes from some devout parishioners.

The question I am asking myself, however, is: who am I to feel disappointment in people? After all, God, in His infinite love, chose to create each of us. And here's another question: How often do I myself fall short of His glory?

How deeply we tend to attach ourselves to human structures - buildings and jobs and political parties and parishes and on and on. This isn't what God wants. We need to adhere ourselves to Him, only Him, because only He can satisfy our deepest yearning.

"Christ is risen from the dead. We are one with Him again...Forever let your Church proclaim Christ..."Sing it!