LET IT aLL sTART hERE
For Catholics who care...
Two months ago, I went to an estate sale in Danbury, Connecticut. Even though I had never been there before, when I entered the house I could sense immediately that this was once the home of a follower of Christ in the Catholic tradition. The owner was an older gentleman, and he began to approach me while I was studying a set of rosary that was for sale. (Like most Catholics, I LOVE religious articles like Miraculous Medals, crosses and statues of saints!) The rosary was fashioned out of mother-of-pearl, and the milk-white crucifix was embossed in silver giving it a holographic quality. It was exquisite even though it clearly had been repaired. As he stood next to me, the man volunteered to count the beads in each of the decades, because, to him, it simply wouldn’t do to have an incomplete rosary. But it wasn’t necessary for me to have a perfect set of beads. I could manage if one bead was missing. After all, a well trained Catholic school girl, could pray The Rosary on her toes! I was about to say as much when I realized that the man wanted to share something...needed to share something with me; the rosary was a just convenient vehicle. With reverence, he carefully arranged the rosary in front of us in a perfect oval, and fingered each bead, counting as he celebrated all that he knew and embraced about being Catholic. I listened closely, not wanting to miss a detail of his story. But, interestingly, several others listened as well. The man confessed that he had "taken a break" from Church…from God. But he also admitted that he was thrilled to be back! And I could see that his words were true. As he spoke I wondered, how many of the other eavesdroppers, had been “fallen away” Catholics--as Catholics who "took a break from God" referred to themselves. Some seemed just too interested in the details of his story and with his obsession for counting the rosary beads. They tried to look disinterested but seemed to know something of what he spoke of. His words were resonating within them, maybe even cultivating a seed.
I often speak to men who were once altar boys and served God in the Catholic parishes of their youth. In pubs or sometimes at work, men who know I am Catholic, albeit an "inconvenient one", are often excited and proud to share: “I was an altar boy.” I wonder why it is so important for them to witness to their Catholic past considering they openly admit to not having darkened the door of a Catholic church in years except for weddings and funerals?
As I listened to them tell their stories about walking to church in a blizzard for 7 a.m. Mass or drinking the "holy wine" with their best friend in the sacristy, I was sure of one thing: It all started here! The Church gave them something to hold onto. A seed was sown that may be dormant…but not dead; waiting, but not giving up on its chance to germinate.
The funny thing about them, is their unwillingness to admit that their turning away from God, or the Catholic tradition, only meant that they had chosen not to look upon the Presence of God as they once had. Nothing else had changed. If one chooses to open an umbrella to block the light and warmth of the sun from her upturned face, does that mean that the sun is no longer there? Of course not.
God remains faithful. He is there even when we are not there with Him. As Fr. Michael reminded us in his homily on The Second Sunday of Advent: God has always kept His promises to those who believed. "Through Isaiah, He also promised to send a messenger ahead of the Messiah, to help prepare his people to receive their Savior worthily. That promised was fulfilled in John the Baptist. John the Baptist promised the Messiah would come soon to baptize with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus showed up shortly thereafter.
Decades before that, as we’ll hear on Monday, God promised a humble peasant girl, through the angel Gabriel, that she would be the mother of this Savior, the Son of the Most High, who would rule over the house of Jacob forever. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary gave birth to Jesus.
Jesus promised his disciples that he would suffer and die, but would rise from the dead on the third day ... and He did! He promised to send them the Holy Spirit to help them continue his mission to the ends of the earth, and Voila! Pentecost Arrived ... in a rush of wind and with tongues of fire! He promised the gates of the netherworld would not prevail against his Church, and they haven’t. And yes, He promised He would come again in glory to judge the living and the dead ... and He will! But before that, there’s another promise, we must help him to fulfill. He promised to be with us always ... to the end of the age. His presence is indeed among us, primarily in the Church, and most profoundly in the Eucharist."
What we must remember is that God keeps the promise he made to us at Baptism. It is through the Sacrament of Baptism that we are gifted something that can not be returned, replaced or exchanged. We are given the Holy Spirit and He remains with us always, even when we attempt to block the brightness and warmth He offers.