“Worshipping the Lord means giving Him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing - not only by our words - that He alone truly guides our lives; worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before Him that He is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history.”
It has always fascinated me that the law of the Church distinguishes between the "church" and the "parish." The church is a sacred space where we worship. The parish is "a certain community of the Christian faithful…" The two are often understandably indistinguishable for most of us. For years, I have been reflecting on the question of a parish’s true purpose, of what it looks like maximizing its potential. More than a few times people have questioned the worthwhileness of our mission at Catholic Leadership Institute – whether it’s worth it, whether it’s even possible, what difference it makes when everything else in the world seems so upside down.
After 20 days in the hospital, we were able to bring Peter home to his sisters and to be reunited as a family. During those weeks, it has been a parish that carried us. In the moments of not knowing how to pray, it was that person who promised they were praying for us. It was a pastor letting you weep in his shoulder for as long as you needed in the hospital lobby. It is meals and rides and supplies and favors and items you never knew you needed, arriving before you even ask for them. It is countless parishioners lining the streets of your neighborhood, cheering your son home with less than an hour’s notice. Yes, I’m speaking about St. Patrick Parish in Malvern and I am also speaking about the parish where my mom goes, the parish where I grew up, and the parish to which we used to belong. I’m speaking about a parish all the way on the other side of the country who doesn’t know my family, but knew we needed help and prayers and responded instantly. I’m speaking about religious sisters in the Congo who received one of these posts and translated it into French to ask people to pray, and more than a hundred people who jumped on a Zoom to pray. It’s probably not the "certain community" Canon law was referring to, but it has felt incredibly certain to us through this journey. This is not who the Church could be or should be. It’s who the Church is, today, right now, throughout the world. The Church is worth it and the difference she makes is unparalleled. But it’s not what we do, nor for whom we do it that makes the difference. It’s whose we are that drives this mission that changes the world. We are the People of God. It is in that identity that we are always certain and it is in that community we always find home no matter how far away we feel. As we begin 2021, let our new year resolution be to give thanks for our oneness in Him and respond in kind.