Friday, November 6, 2009

A Hospital For Sinners

Not A Museum for Saints

Last night, my wife and I read this together and prayed for those we hold in our hearts, but before I went to sleep, I knew that I had to reproduce this when I woke up this morning. It touched me, and I hope it will be meaningful to you as well.
This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. Lk 15:2

Abigail van Buren once wrote that ,"a church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." I love museums. They are one of the first places I seek out when I visit a new city. But if - as some people would lead us to believe - our Church is nothing more than a collection of historical exhibits and dusty books, we are worshipping in vain. "Dear Abby" got it right.

As important as history and tradition is to our Church, our faith is not a museum exhibit filled with long-dead specimens, stuffed and propped up to show us what the "real thing" looks like. Our Church is and must be alive and real, and that means it is filled with fragile, weak, sinful humans. Jesus welcomes us to his Church just as we are and invites us to dine with him at the eucharistic table. When we do, we come into real and pure communion with him and receive his mercy, healing and forgiveness. That's Church.

Jesus, welcome me into your healing presence.
Steve Givens is the author of the above piece. In regular life, he is a university administrator, songwriter and the author of several books for children and teenagers. He is married and the father of two children. This particular piece comes from the Daily Catholic Devotion.

I think I have mentioned that I heard God distinctly call me to return to Church many years ago. I was about 30 years old at the time, now months away from half a lifetime ago.

I heard His voice on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday morning, my wife and I went off to the nearest Catholic Church to us, where we lived in North York at the time. The priest who said the mass must have been a million years old. We could hardly hear him, and he was sooooooooo slooooooooooooowwww. To top it off, the priest who gave the homily was a Western Oriental Gentleman, who must have just arrived, as his accent prevented us from understanding a word he said. And the sound system in the church was probably the original from pre-Reformation times.

At the end of mass, my wife and I left dejected. In truth we had been expecting God to welcome us home, and instead the party was dead, or so it seemed to us at the time. But, in truth we were still being inspired by God's Holy Spirit, and so later in the week, we decided that God had not lied to us, but maybe we needed to find another Church. The next Sunday, we went to another Church that was not quite as close, but which in fact appealed to our sense of music, need for teaching, and age of parishioner base. We stayed there for a while, attending mass weekly, religiously, fulfilling the call we had received. It encouraged us for a time, and started us on the way back to Life in Christ.

A number of months later, we moved to London Ontario, my birthplace, and when we went to the nearest Church to our new apartment, found a priest that I had known in my youth, and a very vibrant, welcoming community of faith. We were home.

You know, I always thought that first Church was a museum, or a mausoleum. In retrospect, I think I was wrong, dead wrong, though I can only get it just now. It feeds the people who attend there. I hope my wife and I made the right choice to find some other Church that would feed us. I hate to think that we missed a chance to be fed even better food at the first Church, than we found at the second one.

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