There was once a young woman who was looking for a church in which to get married. She nearly drove her fiancé and her mother crazy, scouting out just about every church in the city, looking for just the right one — the one with the prettiest stained glass windows, the one with just the right length of the center aisle, the one with the biggest room for the bride to get dressed, the one most accessible to the interstate highways, and so forth.
Finally, she made a decision. She ended up getting married in an old, cinder block, rectangular building with florescent lights, and an electric organ. A few homemade felt banners that the youth group had made years ago were still up on the walls in the nearby social hall. A God Poke
Why the change? She finally realized something very important. She realized that this was the church where she had been baptized, where she had gone through Confirmation class and had met her husband, and where her grandparents’ funeral masses had been held.
This was where she had come to know something of the love and grace of God. She finally realized that, yes, the building was important, but its importance was that it was a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Priests and ministers have a cute phrase to describe many of their parishioners who only use the church to be “hatched, matched, and dispatched”. That is to say — to be baptized, married and then buried.
A friend recently asked me about what was the best part of being a priest for 50 years. I said that the best part is standing at the altar and being in front of the congregation each week and looking out at the people. After a few months, I know just about everyone there.
Every one in front of me was going through something that was so important to them: a new baby, a loss of a job, moving to a new city, a child on drugs, a trip to Hawaii, a spouse with Alzheimer’s, a child leaving for college, a 40th wedding anniversary, a friend’s divorce, a new puppy, etc. etc. And seven days a week I was a part of all this.
The best part of being a priest for me is looking out each week and catching a glimpse of what God sees all under one roof, the heart-warming and the heart-breaking. But they are all there, not at home watching TV or on the internet. To thank and praise God for all the good in their life. To praise God even for the bad in their life, asking for the strength to make it through and to feel God’s presence close by to them. A God Glance
I stand or sit there in awe each week, observing and witnessing the wonder and the mystery of God’s love alive and at work in every human heart in front of me. As with the bride, I find that each of these dear souls have made the right choice of where they need to be on a Sunday morning.