This column is being written on the eve of a much-publicized summit meeting of bishops…
Jerusalem is present in your town — here’s why
For all of my life, I have lived within walking distance of a Catholic church. That doesn’t mean that I have always attended the church closest to my home. We are blessed to have two Catholic churches here in Huntington, Indiana, literally a block apart — living proof that sometimes ethnic differences (in this case, English and Irish versus German) rise above the universality of the Church. And our house sits right in between, just ever so slightly closer to St. Mary’s than to Sts. Peter and Paul. Still, we walk that extra 75 feet or so every Sunday. (After all, we’re half-German.)
Yet St. Mary’s continues to play an important part in my life. Sometimes as I pass by I stop in for a few minutes in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and the coordination between the two parishes on daily Mass and confession times means that it’s sometimes more convenient to go to St. Mary’s than to Sts. Peter and Paul. (Of course, for those of us employed at OSV, we have the ultimate convenience: an onsite chapel, with Mass offered every day of the week when Msgr. Campion is in town.)
There’s no way, of course, to quantify how important always living within walking distance of a Catholic church has been to my spiritual development. Which came first, the gift of faith, or the structures and opportunities that help open one’s soul to that gift?
Yet even if I cannot scientifically demonstrate the role that every one of those nearby churches played in making me and keeping me Catholic, I can say with the certainty of faith that it has made a difference. When introducing his song “My Hometown” in “Springsteen on Broadway,” Bruce Springsteen offered a similar glimpse at this truth. “We lived spitting distance from the Catholic church, the priests’ rectory, the nuns’ convent, St. Rose of Lima grammar school — all of it just a football’s toss away, across the field of wild grass. I literally grew up surrounded by God.”
Surrounded by God, in a very literal sense. Every Catholic church contains the body of Christ, reserved in the tabernacle, waiting there for any and all to come and kneel before him. The Mass at which that host was consecrated is a re-presentation of the sacrifice on Calvary — not a representation in the modern sense of the term, a mere symbol, but the reality of that moment made present again across time.
From the earliest centuries, the Church has encouraged pilgrimages to holy sites. But for those who live “just a football’s toss away” from a Catholic church, the holiest of sites can be found just down the street. To walk from one’s house to the door of a church is to take part in the Way of the cross. To move from the back of the church to the front is to draw closer to the foot of the cross.
Recognizing that truth, and meditating on it, can have a profound effect on how you think of your hometown. If Mount Calvary is to be found in your church, Jerusalem is, in a very real sense, present in your town. The grace of God, and his action in the world, does not stop at your church doors. As members of the Body of Christ, when we walk the streets of our hometown, we bring him with us, too.
On this feast of Corpus Christi, the two parishes of Huntington will gather together in a Eucharistic procession from St. Mary’s to Sts. Peter and Paul, where we will join together in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Our shared love of the God-made-man will triumph over the Tower of Babel.
Christ will walk the streets of Huntington, Indiana, and they will become as holy as the streets of Jerusalem did 2,000 years ago.
Scott P. Richert is publisher for Our Sunday Visitor.