by Dave Dowd
I heard a story related, recently, which revealed something of our faith experience which many of our younger friends might not catch. But I know this 57 year old has witnessed a similar story in his experience as a member of the body of Christ.
The so called "powers that be" are faced with financial and social pressures and political pressures which force their hands in this current day and age. They take actions which bear no resemblance to compassion for people whose faith has been fed tenderly by worship experience. One man describing his experience in his northeast diocese said they are closing Churches left and right and often the Churches they close are the traditional Churches with attendance.
They use "computer models" which project a downturn in population size to justify closing traditional churches while they keep open other churches which practice more modern expressions of the faith.
Of course, by bowing to financial and political pressures to "sell off" some old Traditional Churches, they are essentially abandoning the influence of Traditional practice in the faith lives of people who have grown closer to our Lord through these practices.
This experience for these parishioners, often older folks who are not as mobile as a younger, up and coming, generation with bright financial prospects, create hardships for folks who have found the comfort of our Lord in the enduring friendships with friends in their parishes which were built up over time.
Younger people don't "get" the importance of this faith community. Often if they give notice to Traditional practice, they treat Traditional practice as another social occasion on a calendar of social events. There is little time in their demanding worlds to appreciate the enduring relationship with our Lord and the faith community which grows closer with each other as they share the worship experience over years of each other's hardship.
Bringing our hardships to a community where the faith practices of long suffering, patient endurance, good will in the face of hardship, a knowing pat on the back when a particular set of circumstances besets a given member, allowing the spiritual graces of the Mass to flow into a soul Sunday after Sunday in the midst of a culture which dismisses Traditional practice and discovering the grace which love builds strong in the fiber of one's being....
These are some of the life experiences older folks acquire when they gather together Sunday after Sunday at a Traditional parish....
And when someone comes along and says NO, STOP, "We" are closing your church. The clang of the faithless is like some foreign sounding blast ringing, discordantly, in the gentle faith lives of the penitent. But the clanging does not cease in this culture of "out with the old" where consumerism treats well established parish communities like some fast food restaurant which can be replaced by high rises to obtain for the land owner more capital, more cash flow, or a sense of assuading a collective guilt for having abandoned their own faith in the relentless push and shove of modern secular society. The power brokers don't "get" what Church means to the faithful.
But older folks do. And in their wisdom, they hold the line on giving in to the pressures to shut their Churches down.