Growing up I was a member of one (1) parish community. Granted, as a Catholic, we are a universal community of believers. One of the things that I love is attending Mass when we are on vacation. We are not at our "home" parish, but we are always at home with our Catholic community in the world. However, within our beautiful, universal Church there are many parishes and you usually call one your home parish. And I belonged to one parish from the time I was born until the time I went away to college.
This church truly felt like home to me. I knew its stained glass windows and would get lost in their beauty. I knew its tabernacle with the beautiful candles hanging above it. I knew its fabulous crucifix that drew me into times of great contemplation. I knew the people who I went to school with and the people I worshiped with. I knew its warmth. It was a beautiful, quiet, inviting place. When I was there, I always felt that I was at home. Often, even in my youth, I would go there by myself, immerse myself in the cool darkness of the building and just be, just be with myself and with God. It was a wonderful and welcoming place in this world for me.
When my husband and I moved to our current city 15 years ago we were looking for longevity. We searched for a home that would grow with our growing family. We sought out a great school district. We looked for a place in this world where we could plant ourselves and, hopefully, allow our roots to grow deep and strong.
Since living here, my family has been members of three different churches and now we will be looking for our fourth. The little parish we currently belong to is in the process of being clustered with another parish and will close in the near future. Where do we belong? Where is our place in this world?
Each time we have moved I find myself feeling a little lost. This is not what I had hoped for my family when we moved. I wanted my children to grow up and feel that sense of belonging, feel that sense of home within one parish community. I wanted to feel that for myself as well. However, that wasn't the path that God had in mind for us apparently.
As I mentioned earlier, the Catholic Church is a universal church. God is there. Jesus is there. The Mass is the Mass. I am so grateful for that. I know that and realize that my family can be members at any Catholic parish and we will be home.
There is something very special, dare I say sacred, about the people and community within a parish. We are called a parish family. And each parish community, like a family, has a different way of being together and engaging one another. We come together. We pray. We worship. We sing. We laugh. We cry. It is a beautiful thing to see the connections within a parish family. A thriving parish is like a stained glass window with the sunlight pouring through it. The beauty engages your mind and eye as you look at the images and colors and then emanates far beyond the window itself and you see colors dancing on the walls and pews and floor. That is the people in a parish, we make up that window and it is our individual colors that come together to make such a beautiful image of our faith.
Each parish has taught me something about myself, my faith, my family, our God. At each church I have met some wonderful and engaging people and made some dear friends. Each church has opened my eyes to different things about my faith - what we believe as Catholics and why we believe it. Although I have had these beautiful lessons there have been some difficult ones as well. Through it all, I still find myself struggling to find that place in this world where we can just be, just be as I was in my childhood parish.
Throughout our lives God will prune us in order to get rid of what is dead and to help us to thrive and bear more fruit. It can be a painful process. It is not one that I particularly enjoy. However, it is a necessary one to grow and flourish.
Generally, I don't just jump right into new situations. Because of this, each parish change has been difficult as I have had to slowly immerse myself in a new community, try to find my place in a new family. So many times in life I find myself struggling to discover where I fit. This is another one of those times. Where do I belong? Where is my place in this world? I'm not sure yet where we will be, but I trust that we will end up right where He wants us for this time in our lives.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; in all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6
Michael W. Smith - A Place in this World: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpXMnY_t03M