It all happens in the parish


By Father Joseph Breighner


Sometimes we have answers to questions that no one asks. As you know from reading this column, I like to write and preach about the “big issues.” What’s the meaning of life? Where is God when bad things happen? What happens when we die?

But, as I stand at the door of the Church after Mass, those aren’t the questions people ask. They ask things like: “Fr. Joe, where do I get the Lucky Three tickets?” (Is that a question about the Holy Trinity, I wonder to myself.) “Uh, I don’t know”.

“Fr. Joe where do I get the Knights of Columbus raffle tickets?” “Um, I don’t know. Try back there”.

“Fr. Joe, where do I get tickets for the bus trip and luncheon at Suicide Bridge?” (I’m not making this up) “Uh, I dunno”, I reply.

Perhaps, by now, you’re seeing what I mean. Yes, people really do appreciate loving and positive and hopeful sermons. And people do indeed wrestle with all the “big” issues of life.

But parish life is so much more. It’s not just a place where people “go to Church”. It’s a place where they play, pray and have fun. Parish life is about dinners and bingos and plays and picnics and trips and parish organizations and on and on.

Check any parish bulletin and see what’s going on in religious education and schools and projects and group activities.

What I’m leading up to is a remark a young lady made to me a couple of years ago. She said quite simply: “I feel sorry for people who don’t go to Church!” She wasn’t moralizing. She wasn’t being “holier than thou.” She was just being honest.

She happened to be the choir director in her parish. She noted that when someone was ill or sick how the whole choir came to help. She noted the parish support when a family lost a loved one in the line of duty.

“What do people do who don’t have a family around them,” she asked. She was speaking of the parish family.

Years ago, I heard the parish described as “a family of families.” In the parish there is room for everyone, and everyone is welcome – the young and the old; the single and the married; the divorced and the widowed: and on and on.

I’ve been a weekend associate at Annunciation Parish in Rosedale for more than 30 years. But, because of parish retreats and missions, I get to visit a lot of parishes. And I’m always humbled and impressed by all the good that goes on in every parish.

My purpose in writing this column is to keep encouraging parishes to keep advertising all that they are doing. The world is filled with bad news. But, as I’ve said so often, good overwhelms evil millions of times every day. Bad news gets our attention. Good news is often taken for granted. We are shocked by evil. We tend to take good for granted. So we need to be reminded that there are Scouting groups and young adult retreats and marriage encounter and engaged encounter and Bible studies and adult education series and on and on.

We are constantly reminded in the news of all that is wrong with the Church and with the world. We need to be reminded of all that is right. Parishes are filled with fun and trips and pilgrimages and dinners and family nights and on and on.

So, no, I probably won’t know where the Lucky Three Tickets are being sold. But I’m glad someone is selling and someone is buying. Others are being helped by those purchases.

The Eucharist is the heart of Church life. We feed on the Body and Blood of Christ, and then we become what we eat. We become Christ’s presence, bringing life and love and joy to the world. It all happens in the parish.

Copyright (c) Oct. 25, 2012

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.