I’ve been Catholic forever. “Cradle Catholics”, they call us.
I’m happy being Catholic, and I wouldn’t say I’ve ever put any serious thought into being anything else. That said, I’ve never been one to preach on about the “One True Church” or denounce other faiths– frankly, while I crave unity as much as the next guy, I don’t see any real point in being nasty about it.
Still, Catholicism isn’t perfect. Nothing is. I’ve always known this. Though I’m certain it’s not limited to my denomination, I’ve seen arrogance, showiness, and lack of compassion before.
It was about two years ago that we started attended our current church. Honestly, it makes total sense for us to attend this one– it’s two minutes just down the road. I love that about it. I also love their thriving youth program; I love it enough that I teach as part of it. I love the women I’ve met through Moms’ Ministry. I love the Christmas pageant put on by the little ones.
I love it.
What I might love most of all, though?
Father Larry is young, in priest-terms. He’s 47. A dark-haired Canadian, he is soft-spoken and gentle-mannered. His sermons are not loud and boisterous. He doesn’t really know how to “work a room.” Some might say he’s not the best at “talking the talk.”
But he walks the walk.
In a time when the economy flounders and donations drop, our parish stayed in the black. How? Well, in large part because our priest took on the whole massive church by himself– we have the size and numbers that mandate two priests. But he opted to do it alone to save the money.
We don’t use many paper dishes or cups in our church– not only is it better for the environment to reuse, it’s also better for the bottom line. And Father Larry will wash dishes himself, without complaint.
When I drive in to town, I often see Father walking along the road, on his way to grab a few groceries– that’s a 5.2 mile journey, round-trip. I’ve offered him a ride; others have, too. He always politely declines and says he likes the time to pray and think. No matter if raindrops or snowflakes fall on his head as he does so.
Climbing the scaffolding of our cathedral ceilings, watering the lilies out front, changing the oil of his car, or weeding the community garden… his hands are rough and dirty, and he’s not afraid of hard work.
When it comes to our community, he reminds us continually that it is both our duty and our privilege to provide. Yes, he defends the unborn, tirelessly and often. But he does so in the same breath he implores us to reach out to our crisis pregnancy center and become increasingly involved with our youth groups. Be there. Do more. Love more.
There is love, always love, and compassion, at the heart of all we are asked to do.
I am part of a church where I rarely, if ever, hear a breath of condemnation. There is a spirit of quiet effort, constant reaching out, and never-ending forgiveness. We are not a glamorous people. We don’t have any fancy shows for you. But we’re trying, under the guidance of our priest, to provide… to love… to be compassionate arms to those around us.
This side of Catholicism? Has always been there. It should be part of who we are. It should be apparent any time one enters through our doors. But, well, it’s not always so clear.
Father Larry draws it to the surface. He models the behavior and helps us aspire to do more, love more, give more.
I’m go glad God has provided such a leader for us.