This past week has been amazing since the inauguration of our new St. Joseph Chapel; a project that has been long in the making. The tears of so many of our parishioners indicated the extent of which they had sacrifice to achieve this important day. Even Bishop John Manz, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, seemed a bit chocked up as he witnessed the outpouring of emptions of the community.
What was also palpable during this historical event was the great sense of community and pride everyone felt about reaching a milestone. We all felt proud to be Roman Catholic Christians. At a time when we are hearing so many stories about churches closing and consolidating, it was a great honor to be part of a celebration that had its eyes on the future growth and development of our Shrine and our faith. As I have mentioned to my brother priests her at the Shrine, the chapel serves as a tool for the service of evangelizing families who are in desperate need of hope and caring. St. Joseph is the patron saint and defender of families. So often, in our ministry here, we come across people who are going through such hard times in their personal lives as well as in the family as a whole. Although psychotherapy and counseling are important for some cases, there is no denying that an active, developed and lived faith life provides healing and direction for families struggling in life.
In the readings today, our Lord tells us: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” This is important to keep in mind as we confront a generation where Catholics are leaving the Church in massive numbers, according to 2018 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) studies. What is often not spoken of or preached about by many of our brother clergy and catechists is the absolute indispensability of the Church for salvation. The belief of merely being “spiritual” independent of having a real responsibility to the Church is deadly. The Church is not merely a club to join or a social service agency or a “faith-based organization.” It is the Body of Christ which we are called to live in by God himself. We cannot say “I love God, but can’t stand the Church” any more than I can say “I like you but I can’t stand your beloved children” and expect to have a close relationship with that person. It just doesn’t work that way!
There are many reasons why someone would be tempted to leave the Church, but giving up on God’s family will only lead to more sorrow. This week we have seen a small part of the absolute blessing that we are and can become ever more by sharing in the celebration of a goal well achieved.