By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.
“Father Matt, is it true that when a church is broken into it needs to be torn down and rebuilt?”
-A fifth grader-
I awoke on Tuesday morning to find the pastor in the kitchen. “Grab a cup of coffee and let’s talk.”
I poured. And he talked. Our church had been burglarized during the night. The giant crucifix that adorned the sanctuary had been stolen, ripped from the metal chain which suspended it over the tabernacle. A reliquary had been taken, along with some chalices and patens. By a strange twist of fate, I had stored the chalice and paten given to me by my parents on the day of my ordination in a different place. They remain.
The rest of the day was filled with parents, students, teachers, parishioners, and complete strangers asking for news and expressing condolences. Various news outlets called. When I unlocked the church yesterday morning at 6:10, a news van had been parked outside for some time.
While all this was taking place in Yonkers, the Catholic internet exploded. Some commentators screamed that the non-binding, draft-ish, non-official/very official working paper coming out of the Extraordinary Synod betrayed everything Catholic. It signaled the bad old days and the Gates of Hell possibly beginning to prevail.
Others, with glee equal only to the terror of their counterparts, crowed that this document signaled the beginning of everything good and holy the Church had been missing for the last however-many-years. Here was the Spirit of Vatican II, the culmination of the work of the Council, finally finding its fulfillment. It seemed, at least to some, that absolutely everything had changed instantly. (So much for reception, eh?)
Throughout the last forty-eight hours, parishioners have continually (in a sincere way that has touched my soul) asked if the Pastor and I are “doing okay?” I always smile, say yes, offer thanks for the prayers, and turn the question on them. “This is your home too,” I say, “how are you doing?”
Back to the question above, asked by an earnest fifth grader, tears in her eyes: does a church need to be torn down when it’s burglarized?
“No,” I answered. “We’ve been here for over a hundred years on this hill and will be here for more than another hundred.”
The Church has been here almost two thousand years, and barring the parousia, it will remain.
My prayers over the past days have mingled together, Synod and the burglary. I find myself, however, praying through both events most effectively when I think about the people: the bishops who the right hates, the bishops who the left despises, the conservatives, the liberals, the divorced, the homosexuals in relationships, the homosexuals avoiding relationships, the people who built Sacred Heart, the people who burglarized our church, and that fifth grader: neither Synod nor burglary can ever tear down the church, because it will always be the people, saints and sinners alike, that keep it standing up.