Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I reflected on the abundance in my life (it has been a great year for me!), and all that I have to give thanks for. This summer I was fortunate enough to spend almost three weeks at the shore (Delaware beaches) — I am deeply grateful for this opportunity. The beach is an abundant experience for me; there is joy in it all — sand, sun, surf, food and conversation, both light-hearted and deep discussions. I love the beach, and each year I return with family, friends or by myself to relax, rest and re-encounter the beauty and wonder of God. For me, God is present in the balmy moments of the sun rising (or setting) over the sea. At the beach there is an incredible peacefulness, knowing that all shall be well — the ocean waves remind me that God’s love continues to wash over us, and it is perpetual and powerful!
I am well and truly blessed, rarely have I had a summer without a beach vacation. You see, my Dad and uncle own a beach house, and I have great (and cheap) access to this wonderland. Each summer my return is a wonderful homecoming. This July was particularly special as my parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, all 18 of us, enjoyed six days at the beach together. We traveled from all corners of the continental U.S.—Atlanta, Boise, Chicago, Dallas and Dayton — to be together. As such a gathering only occurs every two to three years, we soaked in each others’ presence, broke bread, enjoyed music, laughter and a variety of games. It was our family Thanksgiving celebration.
“Remember, where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
In an ideal world, I would have a second home at the beach and would make plans to retire there; however, my wallet is not able to support my ideal vision and retirement is not in the near future. So, my efforts are to create home and to recognize God’s endless love where I find myself, and for the last 18 years I have called Chicago home. As my family is dispersed all over the nation, I have created a Chicago family and Chicago home that supports and sustains me — a very significant part of my Chicago life and family is the community of Old St. Patrick’s Church. It is in being part of this community that I know myself as a Beloved Daughter of God. The Old St Pat’s community has given me much more than I can ever return or re-pay; the Old St Pat’s waves of hospitality and caring regularly wash over me and provide assurance that all shall be well. During Sunday Liturgies I am reminded that life is good and there is a net which will support and catch me when I take a risk, try something new or when the rug is pulled out from under me.
To whom much is given, much is expected … this is a principal that I have understood from an early age. I have been given much and am honored to give back to the Old St. Patrick’s community in every way I can — with my time, talents, and yes treasure. I know many for whom making a financial commitment to a Catholic Church is a difficult task. They are fed-up with the scandals, the lack of inclusiveness, and the inability of the institutional Church to accept responsibility for many wrongs and sins. I cannot disagree with this sentiment and grow weary myself of defending my faith which is connected to the institutional Church; however, I have to remind myself that Church and my home in Chicago is not the “institutional Church” but it is the community of Old St Patrick’s. Just as the early Christians gathered in the communities of Corinth, Alexandria and Phillippi to remember the life of Christ and break bread, I come to Old St. Patrick’s to listen to the Word of God, be inspired by beautiful music and be in communion through the Eucharist. If I and all members of the community do not give of our treasure, how can we sustain this community? From where will the funds come for the pastoral care, lights, program development, heat (a must right now!) and the staff that support all the initiatives we develop?
“Remember, where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” (Matthew 6:21) My heart and home are not only at the beach, but they are also here with the community and Church of Old St. Patrick’s. This is why every month there is a contribution taken directly from my checking account and deposited with the Old St. Pat’s community. To sustain this endeavor that we call Church, to know that I can come each week to be nourished and give thanks, I must make a commitment of my treasure.
Where is your treasure? Is it where you find your heart, home and community?
Anne Gross is a long-term member of Old St. Patrick’s Church.