By: Fr. Tom Hurley
December 4, 2016
I know, it almost sounds like a sales pitch. “Make Old St. Pat’s your home!” In the song I am singing for our annual Deck the Hall concert, (There’s no place like) Home for the Holidays, I took a little creative license and adjusted the words to “for the holidays, make Old St. Pat’s your home!” On the one hand, I believe this invitation deeply and I truly hope that many many people will make Old St. Pat’s their place of worship not only for the Advent and Christmas seasons but always. However, as I reflect on the words I adjusted to just have some fun during the concert, I admittedly pause every now and then on what our invitation sounds like. Not that I want to make big deal out of some simple word-changes in a folksy Christmas tune, but sometimes I wonder what we collectively sound like in our messaging. Is it too much like a sales pitch? Am I trying to coerce people simply to come here? OR, is there something truly deeper and transformative in the gospel we preach and the mission we proclaim? Are we really forming disciples and deepening faith or have we just created just a nice place to visit?
I thought about this after I returned from Rome last week. On the weekend of Nov 18-20, I traveled to Rome with the Chicago delegation to celebrate the calling of Archbishop Cupich into the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis. Though it was very quick trip, indeed just a long weekend, I’m really grateful that I decided to go. But what I have found to be most interesting and intriguing is the question a lot of people have asked me since I returned, Was it just awesome? Was it just so incredibly memorable?
To be honest…no.
Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly now say that I’ve attended a Consistory (the making of a cardinal) and being invited to represent the city of Chicago was a nice honor, but honestly, the liturgy for the new cardinals was fine, but it didn’t move my faith in some significant way.
What did move me, however, was the Mass celebrated the next day concluding the Year of Mercy. On Sunday, November 20, when all of you were still in bed, I found myself standing in the middle of St. Peter’s Square celebrating mass not only with Pope Francis, but more importantly with 100,000 other people who literally came from every corner of the world. Now, that was
impactful and powerful. Perhaps the best part of the trip was just wandering around the square when mass was finished and soaking in the sounds and sights of languages, cultures, clothing and ways of being disciples that were represented in the faces and people from every continent. Even though mass was being celebrated in Italian and Latin, that didn’t seem to faze the vast majority of us for whom those languages are not part of our repertoire. While there is indeed great pageantry and synchronized ritual in the Roman liturgy, what impressed me most was this profound sense of unity among the people huddled together at St. Peter’s.
As I walked around the square I couldn’t help but think about and imagine in my mind all the various stories of faith and discipleship being lived out around the globe. People literally came from near and far to give witness to the faith in Jesus that somehow was shared with them, and all of us, from those original disciples over two millennia ago.
As we come together during these days of Advent, let’s try to remember that it’s not about a sales pitch or the fanfare. John the Baptist wasn’t living in the desert to find customers or consumers. He wasn’t looking to build audience. Rather, John’s message was to help people open their hearts to something greater: the Living God. From those humble, simple beginnings, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, a Church was born. And that church is found in every race, tongue, and way of life throughout the world. Advent is not meant to be a sales pitch, but rather just a simple invitation to all of us to keep coming home to the deeper, more profound experience of being one with the God who became one with us.
May these be holy, peaceful, and gentle days for us all.
Fr. Tom Hurley