Just a Thought…
One of the realities present in the life of Old St. Patrick’s Church, primarily because of our location, is that we are a highly transitory church in the midst of a highly mobile world. Meaning, there are a number of people who find their way to Old St. Pat’s but unfortunately, due to career transitions or maybe even “homesickness,” their stay with us is short-lived and they find themselves packing up and moving to another part of the country. Being in the heart of Chicago’s downtown, we welcome so many people who find their way here because of their jobs or immediately after their college graduation. On one hand I am absolutely delighted and humbled by some of our members’ reflections as they leave this place. For many, their lives have been touched in a very significant way because of their involvement and participation in the life and mission of Old. St. Pat’s. And as you can imagine, I am also saddened when one of our members, no matter how long or how little they have been with us, decides to move on.
I am particularly grateful when members let me know they are leaving. Nothing is more frustrating for me than when a familiar face from the congregation mysteriously disappears and I learn later on that they have moved on to another city or state. What intrigues me however, most of all, is when a member-in-transit asks me the question about their new hometown to which they are headed: do you know of a church that is like Old St. Pat’s? Or, better yet: what saddens me most about leaving is not being here at Old St. Patrick’s!
On one hand, it is humbling to hear that their experience of this church has been a positive one. It is gratifying to know that our members hunger for a good experience of church and somehow this has worked for them. They want to find something lifegiving and nourishing to the soul.
On the other hand, I am reminded of the simple fact that Old St. Pat’s has not cornered the market on how church is to be done in this world. We have many good things happening and we should be proud of the many diverse expressions of this mission. But we are not the only ones “doing” church in the world today. It is a big church and what “works” here may not necessarily work somewhere else!
What intrigues me about today’s Gospel story from Matthew is that life is about taking steps forward, even when it is not easy. In the midst of new beginnings, transitions, fears, the unknowns, and loads of uncertainty, I believe our journey is about reaching out into our future, knowing that the Risen One grasps our hand and is there to catch us. I do not think, in the way our life moves, that spiritual fulfillment is about replicating one expression of church. In our moving forward, perhaps the best strategy is taking what has nourished us and sharing the best of that experience with the world that waits to welcome us.
Keep enjoying these summer days,
Fr. Tom Hurley