Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Healing a Lame Parish

This remarkable article by Will Seath at Fare Foreward is truly inspiring.  It's about how the "Benedict Option" - also known as "Intentional Communities" - also known as our Faith - is lived out. 

It's about how our culture is being reformed.

The story begins with Chris Currie, who grew up in a Detroit neighborhood where parish life was what parish life should be.

"Everybody in the neighborhood was Catholic, and everybody walked to church. There was still a sense of people living together, not sequestered in their own homes.”

... but ...

When Currie was ten, his family moved to the distant Farmington Hills suburb. The nearest parish was a spartan church six miles away that Currie now describes as “a sacramental dispensary.” 

Most of us, dear readers, frequent parishes that are mere "sacramental dispensaries", which is a contradiction in terms, for a truly sacramental life is Incarnational - God among men, as opposed to "drive-thru" Catholicism, or "Jesus-to-Go".

Our faith is meant to be lived - and lived in a community that creates a living culture - but how do we live it in the midst of an anti-culture that is more and more anti-christian?

Currie and his community have the answer.  Their transformation of Hyattsville, Maryland is detailed in the article, but one of the cornerstones has been the transformation of the Parish school.

Michael Hanby, who spearheaded the transformation of the quasi-secular school into a truly Catholic school, explains ...

"We were convinced that you can’t educate as if God doesn’t exist—or as if the Church weren’t integral to the meaning of humanity and the West—without falsifying history and cultivating illiteracy. We knew we wanted to make our children heirs to the great tradition of Christian humanism.”

This is the mandate of other solidly Catholic schools across the country, including Chesterton Academy in Minnesota.   In Maryland, the transformation of the school and the neighborhood brought about a transformation of the parish, which is detailed in the article.


The importance of a solidly Catholic parish community for the support of Catholics and for the evangelization of the culture at large cannot be overlooked.  No less a writer than J. R. R. Tolkien wrote about this many years ago.

In Tolkien's short story Leaf by Niggle, a creative transformation is wrought by the combined efforts of Niggle the artist and Parish his neighbor.  Parish is lame and narrow-minded, like most of the parishes around us.  But through a combination of the artistic vision of Niggle and the neighborly love the two men have for one another - in other words, through the unlikely marriage of the visionary with the ordinary - of extraordinary creativity and ordinary daily life - a bit of the Kingdom of God is brought to bear, and Niggle's Parish becomes a kind of prelude to heaven.

As Chris Currie says ...

I think it was probably a lot like that in ancient Rome, even when Christianity was overtly persecuted. Folks looked at their Christian neighbors and said, ‘This is attractive.’ And honestly, unless we form these communities, how are we going to evangelize society? It’s not going to be based on intellectual propositions abhorrent to most Americans today. They’ve got to experience people living a Catholic faith in their everyday life. Where better to do that than an urban community developed around the common life?

1 comment:

Jason said...

For a great look at St. Jerome's parish school, check at this EWTN News Nightly story: