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    A View from the Pew
    Sunday
    Aug072011

    Urban Gem 

     Urban Treasure

    I left the house today in very poor spirits. No zip, no drive to celebrate the liturgy in a new place in a new city with new people. Why am I doing this? What was the point? God is always working and always yanking my chain. A neat surprise awaited me.

    Today, I found a precious treasure of a Catholic church in the middle of an inner city. By the pastor’s own admission “the poorest parish in the diocese’ in an impoverished section of a depleted city, I uncovered a jewel that goes primarily unnoticed because of its diminished status. Who knew? I thought as I gazed at the gorgeous Romanesque interior, with Byzantine ornamental influences adding exquisite dimension of line, texture and rich color. My eyes gazed on the magnificent marble columns and I followed their linear pattern until I reached the church’s ceiling, which commands attention for its artistry. The stained glass windows depict the life of Christ and situate themselves as independent works of inspired art with a cohesive theme. I drank in the architecture of the space just as I arrived in a sweeping rain storm, where the wind blew me through the imposing double doors and propelled me into the church. I located a seat near the center and waited.

    The pastor possessed a stunning tenor voice and sang the dialogues (very rare, in my experience) accompanied by a very competent organist who executed a well-planned musical liturgy. The presider preached well and led us with the confident yet unassuming air of someone who loves the liturgy. How refreshing, I thought; a man who knows who he is and what he does and loves and lives it really, really well. And it shows in the life of the parish.

    The parish soup kitchen feeds the hungry every Monday and operates through the work of a volunteer staff who cook and serve the food to whoever shows up and cleans up afterward. Want to feel grateful for the goodness of God in your life? Sign right up and grab a pot or a broom. As God as my witness, you’ll never complain again.

    The parish pantry opens every second and fourth Monday of the month, again run by volunteers. Parishioners stock the shelves with non-perishable items. Containers in the vestibule remind the parish community that our duty as Christians mandates our duty to feed the hungry. And they do, even though some of these parishioners may be hungry themselves. Phenomenal.

    Despite the extremely low budget numbers, the parish managed to fund raise enough funds over three years to send two students and the director of religious education to Spain for World Youth Day. Three log books with the pictures of the pilgrims invited messages from anyone who wanted to share a thought or a prayer, so that the travelers could feel that the parish would accompany them on their prayer excursion. Evangelization at its best. Godspeed.

    Today, Elijah hears God speak in a tiny whisper of wind in the first reading. This morning, God breathed new life into me in an urban treasure of an inner city parish that sighs with the poor, preaches the good news to the weary and does something about it and manages to stay up and running because of an inspiring pastor who digs Jesus and gets others, young, old, poor, disabled, gifted and run of the mill to love him too. That’s the best kind of treasure hunt I know.