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The cornerstone

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A parish, then, is more than brick n' mortar, stained glass, a pulpit and an altar. It is the cornerstone of our lives. It offers community, education, and the spiritual energy people need to confront an increasing fluctuating and disorienting world. It is the one constant in our lives.

Kevin and Marilyn
Ryan

Change is the commodity of our times. All around us the world is spinning. Ideas and fashions and trends are whizzing by. Boston is being transformed before our eyes. The landscape, the skyline, the familiar streets and buildings are morphing into something unexpected. The shops turn over, banks come and go, neighbors move away. Remember Filenes and how convenient it was for all manner of needs?

Modern life is exciting. It is breathtaking. And it is disorienting. Old companies, like Kodak and Radio Shack, have all but disappeared. Apple comes out of nowhere and suddenly is the richest company in the universe. New technologies spring up every month, changing the way we communicate with one another. Where in modern life is there stability?

No other era has seen the pace of change like what we are experiencing. The largest share of the U.S. work force -- millennials, 18-34 years of age -- don't plan on staying in their jobs for long. Last year the median job tenure for 20-24 year olds was less than 16 months. Major companies no longer count on their employees to stay the course. The young embrace change and perhaps they are well served by moving around.

For older folks, change is now part of the fabric of our lives but, again, it is not always welcomed. Some of us find this constant shifting both mesmerizing and frustrating. We struggle with the latest gadget or social media vehicle, while our children and grandchildren take it into their lungs and minds like fresh air.

Change, itself, is neutral. But the new spirit of "change for the sake of change" or "the new, the fashionable" is dangerous when it upends the cultural sphere.

We have recently witnessed eons old understandings of marriage legally stretched to include the relationship between two people of the same gender. Locally, we've seen a largely Catholic state legislature deny our Church the noble work of promoting adoption. Unable to call a relationship between two people of the same sex a marriage, the Church is disallowed by the State from continuing its historic work. And more change is in the wings.

In a sea of shifting ideas and trends, one's parish is stability. St. Peter, our first pastor, was given the mission. "Thou art Peter and upon this rock, I will build my Church." A parish, then, is more than brick n' mortar, stained glass, a pulpit and an altar. It is the cornerstone of our lives. It offers community, education, and the spiritual energy people need to confront an increasing fluctuating and disorienting world. It is the one constant in our lives.

Ten years ago, when several parishes faced closure, it was a blow. Parishioners tried valiantly to keep their spiritual home from becoming a new condominium site. The "condo ghost" still haunts Boston Catholics, when they drive by condo developments where previous generations were catechized, married and had their babies baptized. Another staple of one's life was shaken.

St. Lawrence, our parish, once slated for closure, was among the fortunate. The archdiocese found a creative solution and St. Lawrence became a chapel, a satellite of St. Mary's in Brookline, though we still encounter people who are surprised we are open. In fact, we are bigger. The church has also become the home of the Anglican Use congregation, St. Athanasius. They arrive shortly after our 9 a.m. Mass. The former rectory is now an overflowing house of priestly formation for the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary.

Our parish did catch fire during the struggle to remain open. We held a respectful 24/7 vigil. Many families brought in sleeping bags and took overnight duty only to dash home to shower and change for school and work. Our sign-up sheet started with just a few bold souls. Then it grew to nearly everyone in the parish of all ages and professions. People brought books and newspapers, but they remained unread. We talked. Parishioners we knew only by sight became close friends. It was a blooming in the midst of adversity. And it is one staple in many lives.

It has been a decade since the announcement that we would reopen and on June 7th the parish will celebrate. The mood will be festive, with good food and spectacular music. St. Lawrence, our patron, was martyred on a grill. He is also the patron saint of comedians, so we know he won't be too offended that it could be a barbecue.

Two weeks later on June 21, Cardinal Sean O'Malley will be able to observe the vitality of St. Lawrence when he celebrates Mass at 9 a.m. The cardinal will witness the commissioning of Redemptoris Mater seminarians who will be becoming acolytes and lectors. He will also witness how painful and dramatic change transformed a parish into a rock of spiritual stability.

KEVIN AND MARILYN RYAN, EDITORS OF "WHY I'M STILL A CATHOLIC," WORSHIP AT ST. LAWRENCE CHURCH IN BROOKLINE.

Kevin and Marilyn Ryan, editors of "Why I'm Still a Catholic," worship at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline, Mass.

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