The longing for real purpose and meaning in our daily lives is exacerbated by the volume of the popular culture, offering nothing but more of the same -- and that is never enough.
Walking a pretty Black Lab around Charlestown several days a week gives me the wonderful opportunity to greet lots of people. I only wish I could remember all of the names! And this September I hear people making comments like, "Father, we have been away from church for a while and we want to come back." Obviously I am happy to welcome folks back into the church and look forward to seeing them.
Some of the persons with whom I speak are young parents, and the arrival of a child in the home has set their lives upside down. Now with some semblance of a routine emerging, returning to Sunday worship seems more possible. Others with whom I am speaking are young adults who have been away from church for a while. The transition from university and early stages of work now accomplished, they are looking for more depth and a re-connecting with their faith.
In addition to many visitors who find our beautiful church on Sundays, there are always new residents of the Town, and many are couples who have re-located here after years in the suburbs. Once getting settled, they find their way to Saint Mary's and we happily welcome them too. As the sign on the front of the Church building says, "To those who have recently moved into the area and to those comfortable and nourished here -- Welcome to all."
There is something about September that speaks to all of us "to get-back-to, to start-up-again, to return-to and re-connect-with" many parts of our lives. For whatever the reasons in each person's journey, this returning can well include active practice of our faith.
A surprising percentage of people consider themselves "spiritual" and yet will say they are not "religious." Without analyzing this distinction, it seems to me the withdrawal from a praying community comes at a cost. Fact is, we need each other and we hunger for community. Loneliness is at epidemic proportions in our city and beyond. The longing for real purpose and meaning in our daily lives is exacerbated by the volume of the popular culture, offering nothing but more of the same -- and that is never enough.
Maybe this is the September to come back. If you have been away for a time, come back, re-connect. You will be amazed at how right it feels. God is waiting.
And if you are reading this and it does not speak to your lived experience, I am certain it makes you think about someone you know. Pass the article along to another -- your thoughtfulness would be such a gift!
Father James Ronan is pastor of St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena parish in Charlestown, Massachusetts