By Connie Clark
A building really can become a living thing. I watched it happen.
It began in the wee hours of a Saturday morning last month. I was part of a team preparing for the day. Busy with last minute tasks, we barely had time to glimpse the glorious sunrise reflected in the building’s windows, and the tendrils of fog curling around the cross on its roof. All signs of life–glorious Southern California summer life–but we weren’t there yet. Not really.
Then someone unlocked the doors. We peeked inside as the building began to fill with people. First to arrive were the musicians, all smartly dressed and humming Fauré. Next came the altar servers in brand new cassocks. Then came countless others: lectors, cantors, Knights, flower bearers, candle lighters, incense bearers—our parish family.
And still, the building slept.
As the deacons, priests, and bishop processed in (right on schedule, mind you), and the choir and congregation sang a jubilant All Are Welcome, I slipped inside and stood in the back. The bishop blessed the altar and deposited relics. A group of women ceremonially cleansed the altar table. Priests anointed the walls with sacred chrism. People carried flowers and bowls filled with incense. Candle lighters climbed ladders (yes, ladders—straight from Home Depot) to reach the candles. And in a burst of joyful music, the lights came on for the first time. With each symbolic action, the church slowly seemed to awaken, until finally, the altar was ready for the Consecration.
Now, at the Supper of the Lamb, there was no mistaking it. This was no longer simply a building. It had become fully alive, a Catholic church. After years of planning, designing, fundraising (lots of that), building, and waiting, our parish family was celebrating our very first Mass in our new church.
If you’ve never attended a dedication Mass, put it on your bucket list. Make a point to go to at least one in your lifetime. You’ll remember it forever, along with the words of Pope Francis in his general audience on June 26:
“It is not we who ‘give God a house;’ rather it is God himself who ‘builds his house’ in order to come and dwell among us, as St John wrote in his Gospel. Christ is the living Temple of the Father, and Christ himself builds his spiritual house: the Church, not made of material stones but rather of ‘living stones,’ which we are.”
Our parish community is excited and energized by our beautiful new church. But Pope Francis has a challenge for all of us:
“I would now like us to ask ourselves: how do we live our ‘being Church’? Are we living stones or are we, as it were, stones that are weary, bored or indifferent? Have you ever noticed how grim it is to see a tired, bored and indifferent Christian? A Christian like that is all wrong, the Christian must be alive, rejoicing in being Christian; he or she must live this beauty of belonging to the People of God which is the Church. Do we open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, to be an active part of our communities, or do we withdraw into ourselves, saying; ‘I have so much to do, it isn’t my job!’? The Lord gives all of us his grace, his strength, so that we may be profoundly united to Christ, who is the cornerstone, the pillar and the foundation of our life and of the whole life of the Church. Let us pray that enlivened by his Spirit we may always be living stones of his Church.”
This is my prayer for my parish, and for yours.
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This post originally appeared on The Catholic Writers Guild Blog
Connie Clark is the author of several books and articles for Catholic families and educators. Visit her website at www.connieclark.org.