22 March 2014

That in which we glory...

A few days ago I happened to find a copy of something I said in July of 1983 to the very small group of people who would form the initial membership of the parish. That date was just a month before the establishment of Our Lady of the Atonement as a parish. Ours would be the first parish to be established through the Pastoral Provision of Pope John Paul II, and although unknown at that time, laying the foundation for the present-day Ordinariates. Many who had been journeying with us had left us just a few months before this. They got cold feet. They had second thoughts. Whereas there had been about fifty of us, we were down to eighteen people, counting the children. We had come together from a variety of Episcopal parishes, and we had left the beautiful places where we had worshipped, where we had been married, where our children had been baptized, and from which our beloved dead had been commended to God. We were tired and discouraged, and there was a need to enhearten the few who remained in our little group. This is a portion of what I said:
"We're almost home. We're coming with very little. We have no church building of our own - in fact, we have very few possessions. It's a daily reminder that we are the Church. The Church is made up of people, not buildings and things. We should be careful that we do not build a false pride out of our humble situation, but we really do identify with St. Paul when he wrote, 'God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' I believe we have an exciting future ahead of us, and we'll grow in numbers and we'll have more in the years ahead. But the lesson we learn at this point in our history is the most important - that whatever our future holds, we must never glory in anything save in the cross of Jesus Christ, in the atoning work which He accomplished upon that cross."

A lot has happened in the more than thirty years since I spoke those words to our little congregation. Indeed, our parish has grown beyond anything we could have imagined. We have a large and beautiful church. We have a magnificent school. The Catholic witness and the influence of the parish goes far beyond the borders of the archdiocese. The numbers of our people and the size of our facilities all continue to increase at an amazing pace. But those are not the things in which we glory. I believe it is all happening because we have lived and witnessed in accordance with the words of St. Paul: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."