February 3, 2019 – A View From the Rectory Window

There are shelves in the sacristies of our churches that hold a hundred stories. On them are rosaries, some losing their color, counted by unknown hands. There are thick glasses, for eyes that need help to pray. There are ancient prayer books, small and concise, their leather covers cracked with age, their pages beginning to fall loose. Some have holy cards tucked inside. Some have pictures inside. Some of them have faded notations written inside in pencil, in a foreign language—personal reminders that, like everything else in that drawer, are now missing.

Welcome to the parish’s lost and found.

Invariably, after Sunday Mass, an usher will bring back something that ends up on that shelf. An umbrella, a baby bottle, a purse, glasses, even a wallet. Most items get picked up later that day. But some are never claimed, and sit there, quietly gathering dust.

It is the things that seem to be most needed, and most precious, that end up being misplaced. How do some people get by without their glasses? Without medicine or inhalers? Some of the prayer books are worn down by hands that have turned over their pages a thousand times. How could someone leave behind something that was so clearly a vital and treasured part of a life?

You’ll also find there: baseball caps, and children’s storybooks. Once in a while, someone forgets a cell phone or car keys. It’s amazing what we allow to slip through our fingers.

Why is it that so much of what we have ends up being taken for granted, neglected, lost?

It happens in friendships and marriages, between parents and children.It happens, too, in our faith.

Christianity requires attention. It demands something.

As Chesterton famously put it: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Living “The Way” requires things that we humans inherently shun: sacrifice, humility, martyrdom, pain.

No wonder so many of us end up misplacing our faith.

The Gospel promises that it is worth the effort to hold onto our belief, to keep it from slipping through our fingers. But it takes attention, care, practice.

Practice. There’s a reason, I think, why we practice Catholicism. It is something that needs to be done, again and again, like scales on a piano. Try it sometime. Practice prayer. Practice love. Practice reverence. Practice silence, and simplicity, and fervor. Practice finding God in the details of daily life—in the office, on the sub-way, over the kitchen sink. Even, perhaps, practice it in church. Practice keeping track of the thousand small details that together form our faith, and that touch our lives with grace.

Paying attention to those things, I think, can keep faith from ending up on a shelf, lost and waiting to be found.

Fr. Pete