St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Restoration of the Church

(Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Sunday November 9th 2014)

 

Dear friends, I hope nothing is being sold today at the back of the Church. I am afraid that someone will grab his belt or her purse and kick everyone out… Remember that the reason we sometimes sell things at the back of the church, in the gallery called “Narthex”, is because the Narthex is not part of the sacred space. The sacred space is where we are now. That is why the washroom is also in the Narthex.

 

Also, in the Narthex we could still talk, but in a low voice, since the doors are usually open and people who want to pray may be disturbed. In the sacred place we should not talk, unless it is necessary. The temple is meant to be the place to talk to God. Of course, it is fine to be friendly, but we should always keep in mind that the atmosphere should be a silent one, an atmosphere of prayer. If we don’t talk to God at Church, when, where will we talk to God?

 

I want to say a few words about the restoration of our Church. Let me begin with the words of Pope Benedict XVI in 2008: “Today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth. But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony.”[1]

 

Our parish is getting ready, with the help of God, to finish the mural restoration of our Church. The largest part has already been done (sanctuary and sides) but as you may clearly notice, it remains the main vault. It is approaching the 120th anniversary of the consecration of this building, and so we want to celebrate this event, leaving to future generations a beautiful St. Michael’s church, as our fathers saw it, as our fathers wanted it to be.

 

There are many reasons for which it is important to care for our Church, to make it beautiful and to preserve its artistic value. Actually, the Church must be a sign of God’s presence among us, but it is at the same time a sign of ourselves, of how important God is to us, and what we think of him.

 

St. Michael’s church is great because God is great. St. Michael’s church is great because the faith of our fathers was great. This church speaks to us with the faith of our fathers. They spent money, work, talents and courage to tell everybody around and to tell their children: “Our faith is important, our God is great”. And because our faith is important, because we love God, we need to take care of our neighbour also.

 

Some people may say that we should take care of the poor, not of the Church. But why not take care of the poor and the Church? Why not to take care of the poor first, and then the Church? St. John Chrysostom said: “In saying this I am not forbidding you to make such gifts; I am only demanding that along with such gifts and before them you give alms. […] First, fill [Christ] when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adorn his [Eucharistic] table. […] Do not, therefore, adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all.”[2] That is why I invite our whole parish community this year to be more generous than ever to the poor. Those two beautiful towers need to be a visible sign for every poor person around that there is someone who takes care of them: God and we will be the hands of God.

 

Remember that the Catholic Church has always been in the forefront of charity and social justice endeavours. St. Laszlo (Ladislas), the first son of Bela, King of Hungary, was born in 1041, and ascended the throne in 1080. His life in the palace was most austere; he was frugal and abstemious, but most liberal to the Church and the poor.[3] We do not separate the care of the Church from the care of the poor, because what moves us to care for the poor is the same love we have for God. For Catholics to take care of the poor is a commandment. But we do the commandments only if we have faith, only if God is important for us. A beautiful church is a reminder of the commandments, of the transcendence of God, of the future judgment we will face, of the mercy of God to the poor and sinners, and in this way it reminds and promotes Christian values.

 

To restore the murals will make our Church more attractive to those who have no faith, or those who have faith but are far from Church. They will remember the story of Jesus, they will know the faith of our fathers, they will wonder why there is so much effort in a building like this. And they will probably find the answer in the depth of their hearts: “There must be something else. So much simplicity and beauty, so much harmony and peace, needs to come from somewhere else.” If they find God, they will have life, and they will in turn become new lovers of the poor. A beautiful church cries aloud “God is great! God is important for us!” and by doing so, we may help so many lonely, desperate and depressed people to find a meaning for their lives. Remember that the greatest poverty in our country is the lack of meaning and of values, the loneliness of so many people, the lack of affection and support.

 

There are many other cultural, artistic, educational, historical and even economic reasons to restore this Church. We are responsible for it in front of the Church, the broader community, our children and our ancestors. May the Lord grant us the grace to give him a worthy sacred place, but first in our hearts. May he make our hearts a sacred place to welcome the poor, in whom we find Jesus.  –Fr. Andrew



[1] Benedict XVI, Homily on November 9, 2008.

[2] St. John Chrysostom, Homily on the Gospel of Matthew (Hom. 50, 3-4, PG 58, 508-509).