March 14, 2009 – Our Sacred Space

This week was another week in which we saw more senseless tragedies unfold with the shootings in Alabama and Germany, and of course the shooting of the Pastor at the First Baptist Church in Maryville, IL.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families and friends.  The shooting in Maryville gave me the most pause because it was fairly close to our area and because the shooting occurred in a church, in a place that is supposed to be “sacred space,” in a place where we are supposed to be able to take sanctuary from the rigors of our everyday life.

In my religion class one of the videos that I show the kids is the scene from the Gospel where Jesus enters the temple area and finds that it has basically been turned into a marketplace.  Jesus became very angry and began to turn over the tables and chase away the vendors.  This scene kind of “shocks” the kids because they have this image of Jesus as a kind, caring and gentle man – which He normally was – but this scene puts an emphasis on the value that our “sacred space” should hold for us.

It is hard to imagine the thought that someone would walk into our church with the intent to harm or kill people.  But incidents such as the one in Maryville change one’s thought process from “nothing like this could ever happen here” to “well, what if something like this did happen here?”  There are no easy answers to this difficult situation.  I’m sure very few people would want to walk into church and have to walk through a metal detector or have to empty their pockets.  I know personally for me, I have a paranoia of metal detectors.  When Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis 10 years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the event.  As is my luck, as I walked into the America’s Center I set off the metal detector and was whisked over to the side by security.  I don’t think we ever really did figure out why it went off – whether it was my watch or belt buckle or something else.  I could just see the headline – “Chester man arrested during once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Holy Father.”

But seriously, any thought of having to erect some type of “security” measures would completely ruin the notion that this space of worship was “our sacred space.”  Unfortunately, we now live in a world where real-life tragedy can spill into our space, but our faith as Christians motivates us to believe that this space will always be sacred, and that if someone did try to ruin the notion of this concept, that it can indeed be re-claimed, just as the members of the Baptist Church in Maryville are doing, and just as Jesus did in the temple.  One of the positive things I saw from this tragedy was that many of the congregants they interviewed still spoke of a message of hope that their church would continue to grow stronger, and they also offered the hand of forgiveness to the gunman.  Another sign that God’s message will always rise above all else.

All of this talk of church reminded me that there is a group of dedicated guys I don’t believe I have ever recognized – our ushers.  Each Mass they keep us in our place, collect our offerings, do the counts for the Diocese, and many other functions that go unseen.  Thanks for all you do guys!

Finally, just a little website note.  This past week I was in contact with one of my fellow “webmasters”, the gentleman from Our Lady of Lourdes in Sparts who maintains their website.  He has linked our website to theirs and also added the cluster page on our website to their links.  We also have the link to their website on our links page.  Just another way we can maintain contact and exchange ideas with our neighboring parishes through technology.

By the way, the term “webmaster” is a commonly used term for someone who maintains a website.  I certainly did not assign myself that name.  “Webman” or “webdude” would certainly suffice.  “Master” I definitely am not.

Enjoy St. Patty’s Day this week.  Peace.

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