Today was--for St. Boniface only--a very special day: we marked the anniversary of the dedication of St. Boniface Church, October 26, 1865. By Church law, this anniversary is for every parish a solemnity, of very high rank; thus, it can be transferred to a nearby Sunday, provided it is Ordinary Time.
So that is what we do, in each parish, each year. (St. Mary has its anniversary in June.)
What made it a little more special is that, for the past few years, St. Boniface has undergone some improvements. We had a bunch of repair and maintenance issues when I arrived, and the parish and I put together a list of projects, and we raised the money needed to get them done. Now we're working through them. And in the past year, some of those have been very noticeable: the stained-glass windows are in process of being restored, the exterior had some important work done, and some other projects not as noticeable.
So, it seemed like a good time to take note of some of that, and thank all who helped: so we had a Parish Brunch, after the 10:30 am Mass, to which all were invited, especially those who helped in the "Rebuild St. Boniface" fundraising effort. We made sure those who were out of town got an invitation mailed to them. And then, after the brunch, I gave a tour to anyone who wasn't up-to-speed on the projects, or had questions.
My homily for this Mass was different, because the readings were different. The readings all emphasize the sanctification of both the house of God, and the people of God--the twin themes of all the readings and prayers for the anniversary of the dedication of a church. My homily recalled the visit of Archbishop Purcell in 1865, and what an arduous journey that must have been in his day; and what an act of faith on the part of a small group of families, with limited resources, at a time when anti-Catholic bigotry was significant. I pointed out that about that same time, an anti-Catholic mob had burnt Sidney's Catholic church to the ground!
The Gospel was about Zacchaeus, short of stature, eager to see the Lord, and the Lord singled him out and said, I need to stay in your house today. And I pointed out that all the readings I'd chosen (although I hadn't noticed this when I chose them) talked about outsiders: the first reading, from Isaiah, talked about non-Jews being drawn to God's house; and Ephesians talked about being strangers no longer. And the reason God wanted this house of St. Boniface built was to bring in the outsiders, to make them "insiders"--part of his household. And we've been doing that all these years, but our mission remains the same.
Also, just as Jesus said to Zacchaeus, I need to stay in your house--he asks us to provide this house for him--he needs to be here. And from the first time the Holy Mass was offered in this church, Jesus has been in our house! What a thing to say! Yet it's true, for every Catholic church in the world! Jesus is in our house!
So when we wonder about our times, and we feel discouraged because of the economy, and we fear for the future--maybe we hear about the Mayan calendar and wonder if the world is going to end in 2012!--we might remember the act of faith of those who first built this house, and all that has happened since; and we might just remind ourselves: Jesus is in our house!
The task described by the readings--of bringing in the outsiders--is still ours today. Who will invite them? We will. Where will they sit? Right beside us. And what will we tell them, to get them to come? "Jesus is in our house!"