Time to count Catholics. It ain’t Easter without Alleluia!

Catholic churches all over the country are packed to the gills this Easter.  Chairs in the aisles.  Ties and spring dresses and fancy liturgies with new songs.  A lot of people the regulars don’t know.  A lot of regulars displaced from their spots in the pews.  A few regulars going back out to their cars and driving home, harumphing about the injustice of it all and hoping God will take credit for the other 51 Sundays when most of these people were watching football or mowing the lawn…

Religion.  It can be so exhausting.

But there are millions of Catholics on Easter Sunday who find their way back to church because…, well, because that’s what you’re supposed to do.  It isn’t Easter without Alleluia!

A bishop from South America gave a great explanation on a seminary retreat many years ago that I have never forgotten.  He used the Solar System as a metaphor.  The Sun, of course, standing for the Son.  Pretty simple, that one.  Then there are the churches that orbit around the sun.  Each on its own path.  Each fairly predictable.  Never touching but affecting the other planets in the most delicate, infinitesimal ways.  Around some of the planets orbit moons. 

Moons maintain an intimate relationship with their planet.  Their mass squeezing and releasing the planet’s crust like a nervous child holding a parent’s hand.  Causing tides and triggering earthquakes.  Moons are the regulars in the church.  They’re comfortable and dependable, until riled.  And then they really do cause earthquakes in the crust of parishes.  Their collective anxiety, anger, joy and serenity all push and pull the congregation back and forth.

Then there are comets and meteors.  These are the people who suddenly show up, blast in with ideas and energy, and then often blow away as quickly as they came.  Sometimes they are just sleepy comets that regularly cross the path of the church every year–around Christmas and Easter, ususally.

The Easter count is huge in large part because of these comets and meteors.  But the church is designed for the moons of the world.  Homilies and song choices are predicated mostly on the people there every week, or even every day.  The relevancy of the church to these people lies in relationships with other church members.  This usually even trumps whatever pastor or vatican fancy is bubbling away in the community or world.

But to the comets and meteors who pass through the church on Easter, the church really is all the crap that’s bubbling around in the press or in the grocery store aisle.  Likewise, to the greater world, this Catholic church is defined by where our passion is visible.  Unfortunately, that passion seems hell bent on sexuality and procreation, out of step with world issues and global needs.  And so becomes ever more irrelevant.

Imagine a world-wide Catholic church lobbying, educating and organizing for health care, not focused on abortion or condoms, but on the whole of caring for our people.  Imagine a Catholic church championing a sacrament of marriage blind to gender, but instead committed to love and fidelity and children.  Imagine a Catholic church censuring politicians for torture, unjust war and murder.  Imagine all the Catholic schools becoming educational oasis for the poor and disabled, a church whose campuses shifted from private school to public services to seniors, disabled, poor people in their communities.

The Christ upon which our church is founded would be as exasperated with today’s church administration as He was with the pharisees and saducees in His time.  A prophetic church can change.  I believe that.  I pray for that.  I’ll try to stay focused on not only what needs to be changed, but to what we must change.


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