Reborn & Repurposed

The final Sunday of Advent turned out to be such a special one for me.   I chose to drive past our home parish to attend 5:30 mass at a chapel owned by another parish as part of its school complex.   It was once the building for a large Baptist congregation.   The Catholic parish bought the building when the Baptist church built a bigger building.   It has since been decorated, blessed, and dedicated for Catholic worship.

There's something about this chapel to which I strongly relate.   Maybe because it, too, has been reborn for a Catholic life and purpose.   It still holds remnants of its Protestant, or non-Catholic, past.   The Crucifix hangs in what seems a striking blue frame to some.   To the knowing eye, the crucifix hangs above what once served as the baptistry, the pool where baptisms as public signs of accepting Christ, not sacraments of regeneration, occurred.    The baptistry is now framed by the crucifix, a symbol and the Tabernacle that contains the reality to which the symbol points us.   The large stage that once held the preacher's sermon and choir's music as the center of worship now provides ample room for two lecterns, the choir, celebrants and attendants, statues, floral decorations, and a beautiful tabernacle.    The screen and projection system now help Catholics still learning the new order of the mass.   Kneelers have been added onto the pews, spaced so that it is easier to bring knees to floor rather than cushion.   It is all still useful, just re-purposed.   It didn't have to be thrown out and everything started anew.   It could be rededicated, blessed, and serve as the foundation for all that would come.

I grew up unchurched in the heart of the Bible Belt.   When Christmas and Easter came around, the name of this wonderful Jesus filled conversations, even school lessons, if not from faith, then from superstition, or maybe a little of both.   As Flannery O' Connor wrote, "while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted."   In the springtime came the revivals of the both the indoor and tent varieties.   Enthusiastic classmates would go around at recess asking, "Have you been saved?" of every child they encountered.    I went home in confusion, asking if I had "been saved."   Tell them, "You're a Christian," was Mama's reply, although we only attended Church of Christ services on the three Sundays each year when my Grandparents visited.   They didn't even visit every year, as they grew older and less able to travel.

At Christmas and Easter, I especially longed for Jesus.   I longed for that baptismal pool, first as a result of peer pressure, then later, as a sure need and desire.   I longed for the services, concerts, activities of the Christmas season and the rest of the year that brought fellowship to my Protestant friends.

Last Sunday, I sat, a baptized Catholic.   At home, with the Word and the Word Made Flesh in the Eucharist as the the focus of our worship.   I had the fellowship that comes form joining in the same mass with my fellow sinners, fellow brothers and sisters, around the globe.   Saved, still being saved, and hopefully, by the grace of God, I will be saved.   No need to throw out the good from my past.   No need to remove myself from the good people in my life who aren't Catholic.   Like the chapel--like me--it's all been reborn, blessed and repurposed.


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