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Belonging to the Church

During our lifetime we belong to certain clubs and organizations. Membership in those groups comes with varying expectations and calls for diverse qualifications. In addition, we consider ourselves part of other groups such as fan clubs and consumer groups. We are made to feel part of “a family” because we drive a particular car or use a certain product or watch a particular show. Belonging to such diverse groups may confound and confuse our understanding of what it means to be part of the Church. I hope I can clarify.

Belonging to the Church is radically different from being part of a political party. When we are members of a political party, we carry its flag, toot its horn and fight for its agenda. We believe in change brought about by protests and rallies and when someone falls out of line, we feel obligated to throw the individual out of the group. As members of the Church, we cannot resort to political rallies and pressure in order to get the Church to be where we want her to be. Even though we have every right to make our concerns known, we believe in the Holy Spirit Who alone can effect change.

Belonging to the Church is very different from being part of a consumer group. The only requirement to be a part of a consumer group or a fan club is that we pay our dues and support the star or the product. There are no other demands made on us. The ties that bond the members together are very loose and easy. On the other hand, when we are members of the Church there are clear expectations – to know the faith, to love the Lord and to live by the standards of the Gospel. We need to do more than pay our dues.

Belonging to the Church is radically different from being members of an exclusive club. Only those who qualify are admitted to the club. All members are similar other socially or economically, and most often subscribe to similar political views. The Church is not exclusive. We do not qualify and we are not worthy to be part of the Church. Even though as members of the Church we share a common faith, we are different on many other counts. We can have different views and hail from varying levels of the economy. The Church embraces everyone and welcomes everyone.

Belonging to these secular groups is usually our choice. We choose to be part of an organization or club because its views and agenda coincide with our own. Being part of the Church is not our choice. It is a gift that has been given to us, unsolicited. In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “It was not you who chose Me; it is I Who chose you.” I grew up in a predominantly Hindu nation and yet my family was given the gift of Catholic Faith. I don’t know why. On my dad’s side, my family has been Catholic for over four centuries and on my mom’s side for at least a couple of hundred years. Being part of the Church is not our call; it is God’s.

Often we are confused about our membership in the Church because we have a mistaken notion of what Church is. Many think that the Church should be Club Med where well-toned men and women can show off their perfect, bikinied bodies. The members demand quality control. The Church is more like Cook County Hospital where we are all sick or healthy in different degrees. We all need the Divine Physician. There is no such a thing as quality control. We are not worthy but the Lord makes us worthy by calling us.

For me, being part of the Church is more like being part of a family, God’s family. When we were baptized, God adopted us into His family. In Jesus we become brothers and sisters. We did not choose to be part of our natural families. In the same way, we were brought into God’s family without our approval. Especially for us, cradle Catholics, this fact is so true. We cannot say that we are no longer part of our family. We may even walk away. Still we are part of the family. We may call each other terrible names, argue with each other and even hurt each other. We still remain family. This is also true in the Church. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic! People may abandon their faith or say that they no longer support the Church. The community never considers them outsiders. We can disagree and yet we are still part of the family.

I feel compelled to write this column because of what is going on in the Church right now. The Body of Christ is reeling from the atrocious crimes committed by some men of the cloth and yet there is in-fighting going on within the Church. It would seem that both conservatives and liberals are using this crisis to push their own agenda. It looks as if while the father is in the hospital in serious condition the children are fighting with each other. This is the time to heal the Church, to undertake serious reforms so that these awful things do not happen again. This is not the time to create further division.

I plead with you to work for unity. Let us pray for the Church. Let us pray for the leaders of the Church. May we have the strength and courage to clean house! May we listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit so that God may bring about radical and genuine reform!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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Contact Information

St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068


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Phone: (847) 825-7605
Fax: (847) 825-5186

Mass Schedule

Sunday

7:30 a.m. - Upper Church
9 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
10:30 a.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel
12 p.m. - Upper Church
5:30 p.m. - Upper Church

Monday - Friday

6:25 a.m. - Upper Church
8:30 a.m. - Upper Church

Saturday

8 a.m. - Upper Church
4:30 p.m. - Upper Church & Holy Family Chapel