Our family vacation recently took us to Greensburg, Kansas. Greensburg, you may recall, was wiped out by an enormous tornado a little over a year ago. St. Joseph Catholic Church, like all the other churches in town, was completely destroyed. They currently worship in a temporary modular building as they await the completion of their new church building.
As my family and I went in on Sunday morning, we found our way to a folding chair in the back row. Things were so different from what we are used to. There are no pews, no beautiful windows, no Stations. It is stark. Don't get me wrong; the people of St. Joseph have made it as nice as it can be. But it isn't how most of us are used to seeing church. But this is church for them.
I felt privileged to be in their midst. These have truly suffered the loss of all things. I worshiped with people who had lost their homes, businesses, and church. Yet, you wouldn't know it. There was smiles and laughter and hugging and visiting and pleasantries as if life was completely normal.
There is a longstanding tradition within the Church that it is through suffering that we are made holy. We become more like Jesus as we patiently endure suffering. I felt that I was seeing some of that as I worshiped with the people of St. Joseph.
How would I do in their circumstances? I honestly can't imagine I would do as well. I have so much. I have a nice home, church, community, clothes, everything. I have so much. They have so little.
It is more than giving them things or money. They truly do need our prayers. But then, I think we need their's. We, who are so prone to be infatuated with our things, are in greater danger of deifying them. Do we live for this world or the next? The answer cannot be both. It truly is one or the other. Suffering the loss of all things is terribly difficult, but it does help one come to grips with this vital truth of the spiritual life. So who is truly the poorer? I wonder if it isn't all the rest of us who are in need of the prayers of the saints in the making of Greensburg.
Be thankful for all that God has given to you, and then swear off any temptation to cling to it too tightly. Learn to suffer the loss of all things in your heart so that if the day should come that you are called to do it in deed, you will be ready.
May the Lord bless the people of Greensburg and the parish of St. Joseph!