This week is going to be an exciting one for my parish community. Our church was built in the 1960’s and as a result, our tabernacle has always been hidden behind the organ pipes out of sight of the congregation. This week Jesus moves to the center of our sanctuary, and he will be arrayed with a beautiful baldachin, or canopy, which will display an icon of the Holy Spirit.
Since the youth of the parish will have the longest memory of this event, some thoughtful parishioner came up with the idea that the children and teens of the parish should pray for the project and raise funds for the Holy Spirit icon on the baldachin, so that they could give a gift to the parish they could remind their own children of in many years. To try an accomplish this fundraising goal, youth were encouraged to bring loose change and coins over a five week time period. They were given suggestions for gathering coins, such as doing small chores, looking for change in the laundry, couch or car, or asking parents to deposit pocket change in their jar. Then individual jars were emptied into class jars and the class jars emptied into one large, clear chest. The chest is so full (and heavy) now that the cart on which it sits had to be reinforced, and the sides of the plastic cube that holds the money are bowing. We haven’t counted the money yet, but the youth of our parish have done a great job!
The funny part about a fundraiser like this is how completely dependent on adults the children are to make it happen. Our director of liturgy, along with several choir members emptied their own coin jars at home and stashed change all over the school that the children were instructed to pick up and put in their fundraising jars. I was given bags of change from the committee chairperson for my 8th graders, who “won” money for our class by answering Bible questions (we can only hope those coins made it into the jar!). With my own son who attends the parish school, I allowed him to sort and deposit money from our change dish and even contributed a dollar in pennies I took off the hands of a grateful cashier at the bakery outlet.
The Holy Spirit Icon fundraiser has made me reflect on the Communion of Saints. People often wonder why we go to them for favors and graces when it all just comes from God anyway. Why not just skip to the source, right? Certainly we can, and it would certainly seem easier. Yet God is a loving Father, and is not known for doing things the easy way. Our parish leadership could have hit up the parents of the kids in the parish for $5 each for this project and gotten the funds needed. But, by asking the funds to come directly from the children, some beautiful things happened.
First of all, our children were able to take ownership of the project. They got catechesis on the tabernacle, and they prayed and then were able to offer an action of their own for it. When we pray for favors through saints, they become more involved in our lives. They take ownership in us. My Confirmation saint was St. Veronica, whom I chose rather flippantly. My renewal in my Catholic faith, where I accepted it as my own happened at a Life in the Spirit seminar… at the only St. Veronica’s parish I’ve ever stepped foot in. By allowing the saints to give out graces for him, God provides us with heavenly friendships that begin here and can remain for eternity.
Secondly, the children grew in generosity. I almost cried when my son took his Halloween money from his grandmother and threw a dollar bill in his jar. He normally has a hard time parting with old Math homework, much less money. So when he then threw in a $5 bill? Wow. (Later I saw another $5 bill in the jar and was really touched until I realized he’d started giving away his infant sister’s money!) The saints have already been perfected in heaven, but for those of us on earth, being entrusted with the task of praying for another can be a deeply humbling experience that stretches us in generosity. It gets us all out of ourselves and intimately involves us in another’s sorrow or joy. I recently met some friends-of-friends at a wedding shower and when the hostess realized I was the woman from church that had had two babies die, she was almost in tears. She has been praying for me for the last several years! Suddenly my adorable little girl was more than just a cute baby—she instantly became for this woman, as she is for me, the long-awaited answer to prayer.
Finally, by allowing graces to be passed along through his Saints in heaven and his “saints in training” on earth, God fortifies the whole Communion. One of the biggest strokes of genius in this whole fundraiser was having the youth themselves give a short little blurb about the project at each of the masses. Many comments were made from adults on how great the kids did—and all they did was read a 30-second script! One lady, who wasn’t even a parishioner, gave a $20 bill to the project because she was so inspired. So it is with the Body of Christ. We need to hear each other’s stories. We need to hear about it when our prayers for someone were answered, because it strengthens us to keep praying for our other intentions. We need to hear about the miracles God did through the saints while they were alive and the miracles he continues to do through them, because we need to find hope in their way of life. We need to know that the blood of the martyrs was worth shedding, because each day we are faced with a hundred new little opportunities to die to ourselves and we too need to remember that those sacrifices are worthwhile.
The best part of the Communion of Saints, as I picture us all spending eternity swapping stories and jokes of what life on the other side of the veil was like, is that all of it ultimately glorifies God. Just like the adults in our parish smile on our youth, genuinely proud of all they accomplished in these five weeks, God smiles on the merits and graces we earn. But no one is fooled. We know who has financed every penny of grace in our own treasure trove (the Church). When our children grow up, sitting in those pews with their own squirrely toddlers, they will reflect on this project and how much the adults in their lives loved them in order to help them “give” that icon as a gift to their own kids. And someday, God willing, we will spend our eternity marveling in a similar way on the generosity of God.
Copyright 2010 Libby DuPont