This is the Church

2

The other day, I found the Church in my mail.

Not email, but the snail-mail variety — old school. The envelope was hidden among the pile of mostly junk, and since it bore the return label of our kids’ school network, Blessed JPII Catholic Schools, I figured it was yet another notice of lunch money due, a report card reported, or a meeting mentioned.

But when I opened it, I found something that took my breath away — my father’s name.

memorial

Robert Beauclair, the man who helped bring me into this world and taught me how to fish and write.

The memorial came from a teacher of my daughter’s and his wife; money had been donated to the school in honor of my father, who left us Jan. 11 of this year.

They didn’t know my father. He lived three hours away and stayed close to home these past years as he suffered through the effects of diabetes. They likely didn’t know he’d been reared on Catholic schools, and how his vivid recollections of those days with the nuns had made me wish, as a younger parent, that our kids could experience the blessing of learning in a faith environment, too.

Dad would have been touched knowing someone had thought of his grandchildren enough to donate money to their school and their Catholic education on his behalf, even though the donor and honoree had never met.

As I read the card in the minivan at school pick-up time, the tears began to flow. And in that moment of profound gratitude mixed with joy and some sorrow, too, the thought occurred to me: this is the Church.

The Church isn’t what we see and hear in visual sound bites on the evening news. It isn’t even the beautiful buildings in Rome, nor the astounding art housed within them — good things in their own right that point us to the divine. The real heart of the Church is the Holy Spirit working through its people.

This doesn’t just happen. We aren’t inclined, as human beings, toward generosity. Something must prompt us to reach out in love to a stranger, and that something must be so strong, so compelling, that it would nudge us to think of someone we’ve never even met, and not only that but respond in love.

Before losing my dad, I’d read of money donated on behalf of so-and-so to thus-and-thus organization, and I didn’t really understand it. But I get it now. It’s a big, big deal to honor the dead in this way, and in so doing, to love the living. Because I know this gift, though in his name, wasn’t just for my father but for those younger ones who exist in part because Dad helped give me life. It was borne out of hope and love — two things the Church does very well despite what the world says.

We get so caught up in the negativity of the world and the Church’s necessary response that it’s easy to forget the essence of who we are, our common source, and how our fellow brothers and sisters, people of God all, are spreading light to one another one card, one hug, one simple word at a time.

Perhaps I need to make this a regular offering. Consider this, then, the first installment of, “This is the Church.” If you have examples of how the Church has brought life to your world in quiet but powerful ways, I’d love to hear them to share in a future post!

Copyright 2013 Roxane Salonen

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About Author

Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website, roxanesalonen.com

2 Comments

  1. I found “the church” several times early in my married life. First, shortly after joining our current parish we lost our first born child at 5 1/2 months of the pregnancy. We didn’t know people, except to nod in a friendly way-definitely not by name. I received a letter in the mail from one of those people, who wrote of her similar loss and shared her willingness to listen. Even after 13 years, her compassion still touches–as I now work with her older daughter and we have spoken of her mother’s loss as well as my own. Then, the shared joy with the birth of our second child 17 months later. A mere 4 months after his birth, I was severely injured and spent 2 weeks in the hospital and 6 weeks at a nursing home as I was unable to walk, carry/hold my son, or even get into my home. The visits I had (I learned lots of people’s names through that!) in the hospital, as well as the deepening connection with our priest, has shown me the Holy Spirit and deepened my faith over time. I have grieved with many of the “church ladies” as they lose their husbands, and they share in the joy of our last three children, including the special joy of a baby girl who surprised us when we thought we were past bearing more children….

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      Sally, beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing these “finding the Church” moments with me! 🙂 God really does love us so much and will do much to reach us, and He works through others in our lives. God bless you in your sorrows and joys!

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