Skip to content

In praise of the parish

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

Parishes are important. In any larger discussion about the role and direction of the church, we can't forget that the structure and mystery of the church are actually experienced in the local faith community. The parish is the place where church happens, not as an abstract ideal or as an administrative structure but as an expression of real human lives, a rich but frustrating work in progress, diverse lives united by common hungers and hopes.

The local church comes in many forms: small rural parishes, old urban core parishes, large suburban parishes, merged parishes with hyphenated names, new immigrant or mixed bilingual or trilingual parishes, campus parishes, prison parishes, military base parishes, far-flung mission stations and virtual communities created by outreach to the sick and homebound.

The phenomenon of small Christian communities - both within parishes and independent of formal structures - suggests that size matters too. Plato recognized that community ceases where personal relationships become impossible. A kind of sensus fidelium - the intuitive grasp by the laity about what works and doesn't work - will continue to shape parish life, especially where megachurches are proposed as the solution to the priest shortage. Catholics who want a personal scale or ecumenical sharing or a deeper justice focus for their lives will continue to form the kind of communities they need.

Just as small, distinctive neighborhoods are a corrective to urban size, small faith communities nourish parish life. They arise out of felt need, especially among parents determined to pass their faith along to their children. They share a history with the house churches that nourished early Christians.

Baptized people are meant to be in community. It is a loss to all of us when some feel so discouraged that they leave their local church. We know those (or have been those) who, for varying reasons, have needed to "go away for a while" or who have found safe haven and nourishment in other communions. We know all about the sometimes depressing realities of many parishes - the coldness of some Catholics; the lethargy or heavy-handedness of some pastors; the sometimes deadening homilies. Yet, like the anonymous Christian, the anonymous church exists everywhere. People get together over coffee to talk about life. They tell stories, rediscover the scriptures, break bread, drink to common purposes and to making a difference in the world. And like the formal church they have left, they become two or three gathered together, disciples on the road to Emmaus, coming full circle.

Here are some challenges. Parishes need such pilgrims. The most important evangelization effort needed in the church is to welcome home her own. But this will happen only if we also welcome the de facto diversity of the church as a mystery that defies homogenization, head-counting, personalized envelopes or even regular attendance. Because change will happen only from within, self-exiled Catholics of all stripes ought to belong to a parish - a challenging one, not a comfort zone. It is a good way to stay in the game, at the family table where all the arguments about the future, good and bad, are taking place. But this will be possible only if we accept the mess, the imperfect, painful process of being human together.

Because the essential work of the church is reconciliation in the world, this starts with us, at the altar, where forgiveness is the miracle we witness in the death of the Lord. Parishes are centers where this grace waits to become flesh in us.

See you in church.


The Christophers ,
- ,



More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,716

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.

Saint of the Day logo
Prayer of the Day logo

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2024 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2024 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.