"Thank you for doing the dishes"
"Well… they are OUR dishes"
Today I was hosted by my first religious community, and this dialogue began our conversation as we participated in a true American Catholic tradition, watching Notre Dame football.
The work of serving one another changes when we change our perspective. It isn't yours or mine, but OURS. Such is the nature of religious community and certainly of the one I have come to visit this evening, the St. Catherine's Convent of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ in East Chicago. The community members do a variety of work, but I am here because of my Godmother, Sr. Magdalene who lives here and works at Nazareth Home with Sr. Barbara. Nazareth Home is a house for infant children who are medically disadvantaged, normally because they are born addicted to drugs or alcohol. Sr. Barbara oversees the house, which employs 11 workers, a host of volunteers, and cares for as many as 6 infants and toddlers at a time until they can be returned to the care of their families or other states systems.
People sometimes wonder why I am Catholic. So do I. The Church is human, corrupt. It is racked with scandal. We have palaces of gold to worship God in neighborhoods where the poor shiver in cold doorways begging for change. It is a frustrating organization. As one of my mentors recently said, "I love the Church, but sometimes she is a whore." I associate regularly with those who have been disenfranchised by the Church because of their gender, their sexual orientation, their marital status. I have friends who remain upset at a church that has abandoned them through annulment processes that seem to favor those who can afford to get a Catholic lawyer to find a loophole. The Church has stood on the wrong side of many situations, including political parties, wars, and inquisition.
So I come to this convent and remember why I'm Catholic, and wish more people could see. Sr. Barbara took care of me when I went to a pre-school in Belleville, IL. Now she takes care of children that have no one else to care for them, and she does so out of a covenant of love. That's the difference.
The government can create homes with budgets that are at the mercy of politicians who change those budgets based on upcoming elections. These homes can function, but they cannot legislate love, and love is what these children need most.
This covenant of love is the citadel of the Church's teaching. This most cherished possession is not the Church itself, and often is overlooked. At Nazareth Home, love for the children who are in need is the active expression of what Catholicism is really about. The poor are human and deserve others to recognize their dignity. When I come to a place like Nazareth Home, I remember why I am Catholic.
These are not merely your children, or someone else's children. They are OUR Children. And here, the Church lives its mission as they are taken care of.
Please visit the pictures I have taken of Nazareth home by clicking here. The picture are of the house, my godmother Sr. Magdelene, and volunteers taking care of the children at Nazareth Home or visit the Nazareth Home website.