Monday, September 17, 2012

Consubstantial and No Room for a Coffin

Monday greetings from the sunny Midwest.

Yesterday at Mass, I moved my location to sit with some of the older African-American women in my parish. I love these ladies!

Well, the woman next to me asked me a question right away: "Jerry, in one simple sentence, can you tell me what the word 'consubstantial' means in the Creed?" Yikes! My response was to say that a simple definition is that the Father and Son, two of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity share the same substance, the Son is "one in being with" the Father. She said, "Oh, I know that, then why did they have to change the words if the meaning was the same? I read and write poetry and I just feel that these texts should flow; even after all this time, when I get to the word 'consubstantial' in the Creed, it makes me stumble. It just doesn't flow."

That was the first part of the conversation. The second part was quite different. She told me something that I have heard at least four of our elderly African-American women say since it was announced that Saint James Parish will have a new church building built. She said, "I am hoping that they get this building thing going; I want to be buried in a church building; I don't want them bringing my body into this hall." (We are currently worshiping in a Catholic school auditorium.) Funerals cannot even be held in the auditorium because we simply cannot get a coffin into the building!

So there is an understandable level of anxiety for some of our older parishioners. It has been a sad thing that during this, our time of "exile," we have not been able to provide basic Catholic services for our parishioners. Cardinal George and the archdiocesan officials named that as a central problem in our current situation. I hadn't given it much thought, mostly because I have been focused on Sunday liturgy at our parish. Providing a place to celebrate a funeral Mass is a basic thing that most Catholics don't even think could ever be an impossibility in their parishes. For us, it has been different. And it makes me think of a wonderful future for our parish and for our parishioners.

Please keep Saint James in your prayers as we move forward.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


catholic traveller said...

Good post. I like your African-American ladies. Here we worry about having a priest. There you worry about having a Church building. Actually, we need a new building, too, but the community is too poor to even begin to consider it. Glad we're all hanging in there. Prayers for all.

FJH 3rd said...

It's interesting that they think "consubstantial with" doesn't flow. It has the same number of syllables and rhythm as "one in being with".

The only word in all of the new, improved translation that I find sort of unpoetic is "incarnate of". But the concept is so central that I don't know what other word could be used.

Best of luck with the planning for the new church. What an exciting time for your parish!

Siobhan Maguire said...

When we renovated our church, we modified the original plan, eliminating a chapel which would seat 40-60, for budgetary reasons.

There was not enough support among parishioners for this additional space, though we did our best to persuade that for smaller gatherings (daily Mass, many funerals, small prayer groups) it would be ideal.

During the renovation period, while we were out of the church building, we sometimes used a room on campus for funerals (many times we went to a neighboring parish) that comfortable seated about 50-75.

After the renovation period, many many many people remarked on the loss of the smaller space for funerals, asking if we couldn't continue to celebrate funerals in that room. Of course, the church is the proper place for funerals.

All this to say: if you have any plans to include a smaller chapel in your plans, let our parish's loss be an object lesson for your parish.

I too like your African-American ladies. I would sit next to them more often if I were you!