OUR HEARTS ARE RESTLESS...
One of the things I appreciate about being in residence at Saint Mary’s in Maple Park is the opportunity to go into the church to pray in the cold weather without having to put on a coat and go outside. I have been blessed in my last three assignments (St Thomas Aquinas in Freeport, St Peter Cathedral in Rockford and St Andrew in Rock Falls) to have had the same opportunity: just go through the door which connected the rectory and the church, and there was the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, always available and waiting for people to come to Him.
In Rock Falls there is the added blessing of a perpetual adoration chapel, where someone is present twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, offering prayer and presence to the Lord who is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament. He always fulfills His promise,
Behold, I am with you always, even to the consummation of the world
[Matthew 28:20]. This chapel, named the Divine Mercy Chapel, is very special for it was planned and built by the volunteer labor of men of the parish. It opened on March 7, 2005. I am writing this column at St. John the Baptist Church in Savanna on the 12th anniversary of the opening of the chapel in Rock Falls.
St John the Baptist church is very beautiful (unconnected to the rectory, however), and I spent some time at prayer in the church, praying part of the Divine Office and doing some reading. And toward the end of it I had one of those “lightbulb-going-on” moments that I’m sure all of you have had at times in your life.
While reading an article about G.K. Chesterton, I was struck by something the author of the article wrote: “It is natural for the man who has abandoned religion to seek the truisms of religion somewhere else” [Delicia: Maria Corelli (1855-1924), Dale Alquist, GILBERT magazine, January/February 2017, vol. 20, no, 4, p.15].
How true that is. We have only to look around us at what is happening in our culture. Perhaps the most obvious place where we find this phenomenon is our society’s obsession with sports. (I write this as someone who enjoys sports, plays golf frequently, watches sports in person and on TV.) For many people, their passion for sports smacks of religious traits: sports stars are idolized as if they are secular saints, the results of their games bring heartfelt joy and grief to their fans (the word “fan” is a shortened form of “fanatic), and the sports schedules determine the way in which they plan their lives. I am also often amazed at how newspaper sports reporters, radio and TV announcers and commentators on sporting events express such anger and hostility toward sports teams and individuals who fail to provide the success desired by the fans of those teams. It’s as if the winning and losing of sporting events carried with it the fate of the world!
Your religion is whatever has ultimate priority in your life, and in reality that can only be God, for nothing else is able to satisfy the deepest yearnings of our hearts—and those yearnings will be directed toward something: either God or something else. The devil tempts us to aim for something else (sports, power, wealth, fame, pleasure, etc.). God says,
“I am the Lord, your God; you shall not have strange gods before you.”
I fear that for many people, their attachment to sports has become their religion.
As you move through this Lenten season, you might want to spend some time on thinking about your own priorities in life. The great Protestant evangelist Billy Graham once said, “Show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I’ll tell you who your god is.” What does your calendar and your checkbook tell you about who your god is?
Let us pray for those who have abandoned religion and are seeking the truisms of religion in places which can lead them away from, and not toward, the destination for which we have been created. Lead them back, O Lord!