From the Pastor: Physical and Spiritual Handicap Door Openers
Last week you saw the framework for the new handicap ramp leading into the church and social hall. This week you can see that the concrete has been poured and is setting up. Perhaps by next weekend we will be given the green light to use the new ramp and steps. So the next step is to get the doors fixed up. So far we have not had any suggestions for which companies to use (or to stay away from!) so we are probably just going to have to randomly choose a number of door companies or handicap specialty shops to come by and give us a quote. Once we have expert advice as to what should be done and what needs to be done, I will be able to let you know what the cost will be. Already, though, several parishioners have stepped forward with donations specifically for the new doors and door openers. Thank you for your great generosity!
One of the nicest things about the new ramp is the visible problem which is visibly solved. People with wheelchairs previously had no choice but to go around the church to enter by means of the ramp which was as far from the handicap parking spots as possible. Visitors had an especially difficult time even finding our crazy access. Those with walkers or canes, for the most part, couldn’t make the long walk around the building to access the ramp, so everyone saw them struggle to get up and down the stairs on a regular basis. They were the visible reminders that we had a problem that needed to be solved. Everyone was constantly afraid that some frail and/or elderly parishioner would fall down the steps. Many prayers were silently prayed for their safety! But what about the invisible needs? During these last days of Advent, I hope you will consider that there are many other needs, some of which are much more important than the physical challenge of getting into a church building, which Our Lord may be asking us to find solutions to as well. I will mention two such things. First of all, how many of our parishioners might be alone for Christmas, with no family or friends to share the day? They generally won’t tell anyone that they will be alone so it is difficult to see the need. You might feel silly asking someone, even if you know them to be a widow or widower, if they need a place to go for a family celebration of Christmas, afraid that you will hurt their feelings if they have plenty of family and friends around but you forgot or never heard that part of their life’s story. You might not even know how to ask, assuming that any “outsiders” from church might feel out of place if your family is opening presents and they, being invited to join you at the last minute, have no gifts to give or receive. But maybe, just maybe, you will help someone with an invisible handicap called “loneliness” if you work up the courage and love to ask them to join you and your family for Christmas. Look around. Check your memories. Is there a new, young couple in town who might be missing extended family for the first time? Is there a man who lost his job and is struggling to put together a feast for his wife and kids? Is there an older couple whose kids and grandchildren are scattered through various states and who would actually love to put up with your little ones running around making a mess? Maybe you could invite them to join you for Christmas! Build the friendship ramp!
Another invisible need might not be found so easily, yet is even more important to fix. How many of you have neighbors and/or coworkers who have left the Faith? Perhaps they seem to be doing well, have a good job or are enjoying retirement, have good health, a nice family, maybe even a better car and house than you, yet have turned away from God and His Church. To them, Christmas once had meaning but now it might only be an excuse to give and get presents or to have a nice dinner somewhere. They no longer believe that they need a Savior, so His birth is nothing more than an excuse for a holiday. If they still believe in Heaven, they assume they will get there no matter what. Whether they lost Faith due to scandal, or due to their own lack of commitment to prayer, or because they had no real Catholic education (even if they went to Catholic schools), or simply on account of busyness with everyday cares and wanting to sleep in on Sundays, they have the mostly unnoticed but crippling disease of apostasy. They have, without, most likely, ever verbalizing it, given up all rights they once had, as baptized members of God’s Family, to Eternal Life in Heaven. Is there any way that you could build a spiritual handicap ramp for them? Maybe a ramp is too much of an undertaking right away. Start with just spiritually opening the door for them as you did here physically with the parishioners with walkers. Invite them to Midnight Mass with you. Bring them a church bulletin each week. Enthusiastically tell them about the Latin Mass or Adoration or even the potlucks. Sometimes all they need is someone (you!) to show some interest, to open the door, to give a simple invitation to come and rediscover Christ’s love.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka