What Is This Place?
One day I was in front of the church when some neighborhood children stopped to talk to me. They were ten or eleven years old and seemed very bright. We talked and had a few laughs. Then pointing to the church, they asked who lives here? What’s this building? When I said it was a church, they said, “What’s a church?”
Imagine, they were asking, so what is this building? I told them to look on the front. It read DOMUS DEI – PORTA COELI, which means in Latin: “House of God / Gate of Heaven”.
Why didn’t the boys know that? This beautiful building, the cross, holy images, walls blessed by the bishop, an altar consecrated with bones of saints lying beneath. A place of prayer and Holy Sacrifice. Why didn’t they know that?
What is a church? Somehow we may have failed this holy place. We have failed the Church — we have failed Jesus if even children have no idea what a church building represents!
A Catholic church is consecrated and holy. It is a house of God and a Gate of Heaven. It has been made holy by the prayers of the bishop, daily Masses, the prayers, works, the tears of all who pray here. Yet someone asks: What is a church? What is this building?
Day after day this church, this house of God, stands empty and no one proclaims “House of God”. Maybe we have failed to give the answer by our own lack of enthusiasm, example, devotion and respect.
Mother Angela Truszkowska, founder of the Felicians, would come to church before the doors were even open. She attended Holy Cross Church in Warsaw, Poland. Do we come on time, let alone early?
St. Casimir would kneel for hours on the stone floor in worship in the church because God was in the tabernacle. We have padded kneelers.
St. Andrew Bolbola and St. Stanislaus of Krakow died terrible deaths, not for the art, music, sermons, liturgy, entertainment, or “what they got out of it”. They died because the True God is here.
When I visited Poland, churches were filled. People on their way to work would kneel before the church as they passed. People on the trams would cross themselves when they passed a church.
What is this building to inspire such devotion? God comes on our altar, it is a miracle. We are never alone in front of the tabernacle.
So, what are we to do? We must make ourselves more aware. We must invite people to our churches, be more friendly, show greater respect, talk to others about church, teach our children church manners, explain our customs, ceremonies, symbols, and lead a life that is Christian. People will want to come to the source. We must live a life of Christian love, joy, dignity that should be the hallmark of our Church!
Are we doing that? If we are, then why are there boys who don’t know what this building is? Why is there someone on this street who doesn’t know what a church is??