Editor’s note: The following is an expression of hope, not certainty. Any resemblance to real people, places, or years is entirely coincidental.
Remarks by Father Geoffrey Schultz after the Rite of Dedication to the Church of St. Bonaventure, in the Year of Our Lord 2082.
The heart of the Community of St. Bonaventure is complete. I want to thank everyone for attending the inaugural Mass, especially those who had to stand outside. Perhaps we already underestimated how large it needed to be! But what a wonderful problem to have!
Ten years of toil, blood, sacrifice. Ten years of hardest labor, the type this land once forgot. Not only did you donate money and time, but you gave your lives to see our vision completed. You wanted something that would outlast you, and God willing you have it. If anything allows us to see God, it is to make a sanctuary for His Grace.
Before I forget, I would like to acknowledge a few special guests here this evening. First, from our sister community in downtown Detroit, Father Joseph Rawl from the Community of Solanus Casey, is here to join us for the next two months. He will be working with us in updating the curriculum in our academy for the next school year as well as training our teaching staff. Father Joseph wanted me to express his gratitude at the abundance of food donated.
Secondly, I would like to recognize three young men entering the Monastery of St. John and two young ladies entering the convent with the Felician Sisters. Jacob Morrow, Steven Fowler, Raymond Burris, Anastasia Githrow, and Alexandra Schafer, congratulations. We’re all so proud of you.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge a young member of our community who is not with us today. As you well know, Maxwell Koenig is not of this world anymore, because he is among the stars. He is now with the Community of St. Ignatius, on the path to settling the first Catholic community on Mars. Please keep that brave man in your prayers.
What a day, and what a change from a town that seemed at the end of its life. The jobs left, and with them the people. Yet there was so much potential. The land was good, the space plentiful, and the homes still in good shape. Surely, it could be something more. The Community of Solanus Casey thought so.
Now, when a traveler comes to our community, he will see the Cross rising high above our town and know that this is a communion of believers, banded together by baptism in our Lord Jesus Christ. When he sees the high stone walls of our Church, he will understand what perseverance entails. When he sees the spires rising up to the heavens, the carvings of saints, the light entering through gorgeous stained glass windows depicting our Lord’s mission on Earth, he will understand the Holy Spirit dwelling within. When he enters the church to see the Holy of Holies, resting in a tabernacle still not worthy of Himself, but the best us lowly men could do, he will know what faith is. Perhaps that traveler will join us here.
Let us remember the time, not so long ago, when marriage was a meaningless piece of paper, easily voided. When most children grew up not knowing their fathers. When the scourge of usury defined our financial systems. When people were all empty individuals, living in a community where no one even knew his next-door neighbors. When the schools tried to sexualize our children, and faithful schools became too onerous for the average working-class believer. Most of all, let us remember when faithful Catholics had to wonder if their Holy Father even believed.
I lived in that time, barely. I remembered even my loving, devout parents wondering why in Heaven I would want to become a priest. Even to them, the Gates of Hell seemed to have won. They saw themselves as fighting a hopeless battle. Through it all, though, they would not flee.
When I entered seminary, I began to notice a change. Everyone there had his eyes wide open, yet the bitterness I saw time and time again in faithful circles had disappeared. Gone was the naïveté that kept many from fighting the good fight, yet also gone was the age that kept the faithful from getting to work.
Oh, many bishops didn’t like us. We had more resistance from within than outside. They accused us of being clericalists while pushing their novelties on an ever shrinking congregation that cared to listen. They accused many of “breeding like rabbits.” They accused us of lacking compassion while hiding the depravity and abuse inherent in their own ranks. They tried to suppress many of our efforts through passive-aggressive means, as they didn’t have the guts to suppress us altogether. They found their coffers empty while organizations with unwavering devotion to our Lord and a shoestring budget grabbed the attention of the sheepfold. We denied the allure of the lukewarm and became a true Church Militant on Earth. Slowly, then rapidly, our ranks increased.
I ask that you remember those who came before you, the faithful who worked tirelessly so you could have the deposit of Faith unsullied. I ask that you stop by the cemetery of your faithful great grandparents and say thank you, because they did not live to see the spring. They did it for you, all of you here.
Let’s not fail to see that we have so much work left. Now is the time for the love of Christ to triumph. It’s with great joy that I see so many large families. I thank everyone for his generosity, financial and otherwise. I appreciate that even the wealthiest among us understand that their time is the most important gift of all, and so many of you are giving freely, whether it be to our community gardens, to the craftsmen who give their time to shelter the homeless, to the artists who donate their skills to this church and school – and share their talents downtown, ensuring that no one is deprived of beauty.
Not to be forgotten are the city planners, who understood what a community entails and what a community needs to thrive. They understood the need for proximity, to be able to walk freely without fear of traffic. They understood a community needs to be able to sustain itself, with farms, livestock, and means of getting supplies. They understood the importance of trust, the risk of the wealthy and the poor becoming their own castes and how to circumvent that. They understood the value of creating a safe haven for children to freely explore. Most of all, they had the understanding that the Faith is still the center, and what gives energy and vitality to a community. We come from a long line of faith communities, and I venture to hope that if St. Paul walked into our town, he would feel at ease.
Yet we need to look beyond our town. Always, we are part of a larger mission. As we grow, our mission will grow with it. I’ve been informed that our governor is declaring, in no uncertain terms, that every authority on Earth, including this state, is subject to the authority of Christ. Abortion is, thank God, now criminalized. Our communities are now hundreds strong and still expanding. We are all connected to one another, learning, communicating. Yet nothing can be better than simple human interactions with the people closest to you.
Things are turning around, but vigilance must remain until Christ comes. Though pornography is illegal, it is still pervasive in our culture. There are so many in this world who still have not seen God’s grace. It is spring; let us be glad. The land is ripe, and we need good laborers to till it.
God bless you all again, and thank you.
Nathan Thelen grew up in a town with a single stoplight and now lives in deep suburbia. A software developer by trade, he works primarily in the aeronautics and automotive fields. Outside work. he spends his time with racquetball, biking, reading, and never-ending home improvement projects. His main influences are Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Chesterton, and Aquinas. He lives with his wife and two young boys.