The Requiem of a City Church


Leonard Urban

Pastor, Church life, Congregation, Pope, Spirituality

RELIGION > Christian Ministry > Pastoral Resources RELIGION > Christian Life > Spiritual Growth

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Reviews: “In a first-rate follow-up to his thought provoking Look What They’ve Done To My Church, Leonard Urban paints a poignant portrait of the decline, fall, and extinction of an urban church and parish as seen through the eyes of a young and brilliant assistant pastor.” – Dr. Roger B. Culver Author and Professor of Astronomy at the Colorado State University

“The book promises to be a touching tribute to a former parish and its pastor, Fr. Willy.” – Fr. Gabriel Brinkman, O.F.M., Managing Director, Franciscan Herald Press

“It provides an intriguing look at parish life. I found it both interesting and poignant.” – Sr. Gretchen Hailer, RSHM, Catechetical Consultant, Loyola Marymount University

“A most appealing trip into the past, of people with their church. A Requiem yes, but living on in story and memory.” – Patrick Kennedy, Parish Priest, Denver, Colorado

From the Preface: This is the story of a church, perhaps nondescript and unremarkable at first glance. It could be almost any church. There are so many. They all seem somewhat the same, spires and stained glass, pews and holy fixtures, dim light and ominous silence. It is the tale of only one church, whose life is short, as contrasted with the longer view of things.

But the story, like all stories, unfolds to reveal that nothing is ever ordinary, casual. Its characters, a melange of that symphony of players, whose parts fall together into completion and harmony, offer the stuff of what is deeply human. There is no perfection here. Of course not. There is no true story of perfect people. There is only a kind of unconscious and even unintended beauty. Wherever people gather one finds a degree of tension, the heave and sway of existence. It is from such erstwhile mix that grace comes alive, the simple state of disarming bloom. What we thought was rare and unusual are actually common, cutting across our lives and proving our own worth. Every story is a gift, which teaches us who we are, inside, deep down.

To personify a church, give it flesh, a heartbeat, the anxious hope for immortality, is an effort not to let so much life and energy die. It is a longing in all of us. St. Philomena becomes our advocate, speaking our intense yearnings, the wish to stay, even after we have passed beyond what is sensible and concrete. God ought to offer us at least that much, the assurance that we need not leave, fall so quickly into oblivion, be swept too precipitately into the corners of sleep with no waking.

Let St. Philomena tell her story then. It is the story of all of us and leaves room for our own chapter and verse. I hope you find yourself there, not in one, but in all the characters, from Harvard Brophy, to Marigold to Tom and Billy. I hope you will let Willie into your heart, not begrudging his capricious character, the bravura which so aptly covers his gentle spirit. Treat the Assistants kindly, men of good intentions, of whom the Church and theology have asked perhaps too much, sometimes impossible tasks of response and virtue. Welcome, if you will please, those all too human individuals who peopled the pews of that sacred precinct. Ask no more of them than you would of yourself, who struggle and sigh, surmount the hurdles of faith and practice, find God in your own way and end with the hope of peaceful consolation.

Here then is the story, a soft spiration heard faintly over a larger breathing, a sound inside a voiceless silence, a written word which fills a spotless page. It is a simple offering, asking nothing more than to be heard, and told again, this time in your words, to be passed on.

Blessed are the people, the saints, who believe, even the unbelievable, who come and come again, whose lives are written down, in testimonies that life is good, God’s gracious gift, to be seen and heard and never forgotten.

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