Thursday, September 21, 2017

Picking Dandelions

I wrote this for the local paper a couple of weeks ago.  In rereading it, I decided it should go here too.


Two coinciding events have served as points of reflection for me over the last couple of weeks.  First, at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, we have nearly finished a project in which we have replaced our pews and flooring.  Both were necessary simply from the perspective of standard building maintenance.  Both were desirable inasmuch as these new pews and flooring are more beautiful than what we had previously.  Second, I presided over a wedding at the parish of St. John Cantius in Chicago.  I do not exaggerate to suggest that it is one of the most beautiful churches I have seen on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.  The building, completed in 1889, is the fruit of the sacrifice and dedication of Polish immigrants.  Upon arrival in Chicago, before building their own homes or schools, they built their church.  As typical in the baroque style, the Church is filled with arches, magnificent stained glass, and a gorgeous high altar.  The main aisle is wood inlaid with various Christian symbols.  Thick wooden doors separate the nave from the vestibule.  Everything is covered in gold.

Why?  Is such grandeur necessary?  Should it be done?  These are, in part, questions about which Catholics and various groups of Protestants have disagreed for centuries.  To my mind, however, beauty is an essential element in Christian worship.  The Polish immigrants who built St. John Cantius and the Catholics who helped refloor our Church here in Martin did not do so because a vain and avenging God demanded as much.  Rather, moved by the knowledge that God gave his life for the sake of man’s salvation, and inspired by his infinite love and mercy, these people desired to offer something in return.  They wanted to give something back to God as a demonstration of their own love and gratitude for him.  They knew, of course, that no human construction would ever be enough to repay the debt of gratitude owed to the Lord.  But they gave anyway, acknowledging that when we live lives in which all good things come to us as gift, we must give in return.

This sentiment should motivate our worship each day.  The way we dress, the way we speak, the way we sing, even our attentiveness to the Scriptures and to the sermon are ways in which we offer a little back to the Lord.  It is not as though we are doing any of these things to earn his love.  They are, instead, responses to his love.  At issue is not whether God will love or accept us.  Of course he will!  He will love us even if we don’t dress well, if we don’t sing, or if we don’t participate.  At stake is what we do in response to God’s love.  An analogy helps demonstrate my point:

A small child will bring a bouquet of freshly picked and slightly crushed dandelions to his mother as a spontaneous response to the love he receives from her.  His mother’s life is little improved by a gift of a fistful of weeds, but she recognizes the love that motivates the gesture.  The child fulfills a need of his own to reciprocate the love he receives from his mother.  The mother loves him no less if he doesn’t bring her flowers, but she does appreciate the gesture.  With God it is the same.  Psalm 116 asks, “How can I make a return to the Lord for all he done for me?”  In short, we can give nothing that is commensurate with what we have received.  But that should not stop us from trying. 


  1. Beautiful, Father -- thank you for posting!

  2. One of the corruptions of the "dandelion" analogy is those who think that it's ok to use plain wooden vessels for the altar, or that it's ok to wear casual clothing (t shirts, flip flops etc) to Mass, and other things of that ilk. They would put out the best and wear the best for a human dignitary but not for the Real Presence of their Creator?


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