God Is Living in Our Cities

Flickr/Let Ideas Compete

Photo credit: Flickr/Let Ideas Compete

The Pope said so. The quote is hanging on our wall.

God is living in our cities. Really? Don’t the theologians say that God is everywhere? And if we were looking for someplace in particular to find God, most of us would think places of quiet natural beauty, like a stream in the forest or the sun reflecting off the surface of the Chesapeake in the early morning.

What makes Francis think that God is living in our cities in any special way?

Well, our cities are where our culture is. Whether you want pop culture such as a rock concert or high culture such as an art museum, you find it in the city. The ballpark, the stadium, the orchestra hall, the sculpture garden, all are in the city.God is Living summer 2016a

And our cities are where humanity makes progress. Granted, the internet has made location a little less important in this regard, but proximity and personal interaction still matter in the interplay of ideas that creates progress, whether in philosophy or in medicine, in technology or in business. It is no surprise, therefore, that most of the great universities, the great research institutes, the great teaching hospitals, are in our cities.

And, quite simply, our cities are where our people are. Over the past few centuries, as the population of our planet has grown, it is our cities that have grown even as our rural populations have declined. If God loves people, God has to love our cities, because that’s where the people are.

But I think that above all these reasons, Francis would say, God is living in our cities because that’s where the poor are. Of course poverty exists in our rural areas (Somerset County, on the Eastern Shore, not Baltimore City as many might think, has the lowest per capita income in the state). But far and away the largest numbers of the poor live in our cities.

Our cities are where our poor come seeking a way out of poverty, if not for themselves, then for their children. Whether it was an Irish farmer fleeing the oppression of British rule and the ensuing potato famine, or an African-American sharecropper thrown off his land during the Depression, or a Latino indocumentado who could no longer make it at home because of the violence created by the US-fed cartels, they have come to our cities in a last, almost desperate journey of hope. And despite the oppression and the violence they find in ghettos and barrios our society tries to confine them to, they still cling to that hope.

And God is with them, living in our cities.

Richard Lawrence, Pastor

Thank you to Let Ideas Compete, who made this photo available for use through Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

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Breaking Bread With the Hungry

breakingbreadEvery Friday for more than a decade, St. V in partnership with Our Lady of the Fields (OLF) parish has hosted a huge dinner for all comers in our undercroft. Usually aroud 200-300 people show up. OLF organizes the food, and St. V provides the space.

While all involved would agree this ministry has been a wonderful success, there has been little agreement on its name. People have called it everything from the undignified “Friday Night Feeding” to the undescriptive “Friday Night Ministry.”

This month the organizers have officially named it “Breaking Bread With the Hungry.” This reflects the true nature of the event. As Deacon Ed Stoops of OLF says:

The term breaking bread is used in Acts to refer to the Eucharist. Our mission statement explicitly says our mission flows from the Eucharist.

The term the hungry excludes no one. We are all hungry. We are born hungry. In addition to hunger for food, we all hunger for acceptance and love. The term also includes Jesus who said, “I was hungry and you gave me to eat.” Whether we prepare the food, serve it or eat it, we are all the hungry.

Father Ronchi in his retreat for the Pope and others in the Vatican, recently said “Some people are so hungry that for them God cannot but have the form of a loaf of bread.”

For both volunteers and diners, the meal is typically a joyful commotion, where the ups and downs of the lives of our guests surface as they enjoy dinner out after a long week. Every week has a little different vibe. OLF has produced a video for its website that captures the essence of Breaking Bread With the Hungry. Check it out.

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Amoris Laetitia: The Joy of Love

This week Pope Francis released his apostolic exhortation, which draws on the SynodPope_Francis_in_March_2013 of the Family in 2015. The document  is intended as “an aid to reflection, dialogue and pastoral practice, and as a help and encouragement to families in their daily commitments and challenges.”

Though the exhortation is aimed at the clergy, lay people will certainly find much of interest in the Pope’s words. Here at St. Vincent will have hard copies when they become available. In the meantime,  you can find it online here.

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