Lent and Easter are one of the frames of my life and the celebration of Easter always loomed largely. From the childhood excitement of the annual spring ensemble to the rearing of my own children and instilling in them the importance of Easter, and right up to today, it's celebration and importance has come full bloom in my life. Easter isn't just another feast day. It's the culmination of what we believe and like Christ in the human period of His life, we His children, each arrive at an understanding of His sacrifice in our own time.
In our last years in California, we had settled in a parish in a small farming community. This church community was about 80% Latino with more than a few members living in the shadows and so it was hard to build bridges across the cultural divide. People were comfortable with the way things were.
When Don and I, two non-Spanish speakers, worked two summers at a migrant camp teaching English as a second language, all that started to change for us. As our faces became more familiar, faces within the Latino community, we were regarded less with distant wariness. It was an object lesson on the importance of bridge building, shared language not required. We were also shown how we fit into the larger parish community. We were gifted with a glimpse of the possibility of what can be found in unity.
Each day, the Triduum grew in attendance and there were no strangers in the church. Unlike larger parishes, no one left unnoticed. Small bridges were appearing everywhere. I've often been left wondering how to extend this feeling. Here in the very small parish of Sacred Heart, Caruthersville, a way has been found. One very overworked priest overseeing two parishes and one grade school, not to mention a myriad of other responsibilities, combined with a core group of faithful members, participate to continually give the gift of community to one and all.
In California, the phrase, "We are an Easter people" is commonly heard in our church around this time of the year. It's interesting to note that I have not heard this phrase once during this Easter season. Thinking about the depth of community we felt this Easter season in our new home, the phrase seems to fade into meaninglessness. What we are, in fact, is a community. The Resurrection is our highest event, the culmination of our faith. What I felt this year, in a deeply profound way, was the resurrection of the meaning of community. What I really felt like shouting was "We are a family. We are a community." We are capable of carrying this feeling throughout the year. And most importantly, we are capable of breathing life into the idea of community and making it grow and flourish in the larger community of our small town. It lingers quietly here, simply waiting for us.