Some of us have had our coronavirus birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Too many young people had covid-graduations – that was not what we wanted for them! Celebrations on Zoom are fine, and very worth doing. Drive-by revelries are SO much more festive, but both of these leave something unfulfilled. Today, we have our own great parish event to remember and celebrate, most certainly in a way less than it deserves. So, my dear Padre Serra parishioners, happy 25th Anniversary of our church building to you!
Twenty-five years ago, on July 1st, 1995, the founding families of the parish dedicated the beautiful church in which we worship. Those of us who came later owe them a debt of gratitude for their generosity, courage and faith. They worked long and hard to raise the money to buy the land and build our campus. They were daring and spirited, designing a beautiful, innovative church in the round, with Chumash and Mission touches, celebrating both our predecessors and our patron saint. Their actions flowed from their deep trust in God, and their admirable willingness to build up the Kingdom, not primarily by building a building, but foremost, by gathering a community. If we can hold onto that sense of kinship in these coronavirus-ridden days, it will be because we stand on their shoulders.
The church that we are celebrating on this anniversary is a beautiful house of prayer, for the praise of God’s name. One of my great pleasures these last ten years is watching people take their first look at the church’s interior. Their reaction is invariably one of pleasure and intrigue. It’s different, and yet its many components work so harmoniously. It both shelters us when we are at prayer, and invites us into contemplation and a rich spiritual experience. Its forms, colors, architectural elements of walls, windows, ceilings and pillars all work together, in an experience of beauty and grandeur, to make an interior experience of God possible.
The great irony of this year, of course, is that the quarantine prevents most parishioners from even coming to our parish home. Even when Masses are possible, most can’t and many shouldn’t come quite yet.
They do say, though, that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I’m hoping that’s true for you, that the separation leaves you hungry for the beauty of the church, and even more for the warmth of the community. It really needs to be a combination of both. The shape and configuration of the church invites us into an awareness of, and an appreciation of, one another.
We had all kinds of plans for how we were going to remember. You may remember we asked our founders to share their memories, their participation and their important family events. Our intent, which we’ve had to scrap, was to have some of our pioneers share those moments and light one of the consecration candles in the church for us at all the Masses this weekend. We were also going to have a BBQ, and maybe dance a little in the backyard of the parish…Sigh. The pastor proposes; the coronavirus disposes.