A Time to Speak – A view from the pew

Fran Hartell
Fran Hartell

By Fran Hartell

We are friends. We are neighbors. We are family. We are community. We are an integral part of a 2000-year history that began with a promise from God himself!

When asked, “Why do you go to church?” I immediately picture the faces of my church history, seeing people whom I know can be counted on to support me in prayer. I feel the warmth of a friend who genuinely cares when she asks, “How are you?”

I hear the music that lifts us up in prayer and worship of our Savior. I picture the hugs and handshakes of members of the community who know and accept me, but who also through their example, encourage me to be more.

Most importantly, I am able to share this holiest meal with those who know and share the history and the promise of this meal. We share our story with his story in the Eucharist.

Comfort, hope, and love are present when we receive holy Communion. Sharing in this meal binds us together as we continue to navigate an increasingly complicated world.

At church, there were small boys from Bible school who are now shaving and serving as hospitality ministers at the doors of our church. Little girls with huge hair bows are now big girls giving out Communion as eucharistic ministers.

I attend the funerals of the elders who taught me about being a Christian neighbor. I attend the weddings of children who have grown into responsible, caring Christian adults.

When I attend church, I am worshiping God with my church family. I am greeting, sitting, standing, kneeling, singing, and praying with people who love Jesus.

Members of my family, many friends, and I have been deeply hurt, disillusioned, and ashamed of “the Catholic Church.” I struggle with these hurts. But this I know: Human beings can break your heart, disappoint, and cause great shame.

God never does. God will listen to your hopes, comfort you in your pain, and laugh with your joy. God is your family. God is your friend.
I go to church in praise of my God and in thanksgiving for his love and friendship.

When my niece was young, she sang this song, “I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together.” Once again, children “get it.”

Yes, I cry at Baptisms, First Communions, confirmations, weddings, funerals, and at Sunday Mass in “Ordinary Time.” I cry because promises are being made, and promises are being kept.

Though sometimes overwhelmed by these promises made in love and created in hope, this I know: God never breaks his promises.
In deep, deep gratitude to God and to the past, present, and future members of my church family, I thank you for my view from the pew.

Fran Hartell is a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

Catholics are invited to share their experiences of being Catholic; good news stories, such as service projects and great prayer or retreat experiences; and ideas and best practices for sharing their faith with others. Send submissions for “A View from the Pew” to Sal Della Bella, sdellabella@archlou.org, along with your name, parish, contact information and a digital photo.

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