Open doors for all who find their way

By Patricia Kasten | August 22, 2013

Have you taken your summer vacation already? Or will you head somewhere soon?

You probably didn’t (or won’t) travel by horse or chariot or on a camel or in a mule cart like those travelers in the first reading.

When you have traveled, though, did you head for the holy city?

Jerusalem was — and remains today — the holy city for Jews and Christians (and, yes, Muslims as well). Jesus was headed there in the Gospel reading. The city is set on a hill and coming upon it from the north, south or west, you saw it rising to the heights above you. In Jesus’ day, you would also have seen the Temple, gleaming with white marble and gold. You knew it was the most important spot in town.

When you travel in summer, how do you find the most important spot in town? How do you find the church?

Do you look for a steeple? Steeples — which technically contain a bell tower and a lantern (or at least open windows) and are topped with a spire — started out as watch towers during the late part of the Roman Empire. Later, clocks were added.

Bells came later to serve as another way to draw people to church — and to tell them when to show up. To this day, many churches ring their bells five to ten minutes before Mass starts. If within range, you’ll hear and find your way there.

Some churches don’t have bells or towers, but they do have a cross. Where is the cross on your church? The church where I belong doesn’t have a steeple, but it has three crosses on its tallest outside wall.

Today, of course, we also have modern ways to find churches — from phone books (fast growing obsolete) to GPS to smartphone maps. Even so, once you get into the general area, you start looking for a steeple or a cross. And you also look for a parking lot that is filling up and people going inside — just to be sure you have the right place at the right time.

Finally, there are the open doors. There’s nothing more lonely-looking than a church with locked doors and no one going in or out. It feels uncomfortably like the Gospel warning: “After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us’” (Lk 13:25).

Fortunately, the Lord does open the doors to us. Each week, church doors open and people stream into the banquet of the holy city. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your hometown or traveling to mountains or “the little brown church in the vale,” there’s always a way to find the church. The most important sign of all is those people going in and out — and that includes me and you.

Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of “Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers.”

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