The Parish where I serve has a history stretching back to 1893. Though our current buildings reach back only to 1938, even that is a stretch of over 70 years. As I walk these buildings, especially in the quiet of the night I sense a connection. I surely have never seen a ghost but in my mind’s eye I sense those who once walked the aisles of my Church, who sat in the pews. I ponder the many, many baptisms, at our font. The thousands of brides who walked our beautiful aisle. The thousands of first communions, confirmations, the thump as penitents knelt in the confessionals still in use after all these years. And yes, the many funerals.
How many times have those venerable old doors opened to admit a soul loved by God? How many tens of thousands, maybe over a hundred thousand have cumulatively prayed in my parish.
Late at night, I often visit the Church which is connected to the rectory, and I can almost see them. Perhaps too a faint echo of organ or choral music from the deep past echoing faintly in the shadows of the hallowed hall we call our Church.
In the rectory too, I wonder at the many dozens of priests who once occupied my room, who once sat at my dining room table. Most of them long dead, some still living. At times I sense their presence. I remember one priest who is dead now. Some years ago in the early 1990s when I was assigned here for the first time I occupied the rooms he once did. I felt a strong mandate from the Holy Spirit to pray for him. He was quite old but still living at the time and had left in 1970s for a schismatic church. Three years ago he died. Recently a brother priest told he that he had reconciled him to the Church just weeks before he died. Praise God. And now here I am again, back living in the same pastor’s quarters he once lived in. I feel a connection to him and the other priests who once walked these halls and lived in these rooms.
Somehow the past reaches forward and touches me and I know it is real. For the past is just as present to God as the present moment is and every future moment. It’s all knit together by God who is eternal. For eternal means the fullness of time. It means that the past, present and future are all the same to God, each equally present to him. So in God all those church events of the past are just as present to him as I am now. And tomorrow’s sermons is already accomplished for God as are all my sermons and Masses. And every priest who will one day come after me, and all that they will do, is already present to God. It’s all equally present to Him.
I don’t see Ghosts, but God does. And they are just as present and real to him as I am. And God sees those who will come after me too. The great mystery of time and God’s eternity unfold in these hallowed halls and in yours too.
The picture at the upper right is my parish in 1956.
This video is an unusual one. It depicts three priests singing of the history of a parish. And as they sing that history becomes present. There are men and women depicted going back to the 16th century. Sacraments are celebrated, people pray, and light candles. And gradually the people look more and more modern and then are of the present. Every parish holds the past as well as the present. For since God is present, so is the past, and so is the future.