The prayer of Saint Augustine, “I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief,” is echoed in every generation, especially at this time of year when we surrender to the immensity of the divine mystery, contemplate the magic of the Christmas season, and resolve to do better in the new year that awaits us. Young Natalie Wood in The Miracle on 34th Street repeated it over and over (I believe, I believe, I believe…) trying to convince herself of the reality of Santa Claus, and Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams sought a similar belief in his desire to save the family farm and connect with his deceased father. These iconic characters tap into our fontal wish to touch a reality beyond what we can see, hear, and feel.
Many of us get strong beliefs early each January when we pledge to exercise daily with a regiment that will keep us strong and fit, or to eat with greater mindfulness with plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables, or to alter our personality so that we are kinder to others or a more positive force in the world. Those beliefs usually fade fast because we cannot easily change the central tenants of our life. Our family heritage, our nature, and the ways we are nurtured in the developmental years anchor us deeply and determine our life-long attitudes, morality, behaviors, habits, and patterns. They are not easily changed. That’s probably why so many New Year’s exercise regiments last only about two days and forty-five minutes or why we readily return to eating habits that comfort us or why our old personality creeps back to dominate us half-way into the first month.
It might be better not to resolve to change something that, in part, defines us, but to look for opportunities in the New Year to express ourselves in more wholesome ways. At Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, the task is a little clearer because 2022 is our diamond jubilee year. We can best honor our seventy-five-year past by engaging in events that commemorate it. We started with an Advent “Lighting the Way” ceremony in which hundreds of children and many more adults inaugurated the year-long festivities by lighting up our campus while pondering what may have been happening seventy-five years earlier in the mind of Father Maurice Wogan who got commissioned to establish this future faith community. Our next big jubilee event, on April 30, will mark the anniversary of the first Mass offered for the community; it took place in a nearby public school on Easter of 1947. We will gather this year to honor it at Saint Pius X High School, established in 1956 by a group that met at Saint Charles to discuss continuing the Catholic education of children in the northland. I hope you can join us there in late April.
Another big opportunity before us in 2022 is our parish’s Diamond Jubilee Capital Campaign with four projects on deck: 1) expand and update our parish hall kitchen, 2) enhance our Early Childhood Center that is rapidly growing, 3) install a three-stop elevator in our school, and 4) build badly lacking storage space. Earlier this month, on Commitment Sunday, we received gifts and pledges totaling around $800,000; the cost of the four projects will be closer to $1.25 million. We hope to raise the balance soon so that we can begin and complete these projects during our jubilee year. Like Susan (The Miracle on 34th Street), Ray (Field of Dreams), and Augustine, I believe it can happen.
As the sun sets on 2021, I am reminded that people are attracted to sunsets, in part, because it helps us be more at peace with the eventual diminishment of our own earthly existence and recognize beauty in our final surrender when that time arrives. Rather than making and breaking New Year’s resolutions, let’s respond to opportunities placed before us; and let’s do so with great hope, trusting in our ability and God’s good grace to lead us through our unbelief to a place where belief reigns and we are united with the immense mystery of our existence. It’s a beautiful prayer to keep close to our hearts, a prayer of spiritual surrender: I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief!