Today I went to my Parish Credit Union to cash a check. It’s a tiny credit union, tucked away in a corner of the basement of what used to be my parish grade school (now the common grade school for three inner-city Catholic parishes, of which my parish is one). It’s only open three afternoons a week, and is accessed by going through an unmarked door at the bottom of a flight of concrete steps on the back of the school. There is no sign, no posted hours, no advertising. You only know that it is open because when you try the doorknob it is unlocked. I’ve been a member of this credit union since I was in third grade. The ladies who run it, a gang of almost-geriatric matriarchs who could run the world if they ever cared to try, have known me since my family moved to the area when I was five. When I went in, I didn’t bother to bring my bag or wallet in with me. I presented the check I wanted cashed, the woman behind the counter asked me my account number, had me sign on the dotted line, and handed over the money. Just like that, with inquiries after my family’s health, and telling me how good it is to see me again.
On the way out, I passed another Matriarch of the Parish. She smiled and asked how I was. I replied politely, and it seemed that was it. Then she stopped and asked me how was AnniPotts, where was she now? I said that she had made it safely to Nairobi, where hopefully she would be able to make arrangements to come home soon. She smiled and nodded, and said she was praying. We parted, but as I walked away, I was shaken. You see, the Matriarch’s sister is Sr. Dorothy Stang, the Sister of Notre Dame who was martyred in Brazil in 2005. She was gunned down on a forest road by hired killers in the pay of rich landowners who didn’t like her work with poor farmers. Her death stunned her family, and our parish. The Matriarch’s sister went into a dangerous situation and never came back. Now she was asking me about my sister, who is in a dangerous situation. Hopefully my sister will come back.
Most of the time I take for granted the kind of community I live in. Even though I usually attend Mass elsewhere, I’m still part of the parish I grew up in. My family is embedded deep in the web of relationships. Because of the strength of that community, I can walk into the credit union and cash a check without ever having to produce any ID, a situation most people haven’t experienced since the 1950s. Every person I encountered knew who I was, knew who my family is, and cared about us. This is partly because we’re an unusual family, but it’s because they’re unusual too. We are a parish that gives birth to martyrs and missionaries and free spirits. We are a parish that cares about God and about each other. We are a parish that trusts and prays for one another.
This is what it means to be part of the Body of Christ.
Prof. Peat Quote Book (an unusually productive day today):
“My daughter likes to say she’s special, and I ask, ‘Like in the Special Olympics?’ and she gets really mad because that’s a really, you know, distasteful thing to say.”
“I’m not doing a line by line analysis, but then, I haven’t done any lines for years.”
(Re: another class) “One of my students thinks Karl Marx is the Antichrist, who would indeed have super-hero-like powers, although he would not use them for good. Or she. I’m all for inclusive language. You never hear the Antichrist referred to as ‘she,’ do you.”
“On the test if you were to answer the question, ‘What conclusion can we draw from Marx?’ with ‘Things suck,’ well, it’s pithy, and it captures much of what Marx wants to say, but it needs more precision.”