|St. Peter's on Federal Street in Portland|
Churches of many kinds are closing up and being sold in Maine and many other parts of the country. St. John the Evangelist in South Portland closed a few months ago and it’s rumored the building will soon be replaced by a Dunkin Donuts shop. More than a dozen Maine Catholic churches have closed since 2007. In ten years, Maine’s Catholic population has declined from 234,000 to 187,000. So St. Peter’s is an anomaly. It’s self-supporting and the congregation seems to know that if it were not, it would soon follow the fate of the others.
|St. Peter's annual Italian street festival|
St. Peter’s is a survivor with an enthusiastic choir. It’s filled to capacity on Sunday morning with lots of families - moms, dads, and kids. Many of the singing men had short, military-style haircuts and I wondered if they were off-duty firemen or police. The congregation nearly drowned out the choir. I was one of very few who weren’t singing, having gotten out of the habit long ago. I would be a good singer if it wasn’t for my voice.
A few weeks ago I found myself in conversation with a young man who had been raised in a family that didn’t practice religion at all. He wasn’t atheist, but was suspicious of organized religion, especially the one I belonged to - Roman Catholic - the oldest, continuously-functioning institution on earth. He was especially skeptical after the homosexual-priest scandal of the late 20th century. That had knocked me for loop too, and I’ve only recently begun putting it into perspective as another way the Catholic Church has been corrupted in its long history - and from which it must purge itself.
Dallas Morning News article put it this way: “‘The African church is in touch with the raw elements of humanity: birth, marriage, death, hunger, thirst,’ said Christopher Malloy, an assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas. ‘For me, in a comfortable house, it's easy to think life is not dramatic. [African priests] bring the message to us with excitement.’”
|A still from the video above|
It’s inspiring to see strong men doing what’s right. There are good signs out there if we look for them.