Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Searching for Reality

by Ann Cavera


In the heart of our small town, we still have what used to be known as an old-fashioned "five and dime" store. The shelves bulge with the kind of toys that make kids think: puzzles, construction sets, art supplies. Just inside the front door, glass display cases filled with licorice, candy corn and maple nut goodies tempt anyone who wanders in from the street.

The front bins are reserved for expensive fudge in a dozen flavors and an assortment of hand-dipped chocolates, all lurking at a child's eye level. The one modern feature of this store is that everything now costs a great deal more than a nickel or a dime.

It isn't the toys or the candy that keep us shopping here with our grandchildren. It is the dose of a reality remembered from another era. This reality without batteries, blinking lights and hand-held electronics feels solid and reassuring to us.

The simple toys, a small amount of candy measured into a little white paper bag; both go a long way toward giving our grandchildren a taste of our long-ago childhood. We are reminded of a time when life was seen as a gift meant to be unfolded with heart and hands; a time when 10 cents' worth of candy meant more than enough to share with a friend.

On Sunday mornings, we are confronted with a different kind of search for authenticity as we look out over our current parish group of RCIA candidates and catechumens. All have come seeking a deeper reality, one that can be unfolded with heart and hands. Some are planning to marry a Catholic. Another is here from a Jewish background and one is a Hindu, already married to a Catholic.

A few are the relatives of a man who came through RCIA a few years ago. Faith made such a difference in his life that his relatives have come out of curiosity, hoping to find a taste of the joy he now carries. One is battling a serious illness. Another is a young widow seeking something solid as she rebuilds her life.

This is such an assortment of people, all searching for a reality more authentic than the one they have been living. Our work is to help their hearts catch the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Programs are good and necessary. Teaching must be sound, but the fire of the Holy Spirit can only be transmitted person to person, like the flame from one candle lighting another. The authenticity others find here must be the reality of Christ in us.

Are we living this deeper reality that will speak to the hidden needs of those who have come seeking Christ? In our interactions with them, will they encounter the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

We invite them to discover the authenticity of Christ that is often hidden beneath today's blinking lights. It's all here in us, at eye level. Even the small amounts of grace we carry provide more than enough to share with a friend.

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.