Friday, October 2, 2009

Leave the Church Doors Open!

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, Austria, is urging priests to pray well, and to help all people dialogue with God by opening church doors to those who want to show devotion. The cardinal offered this suggestion in the context of an international retreat for priests that he is leading in Ars, at the site of St. John Vianney's parish.

He noted, however, that "in Austria we carry on a constant struggle to keep our churches open, accessible to the faithful and to others who are seeking, as it is a grave wound to the Body of Christ that churches have their doors closed."

Cardinal Schönborn urged, "Do everything possible, and the impossible, to allow the faithful and persons seeking God -- whom God awaits -- to have access to Jesus in the Eucharist: Don't close the doors of your churches, please!"

He observed that there are many people who no longer go to Mass, but will still step inside a church if it is open.

They may come to light a candle, he noted, or a grandmother might visit with her grandchildren to show small signs of devotion.

For these, the prelate exhorted, "Let us leave our churches open!"

He also affirmed the benefits of lay people seeing their priests "in the act of prayer before the tabernacle."

Cardinal Schönborn shared a childhood memory with the priests: "In Vorarlberg [Austria], in the afternoon, there was always a light in the church: It was the parish priest who was praying there. That remained engraved in my memory."

He concluded, "The combat of prayer is truly the combat of our life."

Cardinal Schönborn also told the priests about a time when he was truly treated as Christ (translated here from an article on

Cardinal Schönborn cited an "unforgettable" event : a visit to a village in Sri Lanka on a tea plantation at the invitation of a bishop. The villagers had poured 500m of fresh sand, freshly raked, leading up to the village, and had decorated the pathway with flags, and gradually as he advanced, they threw carpets under his feet as a token of welcome for a "choice guest."

Arriving at the little church, the cardinal was told by the old Jesuit priest, Fernando, who has been there for forty years among the very poor: "Your Eminence, do not think that people did this for Christoph Schönborn, they did it for Jesus Christ." He concluded: "This is what gives us true joy, humility, simplicity in our ministry: let us rejoice to be instruments of Jesus Christ, because if we take ourselves too seriously, we forget that people love us and venerate us for Christ's sake and not for ourselves, who are merely instruments."
Photo of Cardinal Schönborn shamelessly "borrowed" from Archbishop Daniel Bohan's blog where you will find lots more news and photos from this retreat.

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