Ever wonder why non-practicing Catholics will seek out a Catholic parish to be married, to baptize a baby or to bury their dead?
Such is the power of parishes; they are our spiritual homes.
In this issue, Regina Magazine showcases parishes on three continents.
What makes them amazing
Youthful, orthodox, well-educated priests. Reverent Masses filled to overflowing with families and singles of all ages. Religious education programs where the true Faith is taught. A boom in religious vocations.
These parishes are our life’s blood. Here, the faithful unburden themselves at regular Confession, hear Mass on Sunday and feast days, meet and marry, baptize their children, seek solace in the hard times and share their joy in good times. In these parishes, parents and grandparents feel that their children are safe, and the future of the Faith in their families can be entrusted.
Amazing parishes attract people from all walks of life, at every income and education level and from every race, color and origin of a Catholicism now flung far around the globe. And these parishes are everywhere. In some of the world’s most sophisticated academic towns. In famous cities and simple country towns. In blighted urban neighborhoods and vast impersonal suburbs.
Wherever they may be, these are parishes so critical to the spiritual wellbeing of Catholics that people will travel and sacrifice to make them the center of their lives.
Moreover, the success of these amazing parishes flies in the face of today’s conventional wisdom about an aging – and some say Arian – Church. These parishes are the seeds of the real ‘springtime’ of the Church that so many have spoken of, and longed for.
The parish as the basic building block of Christian civilization
To understand why, it is necessary to understand the origins of the parish as the basic building block of Christian civilization. For this, we must travel in time, back into the Dark Ages.
Most Catholics don’t know this, but the parish was actually created by St. Martin of Tours in the 400s. The Saint – a former Roman soldier ordained a bishop in those dark days of the twilight of the Roman Empire – was constantly traveling throughout Gaul, braving the dangerous, unpoliced and deteriorating roads to visit villages and out-of-the-way places in his vast territory.
This was perilous work, which Martin dared attempt only because the Faith was in great danger. As the Roman Army and the civilization it protected withdrew, these remote places had reverted to barbarism.
Learning declined precipitously, as the peaceful conditions necessary to establish schools evaporated. The Sacraments disappeared, and along with them Christian civilization. Necromancers and soothsayers appeared. Marriage declined. Tribalism flourished. The rule of the sword prevailed.
A thick blanket of darkness and ignorance descended over Europe. Today’s archaeologists and historians are now – more than 1500 years later — beginning to understand what happened, using modern scientific techniques.
Interviewing an archaeologist
I recently interviewed a German archaeologist investigating an ancient Roman farmhouse discovered under a building site near Wiesbaden, Germany. Like most others, it was charred, having been deliberately burnt to the ground in the early 500s.
“Who did this?” I asked.
“Barbarians,” he shrugged. “Possibly nomads, who encountered the deserted farmhouse long after its owners had fled.”
“So why burn it down?” I asked, confused. “Seems like a ready-built house would be a welcome find to homeless wanderers.”
“We actually don’t know why,” he replied. “Some speculate that these people were superstitious, and permanent buildings frightened them because they believed they were haunted by evil spirits. In any case, it is common to find these all over middle Europe. We also often find nearby hoards of silver coins from these late Roman times. Their owners buried them in haste, fleeing from attacks.”
Barbarism. Superstition. Magic. Isolated villages which had reverted to hunting and gathering, subsistence economies, as the knowledge of sophisticated agriculture disappeared within a few generations of the Romans’ departure. These were the conditions outside of the established towns with Sees at the time of St. Martin.
Now we can begin to understand why Martin was one of those ‘intolerant’ Christians whom today’s revisionist pseudo-historians – ignorant of the actual conditions of late antiquity — love to condemn.
Destroying blood-stained places of ignorance and terror
Yes, Martin destroyed pagan places of worship. Not because he was ‘intolerant’ of religious ‘diversity,’ but because they were evil locales of dark rites. Temple prostitution. Bloody sacrifices of animals. Even human sacrifice was not unknown.
Martin replaced these blood-stained places of ignorance and terror with parishes centered on the Eucharist and the bloodless Sacrifice of the Mass.
In these, the Christians could take refuge in the Sacraments. Soon, religious vocations emerged, and the beginnings of Western monasticism. Over the ensuing centuries, the monasteries gradually terraformed the land, engineering and planting, and civilizing Europe with the Faith.
Truly, it was from Martin’s parishes that the slow, painful re-building commenced, which ultimately bequeathed to the world the Christendom which would reach such dizzying heights in the centuries to come.
Such is the power of parishes. In a modern world with danger and ignorance no less than in Martin’s day, Catholics need their parishes.
And whether we know it or not, we all contain within us the seed of Christendom. It requires only a good parish for it to blossom and yield good fruit – for ourselves and our posterity.
Enjoy ‘The Secret Catholic Insider Guide to Amazing Parishes’!
Beverly De Soto Stevens
EDITOR, REGINA MAGAZINE
PHOTO OF THE HIGH ALTAR AT THE PARISH OF STE CECILE/STE EUGENE, PARIS by Marie-Line Burguiere (https://www.facebook.com/marilinbu)
 The word parish comes from the Old French paroisse, in turn from Latin: paroecia, the latinisation of the Ancient Greek: παροικία paroikia, “sojourning in a foreign land”, itself from πάροικος (paroikos), “dwelling beside, stranger, sojourner”, which is a compound of παρά (pará), “beside, by, near” and οἶκος (oîkos), “house”. (WIKIPEDIA)