You can take a boy out of his church, but you can't take his church out of the boy.

Sunday, 9/15/13
The readings today are about God’s not giving up on those who have strayed  from him. The first reading concludes with God pushing aside his urge to punish the Israelites. In the next reading Paul said, “I had been a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man, but God treated me with mercy.”

Then, of course, the Prodigal Son squandered his father’s property, ruined his health with wild living, and ended up snatching food from pigs.  But his father kept scanning the horizon in hopes of seeing him returning.

Those stories could turn our attention to our lapsed Catholics. We hear that they are almost as numerous as those who have not strayed.    

I began thinking about them this week when a lady asked me to do a graveside service for her brother who had left the Church after eleven years of Catholic schooling.

Two days ago that man's life had my thoughts taking an unexpected turn. I began thinking of the  irreligious behavior of the people I worked with on summer jobs.  Through my twelve years in the seminary high school and colleges I was always home in the summer, working  to earn money for train fare and school expenses.

So, this Friday I was startled by recollections of the careless immorality of the kids I had worked with. In giving their checks to customers it was ordinary for them to pencil over figures, turning ones into nines, three into eights. They'd say that without cheating customers they couldn’t have afforded to smoke. Eating our sandwiches on Mondays,Milton would describe the sex he paid for on Friday.

One boy I worked with bragged about taking a girl out into the country, then pushing her out of the car when she wouldn’t give in. Too, I was recalling a mixed group telling me, “You say screwing is a sin, no way!”

Those poor kids had been launched into this confusing world without any moral guidance. It was as if they had been pushed out to sea in boats that had no rudders.

What brought those thoughts on was what the dead man's sister told me on the phone. She said that her brother had stopped going to Mass, but he had always remained a very moral, very  kind man.

That led me to realize that his eleven years of Catholic education hadn’t been wasted. It had turned him into God’s yeast that mixed with the lumpy immorality of our workplaces, raises it up. He was God's agent. You can take a boy out of his church, but you can't take his church out of the boy. 

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