Churches are built of stone but made of people, of families and generations of persons. And yet, the very stability of the structure is characterized by the great constant: change. Recognizing and dealing with change is a life-time skill, an art, that demands attentiveness and balance, requires both the bold confidence of courage and the humble embrace of compassionate acceptance. The power of change, unexpected and planned, is evident at every stage of life and in the life of communities.
That familiar ebb and flow of change knows a certain balance in Catholicism. There is a steadiness in the patterns of prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, the readings at Mass and the sharing of Communion that stretch across centuries. Somehow, that established continuity, tender threads among community members across generations and cultures. Still, there is the rhythm of change in the cadence of song, the design of art, the patterns of participation and the expressions of fidelity. One folds into the other; change becomes continuity and continuity establishes home.
That broad identity provides niches for personal lives and experiences. And along that path are the tools to support both change and continuity in all the levels of their complexity. For instance, parish communities celebrate baptism and recognize the shift in families as they change and grow. There is the sacrament of reconciliation which empowers reflection on decisions and choices and enables individuals to consider and maybe choose change. There is the formal recognition of marriages, celebrations of commitment filled with the sense of change for persons and broad continuities for society. And there is the Sacrament of the Sick, comfort in dealing with the most belligerent and painful changes and tying the present to the future for the anointed. In these ways, Catholicism provides lifelong companionship with all the controversies and issues that implies. Conflicts and clashes are inevitable, but that very continuity is reassuring and life-giving.