Sunday, June 3, 2012


This Sunday, we had our own "holy trinity" of sorts at the 11:00am Mass, as three folks were baptized into the Catholic faith: two adult men (brothers) and a baby girl (daughter of one of the first two). I wish I had some pictures to share with you...but there was just too much water—and grace—flowing for me to stop and grab the camera.

   The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity   B 

I was reading this past week about a museum in London, England:
the Foundling Hospital Museum. (cf. M. Silf, America, 5/21/12)
The Foundling Hospital, it seems, was established back in 1739
as what we today would call an orphanage—
a place to welcome, care for, and educate abandoned children.
For any number of reasons—
(but particularly because of poverty and illegitimacy)
mothers who felt they could not properly care for their young children
could leave them here—no questions asked.

But more often than not,
these same mothers 
would pin a small token—
some little trinket 
such as an old button or a key,
a scrap of paper or a snippet of cloth—
to the clothing of their children,
in hopes that each child’s natural parent 
might be identified
if she should ever return 
to reclaim her son or daughter.
Many of these bittersweet tokens 
are preserved in the museum,
including a small, heart-shaped metal charm from 1759 which is movingly inscribed:
You have my Heart Tho wee must Part.
The reason these tokens 
were so carefully preserved—
and why they remain 
such poignant artifacts even today—
is because foundlings 
are meant to be found. 

While these children may have been left off at the hospital,
what was never abandoned was the hope
that they might one day be reunited with their families.

We are spiritual foundlings.
It’s sin—
the original sin which has mortally wounded human nature,
the personal sins by which we so often miss the mark,
the sins of injustice and of selfishness
found in the very structures of our society—
it is sin that has driven us from our Father’s house.
But while sin creates an ever-widening gap
between God and humanity,
we have been given a token:
we were made in God’s divine image and likeness,
giving us an intrinsic worth, an inalienable dignity,
which always remains, no matter how hidden or disfigured.
You see, we were given this token—
even in our sinfulness—
because it’s always been his desire,
since God created man upon the earth,
that we foundlings should be found.

And so God has tirelessly pursued us down the ages.
The Lord revealed himself as the one true God
and chose a people to be his own—
liberating them with wondrous signs,
guiding them by his commandments.
And to that chosen people, in the fullness of time,
God came in human flesh and blood,
sending his only begotten Son
who gathered followers that they in turn
might go out to make disciples of all nations.
And it is in receiving the baptism
which those first disciples faithfully preached
that we foundlings have been found:
adopted as God’s sons and daughters,
becoming heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.
And thus we’ve been given another token—this one no trinket:
receiving God’s own Spirit to dwell within us,
that should sin ever separate us again,
we might still be recognized by our Father in heaven
and found once more.

The Church is the foundling hospital
established by God in Jesus Christ.
To the Church come the lost, the forsaken,
seeking a stable home amidst the chaos of this world.
But we are not dropped off here by a parent
unable or unwilling to provide the proper care.
In the Church, we are not abandoned, but found;
here, we are not left as orphans,
but welcomed into the very family of God—
welcomed into the life of the Most Holy Trinity:
the life of God the Father, 
who has loved us from the start;
the life of God the Son, who suffered and rose
that we might share his glory as brothers and sisters;
the life of God the Holy Spirit—
that fire of love, that Spirit of adoption—
who makes of us God’s children, 
not merely in name but in fact.

Justin and Doug: 
today our parishes rejoice abundantly
that—together with your loved ones—
you have found the Church,
and that in the Church you have found God,
and that in the sacraments you are about to receive
God finds you,
making you members of the Body of Christ
and temples of the Holy Spirit,
who can rightly call upon God as Father.
God has chosen you as his own!
May this reality which we now celebrate with you
remain alive forever in your hearts.

London’s Foundling Hospital
lasted more than 200 years—into the 1950’s—
before placing its remaining children in foster care
and closing it’s doors for good.
Now demolished, 
the hospital’s original location
is marked by a park and a playground,
and it’s memory kept alive in the nearby museum.
But foundlings—especially spiritual foundlings—
still abound!
And so it falls to the Church—to each of us—
to help them recognize the tokens of God’s eternal love.

Sent by the risen Jesus in the name of the Holy Trinity,
let us do for others what the Lord has first done for us:
gathering to our merciful Father—one-by-one—
all his children, scattered throughout the world.

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