I stopped into The House of God last week. That is what, in my more whimsical moments, I call the Basilica of St. John the Baptist. It is my parish now with the doors of St. Patrick’s up in the west end closed forever, at least as a Catholic Church. It may reappear someday as a supermarket like Memorial Stadium morphed into a Dominion supermarket. St. Patrick’s, like so many churches, was sold to raise money to pay compensation to the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy. I have no complaints there. That is fair enough.
Back to the Basilica. It was a weekday morning when I went there last week and the church was locked up tighter than a drum. That is the way it is these days. Why was it locked? Because someone stole two TVs from one of the upstairs meeting rooms of the church. There are no TVs in the church itself. I spoke with someone from the leadership group of the parish. The chief suspects were two people from The Gathering Place which is right next door. I am a reasonable person. I do not expect that the church should allow robberies, even if the bad guys are from The Gathering Place. I do think, however, that the solution to the problem of petty theft would have been hiring a security guard as opposed to locking the church doors. The Basilica people were able to collect millions in short order to buy the place when it was being groomed for the auction block. I knew someone who gave $10,000. A suggested donation to me was $2,000 although I didn’t give it. My family had other priorities like food on the table and keeping the heat on in the house. I am also glad I did not give it because the Church is LOCKED up now. That gives rise to the great question of this humble article. “What Would Jesus Do?”
I have to tell you about the relationship between The Gathering Place and what in school we used to call Holy Mother Church. A Mercy nun I know through the church told me a truly inspiring story about the early days of The Gathering Place, when the nuns actually ran it. If police showed up at the door looking for one of their clients the standard, and I might say very Christian answer was – “Have you got a warrant?’’ The attitude spoke well to the ancient right of “sanctuary”. The nuns also asked the police as a favour not to come to their doors in uniform.
Another story came about when I asked someone who would know that I had heard about people hiding to stay in the Basilica overnight. Well, it happened regularly I was told and apparently sometimes a bit of food was even left in the church for the overnight guests. That doesn’t happen anymore. There are cameras all over the place. The reason is that we live now in a litigious society and leaving food for overnight guests in a church without supervision would mean some legal “exposure” which is one of the great lawyer “weasel” words.
Our world is more complicated now. Things have changed but the question remains: “What would Jesus do?”
I have this vision of Jesus walking up Military Road and looking things over. He would be amazed at how His church is presented and how it is all locked up. I have a hunch that if He saw a police car at The Gathering Place he would introduce Himself to the officers and ask if they had a warrant.