Handbags at Church

My beloved Drudge (what has been a more reliable, consistent presence in your life over the last two decades? Besides your beloved National Review Online, I would hope!) is highlighting a story about an immigrant whose purse was stolen in Pennsylvania when she went up for Communion:

UPPER DARBY, Pa. (CBS) – The 53-year-old victim recently lost her job, and she went to church to pray.

She wound up being preyed upon.

During Mass, the woman walked up to take communion at St. Laurence Parish.

As always, she left her purse in the pew. That’s when police say another woman grabbed it and headed out the door.

The victim, who is from East Africa, didn’t want to be identified.

“This is church and why it happened, something like that, it shocked me,” she said.

One of the worst images in the first world are of women clutching their handbags on the way to Communion. Sure, it is dismaying that anyone would steal your purse inside a church, but what troubles me more is this: What am I doing when I leave that church to make it so no one is desperate enough to do such a thing? Am I treating each person with love and compassion, rather than adding to the temptation to bitterness in his day?

There are all kinds of reasons one is tempted to crime, of course.  And we best be having policy debates worthy of the dignity of man about justice and subsidiarity and yes solidarity. But I am also not looking for some feel-good bill to be passed to make me feel better about evil. Ultimately, this gets back to what Bishop Malone was talking about on Friday at his installation: Are we letting God integrate it all in us from our rising to our rest and in our work? Are we trying to let him? Are we working to make sure it is not just prayer inside a church? Are we actively Christian? Not just in our parish, but in our lives? I can go to church everyday, follow the rules, and thensome, but if I’m not seeking to live it everywhere, always, it’s not fully living the call. I’m not living the gift. 

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