World is eccentric; Ave Maria is different because it’s not
There’s something very special about Ave Maria and the people who live here. It’s a community centred on Christ. How many other towns or neighbourhoods in the United States or, for that matter, anywhere else in the modern world, could claim to have Christ as the central focus? Ave Maria is, therefore, very different as well as very special. For some people, no doubt, the difference is the problem. Such people, wishing to conform to what Evelyn Waugh described so aptly as “our deplorable epoch”, will not want to visit Ave Maria, let alone live here. So be it. These people, preferring to live in a secular culture becoming increasingly debauched, have made their choice and no doubt will have their reward. For my part, I like the fact that Ave Maria is different. Vive le difference!
And yet, of course, Ave Maria is not perfect, nor are those who live here. It’s a human community with all that this implies. Nonetheless, the heart of the community is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, exemplified by the adoration chapel in the centre of town at which Christ is adored in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Across the road from the adoration chapel, towering above the town, is the oratory, a place of prayer at which Mass is celebrated thrice daily. In this respect, Ave Maria reminds me somewhat of the mediaeval towns of Europe, in which the church was at the centre of the town because it was at the centre of the town’s life. The church was also the tallest building in every town signifying that Christ was not only the centre of communal life but its very purpose. It’s not that the Church looked down on the world around it but that the world looked up to the Church.
Returning to the difference that separates Ave Maria from most other communities, let’s remind ourselves that it’s all about the centre of things. At Ave Maria, God is at the centre; in the wider world, communities have drifted away from this true centre and have wandered in strange and deadly directions. It is, therefore, the world that is eccentric; it is the world that has lost sight of the centre. Ave Maria is different because it’s not eccentric. It’s the knowledge of this delightful paradox that makes Ave Maria so special. I consider myself blessed to be part of this wonderful community.
Contributed by Joseph Pearce (writer and professor)