When I was growing up, I loved building things. My dad bought me my first tool set when I was 7 years old. It consisted of genuine child-sized tools, and included a real hammer, hand saw, pliers, screwdrivers, measuring tape, and a “carpenter’s pencil.” My earliest childhood memories include many instances when I helped my dad or grandfather with building projects.
Not very many people know this, but when I was a senior in high school I didn’t want to continue on with college. I hated sitting in a classroom and I wanted to be done with school. I figured that since I liked building things and working with tools, I would become a carpenter (like my dad and my grandfather).
My dad and his brother owned their own construction company (Williams Brothers Construction) and I knew that if I learned the trade, I would be able to eventually become a superintendent for the company and supervise the construction of large commercial buildings. I discussed the matter with my dad and he went over the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a skilled tradesman (rather than a college graduate).
The one point my dad emphasized was that if I went to college and didn’t like it, I could always quit and become a carpenter, but if I took the time to go through the carpenter apprenticeship program and then started working in the construction industry, there was a good chance I would end up moving on with my life, which would include buying a house, getting married, and starting a family. If that happened, it would be difficult for me to change my plans and go back to school. It was the logic of that one point that convinced me to go ahead with college and to keep construction as a fallback position.
The summer after I graduated from high school (1975), I worked as a laborer for my dad’s company. Earlier in the year, Williams Brothers had been awarded a contract to build a new foundry for CAT. Prior to beginning construction of the foundry, Williams Brothers hired a subcontractor to install concrete piling to support the foundation for the building. The contract Williams Brothers had with the subcontractor included a provision that required Williams Brothers to supply a laborer to assist with the project. I was the laborer who was assigned to work with the subcontractor.
The subcontractor hauled in sections of a huge crane and assembled the crane on the job site. Attached to the crane was a “boom” with a 20 foot auger that was used to drill a shaft into the ground. After drilling 20 feet deep, another auger was attached to the existing auger and the drilling continued. Additional augers were attached as needed until the tip of the original auger hit the bedrock flooring that was more than 100 feet underground.
Once we hit bedrock, concrete was pumped down the four inch center of the hollow auger, while the auger was slowly eased (backward) out of the ground. By the time the auger was completely removed from the ground, the drilled shaft was full of concrete. Steel rods (1 inch thick) were then dropped into the wet concrete (inside the shaft) to provide reinforcement. The completed concrete column was called a “pile.”
Later on, when all of the piles were completed, large concrete blocks (“pile caps”) were poured on top of groups of piles. The pile caps were then connected together with “grade beams” to tie the foundation together. This was done so that the weight and load of the building would be evenly distributed on top of the foundation.
What we ended up with when we were done installing the concrete piles was a set of columns or pillars that were in place to provide support for the foundation and building. If the solid concrete pillars had not been positioned to sit on top of the bedrock floor, the building itself would have been worthless. Without the supporting pillars, the foundation would have ended up shifting under the weight of the building (and machinery), causing the building floors and walls to crack and separate, rendering the building useless.
We live in a world where most peoples’ religious beliefs and faith have been built upon foundations that are erected on sand that can easily be washed away or severely compromised.
Fortunately for you and me, our Catholic beliefs and faith rest solidly upon the pillars that were built and erected over 2000 years ago. It all started on that cold winter night in a barn where a virgin and her husband had sought shelter. On that night, a Savior was born in the presence of His parents and some animals. It was the infant, along with His Father and the Holy Spirit, who made up the rock solid base upon which the pillars of the Catholic Church were later erected. We know this from (among other things) that great prayer we say at every Mass – the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.
Why is it that you and I were handed this great gift – the gift of the Kingdom of God? Was it an accident of fate that we weren’t raised with the beliefs and faith of some other religion, such as Islam, Shinto, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Baha’i, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, Wicca, Witchcraft, Zoroastrianism, Scientology, or Druidism?
Was it merely a coincidence that you and I were handed the beliefs and faith that are necessary to lead a pure and holy life and to enter into God’s Kingdom? No it wasn’t a coincidence. It wasn’t an accident. It was part of a divine plan put into place by Almighty God. Although it is God’s desire that all humanity enter into His Kingdom, for some unknown reason, He made it easier for you and me to do so by giving us the gift of His Church.
But that gift came with a price. What God expects in return is for you and me to help others build their beliefs and faith upon the same pillars that were given to us.
The two questions to ask yourself this Christmas are: (1) “What more can I do to today, next week, next month, next year, to bring others into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?”; and (2) “ What can I do to strengthen and reinforce the beliefs and faith of other Catholics?”
The moment the divine infant was born, a new light entered into the world. That light was given to you and me on a silver platter and it is our obligation to pass it on to others. It is my hope that the light of our Savior will shine upon you and your family on Christmas day and burn in your hearts and souls for all eternity.