I am writing this from the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, also known as “La Casa de Paz y Bien,” more commonly called, The Casa. The Casa is located in the middle of a major metropolitan area, but you would never know it from the center of the campus. There are several buildings but a large portion of The Casa is a desert preserve. It serves as a retreat for wildlife as well as people. There is no better place for quiet reflection and prayer. The walking trails are populated by quail and mourning doves, lizards, snakes, cicadas, and more. In between the trees are statues of St. Francis holding a bowl of water for birds and insects alike. This property is located in one of the wealthiest sections of the Phoenix area, and yet I see people from all socioeconomic backgrounds here. All are welcome to come and enjoy silent prayer in the chapel, or attend daily mass, or walk the labyrinth—all free of cost. As I walk this ground, I am drawing the conclusion that this is what church is supposed to be. Church is a place located in the middle of the hustle and bustle of life where everyone is welcome to find peace and good. The church is a place of renewal where each person can reconnect with the love of God, in order that they might bring that love back out into the city.
It occurs to me that St. Andrew’s is faithful to this meaning of church. Not only do our members find peace and good, but I often see parents bring their children onto the campus just so they can run around in a safe space. Every evening after work people walk their dogs up and down the hill to the street. Children from Llamada Final run around in the gardens, playing games while they wait for their parents to clean up. Even cats come to lounge in the sun outside my office door. God has planted a garden at the corner of Auhay and Arroyo, and made us stewards of this place. It is not just for us, it is for everyone. God invites them to church to come and find peace and good.