You know whenever I go to a new assignment I have a very strange ritual.
When I have free time I simply take my car and go out driving.
I don’t take a map, but just drive until I find a road that I recognize. Sometimes I end up going down the same street twice or three times and people begin to wonder.
When I came to Kensington I did the same thing. I drove all over the place and as I drove in New Britain I noticed that when the immigrants came they built three family houses.
We don’t have any of those in Buffalo most of our houses went up only two floors.
I talked to people I came to understand that extended families would move into those house in New Britain and it was not uncommon for Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents, and cousins would all live in the same house.
They were like apartment buildings for extended families and sometimes if there were more siblings your aunts and uncles and cousins would also live in buildings a couple of houses down the street.
New Britain is not a large city geographically and if people had to get someplace they would usually walk to the store or Church.
It seems that as these immigrant families got more settled and saved their pennies many eventually moved to Berlin and as I walk around town especially in this area there are lots of little Cape Cod houses where these families moved. These little houses had a bathroom and two bedrooms on the first floor and sometimes a bedroom upstairs. Our neighborhood is full of them interspersed with old farm houses. I think the big influx was in the late 50s and early 60s. That’s when St. Paul’s exploded and they built the School and the new wing and expanded the friary to accommodate the influx.
When these families moved to Berlin. It was like moving up. Now each family had their own four walls and a yard. They could yell and not be heard by the in-laws but they also lost the regular presence of their extended family. You could not walk to places from their new homes so they got a car to go visit their extended family.
In the late 60’s and 70s places like Parish Drive were built they weren’t little Cape Cod homes any more they were split ranches with a family room and attached 2 car garages. People were livin large for sure.
If you keep walking around town it is easy to see that no one is building two bedroom cape cods with a single car garage anyone.
Now the houses are much larger with bigger lots. There are two or three car garages , that’s a long way from the three story houses in New Britain or Hartford or wherever.
With each generation the houses seem to get bigger and bigger obviously making them more expensive.
This same process was repeated all over our country as the suburbs grew up.
Several years ago some of the kids in the Architecture School Catholic U gave me a lecture on the disaster of Suburbia, They felt very strongly that the suburbs contributed to the decay of our cities, a two class society, a lot more pollution and distressed our extended families. They went on and on and on. In fact right now there is a movement to move back into the cities.
Some of you are thinking Fr. Robert get to the point. Well here it is.
You know It seems the rich man in the Gospel could never get enough.
He worked harder and harder and got richer and richer but he never was satisfied. He always wanted more.
When he finally had enough it was too late for him to enjoy what he had worked so hard for.
This Gospel is very important for us.
It seems we are in the same situation.
We as a nation and we as individuals always seem to want more.
Our houses and our expectations get bigger and bigger. Now we need Great rooms and multiple bathrooms, granite countertops and swimming pools in the back yard. There is not one TV but many and we don’t know how we could live without central air. (We have global warming you know)
Extended families don’t live on top of each other anymore.
They don’t live on the same street.
You can’t go to downstairs to your grandma’s house if you don’t like what your mom made for Supper.
Sometimes Mom isn’t even home for supper because now she has to work just to make end meet and keep up the payments on the big house.
How many baseball games and dance recitals have been missed because Mom and Dad had to work.
How many families are able to have common meals or quality time together.
Why do I hear so many times “Father at the end of the day I’m just too exhausted to pray”
This Gospel should cause us all to stop and think, yes our living standard has risen substantially but are we really better off?
With our personal debt and national debt will our kids and grandkids ever be able to reach our level of affluence ? Is it really fair to give them this expectation ? Are we leaving the world better off or worse ?
The Gospel today challenges us all to ask ourselves when is enough enough ?
When can we get off the treadmill of material well being and live?
Are we rich in worldly things or are we rich in the things of God ?
A very important question indeed.