Time Capsule

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

April 26, 2001



            What would you put in a time capsule?  What would tell future generations about you? That is a question we are scratching our heads over in our parish.

            It is not an easy problem.

            First, there are the technical difficulties.  What will survive the ravages of time, moisture and mold while sealed in a tube buried in the foundation of our new church?  Most ordinary paper won’t work.  Some glues decay.  Things organic rot.  Some materials give off acids and gases.

But the technical problems aside, there is the more difficult problem of  what items best express who we are to a future generation.  What  was it like to be us?   Who were we, this community of faith in the U.S. at the beginning of the third millennium?  What was it like to be believers in Jesus and members of the Catholic Church in our age?

            Finally, we have to remember another problem; space.  It all has to fit in a little cylinder only 12 inches in diameter and 12 inches long?

            There are the usual candidates.  A parish bulletin seems obvious if it is  printed on special paper.  It would contain the names of many of our people plus some parish news of the day.  The front cover tells about the structure of a typical parish in the list of all ministries and their coordinators.  The back cover, full of ads, has some real historical value.  Those advertisements tell something our community and what we were buying.  People always seem to be interested in that.

            Our diocesan newspaper might be a good idea, especially if it has a column from the pastor published in it.  The newspaper would tell a little about the local church.  Like most diocesan newspapers, it would have several pictures of the bishop. 

People might want to know what the hot topics were in our time.  I thought we could put in a list of the things that Catholics were lobbying for in our state legislature.  Things like pro-life bills and a ban on capital punishment.  Maybe they would look back are realize that these things had been accomplished.

We should have something about our prayer.  Maybe a program from a liturgy. (I guess they don’t call them programs, the call them “worship aids.”)  Certainly a missalet or a rosary would be helpful. 

            Some people suggested a parish roster.  Others have said we should put in a directory with our pictures in it.

            We have a video tape of the ground breaking for the new church and the last mass in our old church.  Both were emotional events and we probably should include them. .  The only problem with videos is I’m not sure that video players will still exist when the time capsule is opened.

            Some sundry little items would work.  I’ve got a jubilee year key chain, with the symbol of the jubilee, Jesus “Yesterday, Today and Forever.”

The most interesting idea for the capsule came from one of our CCD teachers.  She thought we should have the second graders write some notes or cards.  They could put prayers for their lives on them.  If these were put into the capsule, we could leave instructions for it to be opened  in 50 years.  Most of the second graders would still be alive, only to late middle age.  It might be interesting for them to hear this message of prayer from their past.  I wonder if they would still be in the area or practicing the faith.

            One thing is for sure, the church will still be there.

            That is one great thing about the church.  Not just the building, but the people.  From generation to generation we hand on what we have received; the sacraments, the gospels, the word of life we have in Christ.

            The church itself is a sort of timeless time capsule.  Preserving into the future the message Jesus.  Which from age to age is the same.  That is worth doing.