I like history. There’s at once a loftiness and an accessibility to it that allows anyone to grasp its grand breadth. It’s why I love my summer job as a museum guide at El Pueblo de Los Angeles–the birthplace of California’s greatest city, and the home to the oldest house and fire station in LA as well as Old Chinatown.
It’s interesting comparing the different attitudes our tourists have towards history. The typical American tourist–the one who cares a bit more than the casual passerby, at least–usually listens in wide-eyed awe when I teach about ranchero life in the 1840s or fire technology in the 1880s. European tourists, however, are different. They are among the most charming and pleasant people I meet at El Pueblo, and they are ever fascinated with the history of Los Angeles. A few of them, though, can’t help but drop me an occasional teasing comment: “You Americans get excited with a house built in 1818. But the house I live in now has been passed down through my family for 400 years…and that’s not even saying much.”
No harm intended, only teasing. But still, what a burn. Talk about challenging the very legitimacy of my job.
Still, those European tourists got me thinking…because to an extent, they are very right. If we are so impressed with a century-old building in one city, what are we to think of the Catholic Church, a 2 millennia old institution and global community that is living and vibrant even today? We have to preserve “significant” buildings in Los Angeles against the march of time, so that they don’t disappear. But the Church–the Church keeps charging on as alive as ever–even with the seemingly endless assaults that lay upon Her.
Anyway, just some random thoughts I wanted to share. The Church’s living history is just another reason to be proud to be Catholic. The grand scope of the Church’s past, as well as the boundless hopefulness for the Church’s future, should be enough to inspire anyone who notices–even us silly Americans.