Parishioners and residents of Glens Falls are used to seeing the huge tree next to St. Mary’s rectory on Warren Street as they pass by our parish. It’s a magnificent tree, probably more than a century old. From my sitting room on the second floor in the rectory, I see this stately old giant every day, and I often catch a glimpse of the squirrels, birds and other animals making their home in its branches. This old tree provides a safe, comfortable home for them all.

What a magnificent thing this tree is, and what a sturdy shelter. I often think that, if the tree could talk, it would tell endless stories about the neighborhood and parish that it shaded for 100 years or more. Think of the countless changes it has seen over its long life.

A few months ago, we called in a professional to take a look at the tree, since some of its branches had unexpectedly tumbled to the ground. Sadly, the arborist told us that the tree had severe rot and posed a danger to the rectory and the office building next door.

We asked if the tree could be treated or trimmed so we could avoid cutting it down. The advice was that the tree had finished its life span and was now a hazard. Sadly, this venerable giant must be felled. It will be a sad day when our glorious green giant gets hauled away.

In our world of change, people and institutions that have supported us along the way — a lot like that mighty tree — pass away. They’ve done their job. They’ve wrapped their arms around us, offered comforting voices and protected us from the storms of life. How difficult is our losing their protection and comfort. We feel much more vulnerable without them.

When they are gone, we might also remember that we were blessed to have them in our lives. How safe they made us feel. What a gift they were.

There is something in this sad state of affairs that can lead us to another perspective: These losses, hard as they are to bear, make us face our deep human need for sure protection and unending security. Losses give us a glimpse of our need for God, who is the only being, unchanging and everlasting, who satisfies this deepest of our human needs.

God does not come to an end. His lifespan is never finished; his protection is never over. We need something — someone — eternally strong to hold onto who is never felled by age. We need secure love.

In these days of criticism of the institutional Church — criticism which, I believe, will lead to true reform — we might feel that the mighty tree of the Church is ready to fall. What gave us protection and security may now seem in danger of ending its lifespan.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Church will stand forever, because God is at its center. The Church is an extension of His absolute and eternal strength that nothing can topple.

Jesus told us that the Church will be with us to the end of time and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus is alive in the Church, pouring out His river of sanctifying grace. His word and sacraments touch millions around the world and give us strength and real security.

The Church proclaims Christ’s teachings 24/7. If it didn’t, the human race would regress into a jungle of self-interest and tyranny. We feed the hungry on every continent, and we stand and walk with the poor and outcasts whom the powerful usually forget. This “sturdy oak,” with its mighty and eternal center, is on a constant mission of salvation and love that God will ensure.

Be assured that our strong Church is doing every day what it has always done: saving, protecting and leading people to eternal life. Remain confident. Keep your eyes on the Lord and seek holiness. Be grateful for being a Catholic Christian, and practice your faith with enthusiasm and commitment. Eat and drink heartily of the word and receive His sacraments.

Listen to good shepherds of the Church for guidance and counsel. Don’t become cynical about clergy or their teaching, correction and preaching. You can still trust the vast majority of them!

Keep your eyes on His kingdom, imperfectly present in the Church right now but perfect in the world to come — and look forward to lasting joy and to that glorious place where even trees no longer need to be torn down and hauled away.

(Father Morrette is pastor of St. Mary’s parish in Glens Falls.)