Another amazing and moving night at our parish.
Another amazing and moving night at our parish.
Palm Sunday mass at 4pm on Saturday was where I was at, as usual. However, Fr. Pat had asked me to take photos of the church during Lent and I have done a little of that during the 4pm mass. Given that I had the time, I thought I would return to the 11am mass on Sunday and just be there to take photos.
Today I saw Christ all over the Catholic Community of St. Edward the Confessor. It was remarkable. Anyone who thinks that our large suburban parishes are not diverse should come by one day. Yes, we are primarily white and middle and upper middle class; it is Clifton Park. That said – we are diverse in ways I had not always given thought to. Until today, that is.
Christ was in the throngs of people that poured in for this liturgy. Christ was present in the very young and the very old, the very well dressed and proper and those who might have been less so. Christ was present in friends that I had not seen in a long time and present in people that I had never seen before. Christ was very readily apparent in the enormous group of kids that gathered to head off to Children’s Liturgy of the Word.
Christ was present in the combined choirs whose voices rang out with such clarity and grace, filling the entire sanctuary with amazing talent, shared so freely. At one point I, can’t even remember exactly when, I could hear Mary Jo playing the piano and it went straight to my heart; so beautiful and redolent with the presence of God.
Among the most moving visions of Christ that I experienced, were the numerous people who were in wheelchairs. Some were young, some were old, some were in the middle. Some were in ordinary wheelchairs and some were in very sophisticated ones that met their unique needs. There were also many people with canes and mostly elderly people with walkers.
And Christ was very present in the number of developmentally disabled people who were present, of all ages. Our altar server, Donny, is the most reverent server that I know – he was there. And so many others, along with him. The most touching thing I saw, Christ embodied, was the young boy with Down Syndrome, leaning against his dad’s shoulder, his dad had one arm around him and had his other arm around his front. He was Christ before me, rubbing his son’s hand in soft, gentle and rhythmic motion.
What about the rest of us, the ones who looked OK? Well we too are as wounded, we wear our wounds on the inside and Christ was present and around all of us and in us today. That is always the case, today the church was like a thin place; liminal space where we encounter God.
Fr. Pat’s homily hit upon all these things as he spoke to us about silence, suffering and service; the places where we meet Jesus. We need silence in order to hear God; we suffer and we are one with Christ if we surrender and allow it. Ultimately we meet Christ and we are Christ in and through service of all sorts.
Today Christ was clearly present at our parish and I am most grateful to have been there to meet him, in all these different ways.
The following is the text of an essay that I wrote in The Evangelist this week. In a rare moment of non-self promotion, I had not put it on the blog on Thursday when it was published. I decided to put it up today in light of today’s Gospel from Mark.
In the two days since this was published, I have gotten a fair amount of feedback about the essay. That feedback has been largely complimentary. Yet more than one person asked me if I thought it was OK for people to receive communion after a long absence from church and likely no visit to confession.
This is a fair enough question and I am very clear about what the rules are. I do have a Catechism and a Canon Law book steps away from my desk.
Truth be told, when I returned to church in 1990, I did go to confession before I went to communion. That is another story for another day. That said, I know many people who have not gone to confession first – that is their conscience, their matter with God and their confessor, should they ultimately go – who have ended up returning to the Church.
As a child, I recall going to Church, not every single Saturday, but on many Saturdays, and facing the crowd. It was 1966, but we were in a small mission parish with only one priest, so the lines were long! You just sat down next to Mom, got out that rosary and waited your turn. And when you pushed the velvet curtain aside, you headed straight up to the altar rail to say those 5 Our Fathers and 10 Hail Marys – no rushing that! You had plenty of company to your right and left.
Not so these days, so who goes to confession where and when is again, another matter.
I grow long winded and perhaps pedantic, so let me move on.
Today’s Gospel is a story about Jesus eating with all the wrong kinds of people and how he was judged for that action.
Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that Jesus was eating with sinners
and tax collectors and said to his disciples,
“Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard this and said to them,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
How can Jesus eat with the sinners (all of us, by the way, but you knew that) if they don’t come to the table? I am not suggesting – even remotely – that we scoff at the rules and make our own. I am saying that when you cast out the net to fish for men and women, you don’t stand on the deck of the boat shooing the less desirable fish away. You pull the whole thing up and you see what happens.
Here is the essay. What do you think? (Not about the essay, about the matter?)
NOTE: Yes, anyone who reads The Evangelist probably goes to church. My point in having the essay published was so that maybe someone would pass it along to others or to just consider the point of view of a Christmas only mass visitor. Please feel free to re-post, share on Facebook, Twitter or wherever. You just never know!
It happens every year: Christmas comes and you find yourself in church. Being Catholic, it all comes back to you, although you found some verbal surprises this year. However, the songs are the same and the church is packed and the feeling is actually pretty good, once you give yourself over to it.
It seems nice, but not something that you’d actually want to do every week. The reasons vary from person to person and range from the mundane – you “just don’t have time” – to the more high-minded, finding “the whole thing filled with hypocrisy.” (Of course, no other part of your life feels like that, right?)
If you are as old as me, you were taught that missing Mass was a mortal sin. I lived in fear of this as a kid – but then again, we never missed Mass, so it was not a problem. It’s hard to understand eternal damnation for missing Mass against the backdrop of things like the sexual abuse scandal and various Church positions on topics important to you.
I would say that if one attends Mass simply out of fear of hell, that is a pity. I would hope that people would actually want to be there – but, hey, that’s just me.
Anyway, you were at Mass and it was time for communion. You hesitated, but everyone else seemed to be in line. Perhaps you felt nervous or strangely hopeful, like something good was about to happen. Did your mind rush back to when you made your First Communion as you extended your hands?
What did it feel like when you placed the Body of Christ in your mouth? Did you just make sure, like in so many other intimate moments, that you did not let yourself think or feel anything?
No matter what, you received a gift. Christ the Lord, whose birth we were celebrating, came to be in that ordinary manger found in your heart. You may not have been expecting Him; that’s OK. He just wanted to let you know He is here for you.
This is a gift. You can’t return it.
I was away, too – for 20 years. When I came back, I did not want to. It was completely unintentional on my part and I was extremely conflicted about the whole thing.
The first time I went back to communion, I was overwhelmed. I knew Jesus; I even loved Jesus; but I was noncommittal.
Jesus knew better. With a nervous stomach and a guilty conscience, I stayed – and soon found out that I had so little to worry about.
No one yelled at me. I was not scolded. All of my concerns were met with compassion and understanding.
I did not accept everything at first; it took a long time. But I kept coming back. I still struggle with some things and likely always will.
I hope that you had a nice Christmas this year and that of all the gifts you got, you realize that this one cries out to be re-gifted. That’s what I’m doing and it is my hope and desire that you come back and one day re-gift this to others.
If you felt anything when you were in church this Christmas, I hope you will see that as a gift and consider coming back. The gifts here are always in stock – and the only return we look forward to is you.
It was not long ago when an interviewer called to talk to me about being a Roman Catholic blogger in the Albany diocese. For someone who always has a lot to say, I must admit to being a bit dumbstruck. The article appears here and includes my real-life friends Mary DeTurris Poust, Deacon Neil Hook and Fr. Richard Vosko. (For the record, with respect to the author of the article, I have corresponded with and interviewed the wonderful James Martin, SJ – but, befriend is a strong word. Deacon Greg Kandra on the other hand is a met-in-person, in regular touch with, beloved and trusted friend of mine. That’s us over there!
I thought that my interview my come out all “errr…. ummm… well, you know…” I think it came out sounding like “blah-blah blogging!” At least that is my fear.
It was not the first time I have been interviewed on the topic and who knows if it will be the last.
Yesterday I was driving to my job at Immaculate Conception and was listening to the Parliamentary hearings from the UK around the phone hacking scandal. One of the members of parliament was talking about how media in general, including social media, needed better standards. (massive understatement!) He then referred to the “blags.” It was his accent and I am not mocking, but it caught my attention. He then went on for a few moments about the “blags” and “blaggers.” Blah-blah blogging!
The third thing on this circuitous path to a post is this. Earlier in the week I was at my home parish of St. Edward the Confessor, at a meeting with someone from a website design firm and the topic of the parish blog came up. This gentleman implied that blogging was on life support, a soon-to-be thing of the past. It did not make me happy to hear that, but there is some truth to it.
If you are a marketer. If you are a marketer or a news organization or anyone trying only to get quick attention, forget blogging. A 300 word post on your new product or service will be lost in the ad clutter. I did not spend 29 years in the media business for nothing; I get that. If I had a business it would be Twitter and Facebook, all the way.
So what is my long-winded point? (I told you I always have a lot to say!)
My point is this – I do not think blogging is going away any time soon. At least I hope not.
Blogging, which I have been doing in one form or another since 2007, has helped me to better see and understand the world around me and my own place in it – personally, spiritually and politically.
In the midst of hard core (who remain beloved to me) lefty bloggers, I found my political center. In the midst of a group of passionate Episcopalian bloggers, (who I continue to be in prayerful blogging/Facebook and real-life friendship community with) I discovered the depth of my Catholic faith. In addition I have had great discussions and learned much from Buddhists, Jews, atheists, Lutherans, Evangelicals, Pentacostalists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, humanists and of course, the SBNR people.(Spiritual but not religious.) Without a doubt, I am a better Catholic because of all of this, of that I am certain.
As for my Catholic blogging friends- we are engaged in discussions, theological and otherwise that are transformational for all of us. And I can promise you, we have many, many disagreements, but what binds us is our common love for the Church and how the Church is in the world!
If you are not familiar with blogging, which is quite different than reading a newspaper or some other static thing, blogging offers the chance for conversation via the comments. I also think that that is a big plus of using blogging and Facebook together, the opportunity to have a discussion.
That is how we are transformed. That is how community is discovered and built. Both this blog and the parish blog are about gathering community more than anything else.
In the past year this blog and my parish blog have both floundered a bit. Last summer I was very ill and the summer was lost to me. The fall proved to be too busy for a variety of over-committed reasons. Then came January and a new year presented our family with a major challenge when my husband’s sister became ill and subsequently died, blogging fell to the bottom of the list. I had no time, I also had so little to say.
As I mentioned the other day, I am trying to find my footing again, but without you – well there is no footing! It is community and conversation that we are trying to build here, not a one-way-ideological-my-way-or-the-highway-zone.
If you are new, I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you will say something. If you don’t want to comment, then please drop me an email and let me know that you are here.
Now, to think of things to write about. If you have ideas, you can put them in the comments to, or if you have questions.
I have to go now… I have a lot of blogs to read! (This will be cross-posted on The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor)
Last week, the actor/comedian/satirist, Stephen Colbert, appeared before our Congress to discuss the plight of farm workers in our country. Now I am not going to get all political and say whether he was right or wrong, disrespectful or not. What struck me after listening to him was the theme of complacence.
I like to think of myself as aware, but honestly, as someone who thinks that and who eats a lot of salad, I realized just how little thought I give to the people who harvest the food I eat. Interestingly enough, I am the first one to say that indifference is the worst offense… Indifference. Complacence. Basically – I hadn’t noticed.
Being against something – or for it, depending on the something, can help bring about a change of heart for ourselves and others. Complacence or indifference means not for or against, it means not really noticing. What change can happen there, what of the transformation we are called to in the Eucharist and life if we are not engaged in some way?
This is what the prophet Amos reminds us of in today’s first reading. The not noticing while others are in need. The price for this will be heavy indeed.
The Gospel from Luke relays a parable to illustrate the price of indifference. We have a rich man, unnamed, and we have a poor man, Lazarus, who is at the rich man’s door. Apparently the rich man did not kick Lazarus out… however he did not share the scraps “that fell from the rich man’s table.”
And here are many of us, who are not actively *not* doing something. However, I know that for me, I walk by many Lazarus people every day. I do it when I avert my eyes from a poor person walking down Route 50 in Glenville, near my workplace. I do it when I eat my lettuce, harvested in the fields of Southern California.
The lettuce, like the aversion of my eyes, comes with a price tag.
Now we can’t all solve every problem of the world; this we know. However, the Gospel reminds us to do something. And the Gospel at large reminds us how to live and how to live in community, following that most essential commandment – to love God and one another. In our tradition, salvation is not individual but communal. Communion. Common union. The shared table, becoming the Body.
Which brings me back to Stephen Colbert, who is a practicing Catholic and a catechist at his parish as well. He went before Congress, for good or ill, to make a statement to garner attention. His words can touch all of us in a different way, the point of his words, echoing the Gospel, are that we need to do something by how we live. I have a feeling that no piece of lettuce will ever be exactly the same for me. Let’s hope so anyway. Please pray for me as I do this and I will pray for you. Such is our journey together in Christ.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40
Have you ever climbed a mountain? Or at least taken a hike through the hills? The path is often very narrow. I am a bit obsessed with mountain climbing although I have not really done it; I have read so much about Mount Everest, I can’t even begin to tell you. I guess what strikes me is that so often the climbers go single file, but they are frequently tethered to one another in some way and completely interdependent.
More simply put – such a journey is not an solitary independent act. Yes, we may go one before the other, but we must remain connected. I climbed a small mountain once, part of the path is pictured above… It was so hard and while I tried to do it alone, I quickly learned that I simply could not do so.
Back to today, yes – I am aware that the Gospel passage that I begin with was from Friday and that today’s Gospel is from Luke. Like our own journey, connected to one another, the Gospels too are interconnected.
Today Jesus tells us about the narrow gate; Isaiah tells us about God’s holy mountain. And these matters are not unrelated to Friday’s Gospel in which Jesus reminds his disciples of the greatest commandments. This, by the way, is also known as the Shema or the Sh’ma Yisrael . The Shema is at the heart of Judaism and we must never forget that Jesus Christ was born as a Jew, lived as a Jew and died as a Jew, despite the fact that His legacy is Christianity.
So what does this have to do with the narrow gate?
The narrow gate is a way that we can turn things around in our broken human state and justify excluding people. Now it is one thing when Jesus’ admonishes us, but it can be another when we use Jesus’ name to admonish others.
This all leaves me wondering about how to climb the Himalayan heights of God’s Holy Mountain. It cannot be done alone and it requires surrender to the grace to be lifted to the mountain and the humility to both drag and be dragged by all brothers and sisters.
So maybe the narrow gate is not the “who is in, who is out” statement that it appears to be, but rather a call to unity and love. Acting as if we have done something righteous to get in might be the first and most deadly trap of ego; it is done for us, save our response. All is response to God’s loving and persistent call and embrace.
Whose hand will you hold on the way up the path to the narrow gate on the holy mountain? Whose hand will hold yours?
A few weeks ago, I noticed that dear friend of the blog, Fr. Austin Fleming aka, The Concord Pastor (from Concord, MA) had a post welcoming the people of Ballston Lake, NY. Needless to say, this caught my eye and I realized that the Our Lady of Grace (Ballston Lake) bulletin has some suggested website links, one of which was A Concord Pastor Comments. Of course I love all small world/community reminders and this one struck close to home and heart in many ways.
Now as it happens, I get the OLG bulletin in the mail where I work since we are in the same parish cluster. I was most delighted and honored to see that our parish blog was on the current week’s selection of recommended websites! Thank you brothers and sisters of Our Lady of Grace!
If anyone stops by from the community of Our Lady of Grace, welcome to you! And I will use this space to send welcoming prayers and wishes to Dorothy Sokol, soon to be the new Parish Life Director at OLG. I got to meet Dorothy at a diocesan conference last week and she seems delightful.
This is how we are Church in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany – which is a very wonderful place to be Church.
I will close with a video of Marty Haugen’s “All Are Welcome.” That is how we are church, by making room at the table, welcoming all as we would welcome Christ.