Monday, June 29, 2015

The Best Intentions...

At least it has been my experience that, when I set out to tackle a public reading project, it withers quite quickly. Such it is with a reading of Laudato Si - I intended to use each of the mornings last week to read, consider, and publicly reflect upon the encyclical. As it turns out, I was given the opportunity to cover the morning masses at my home parish of St. Brendan. It's a great testament to the pastor, Father Tom Woost, that those morning masses are super well attended. On Friday I think there were six or seven teenage girls who came to mass following a sleepover.

On Saturday I was privileged to celebrate the Eucharist with the parish community. Four priests were in attendance - Fathers Woost, Cornelius Murray, Mahoney, and Jayme Stayer, SJ. Each one of these men has exercised a formative influence on my vocation and I'm extraordinarily grateful to have had the chance to pray with them. Indeed, I'm especially grateful that they "fed me lines" when I forgot or blanked on what I was supposed to say!

The evening was made only the richer by the great number of family and friends who were able to attend. Former parents and students from Detroit, Tom Hastings my music teacher, feis musician Tony Nother, and what seemed like most of Cleveland's West Side Irish managed to make it. It's humbling to look out at the gathered assembly and see so many familiar and loving faces. If a vow of poverty means that I cannot material things as the source of my wealth, this only brings out how rich I am with friends and family. A very special group of life-long friends gave me the beautiful gift of a traveling Mass Kit, knowing as they do how much I travel.

I am especially grateful this morning to our family friend Marianne Mangan for coming to take pictures at our Mass of Thanksgiving. Marianne is a truly gifted photographer and her photos of the event are spectacular.

Of the evening, my favorite picture is this one snapped as I stood at the back of the church following the recessional hymn. As it turns out, it was more than a flippant gesture: over and again, I heard from friends that my sense of joy was palpable. Maybe it's still the grace of first fervor, but I must say that it's hard to understand how someone could not be joyful. My job is to share Good News, so how can that not give rise to intense hope and joy?

I am not unaware that we live in politically and socially challenging times. Yet I simply cannot accept as definitive the laments of the prophets of doom who think the United States, or the Catholic Church, is finished. If the curtain has fallen on the days when "Father Knows Best" or when institutional religion exercised a decisive influence on morality, this does not mean the endeavor has failed. We need to earn people's confidence, to fight for our credibility, not by lamenting a lost past but by looking toward a possible future.

Hence it is my belief that there is no better time to be a priest today. I take it as an exciting challenge to engage an increasingly skeptical world and to offer those I meet the opportunity to encounter the One who brings joy to my life and who stands at the heart of my Church. I've no illusion that this is easy or without hardship, but for me I cannot imagine desiring to do anything else. My experience of Jesus Christ has been that he is the light capable of piercing the darkness and that there are many who need desperately to meet him. If I can serve to facilitate this connection, to help people find and make their own the joy of the Gospel, then I think we will slowly make inroads into a skeptical world. 

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