Second Sunday of Advent
Happy Priesthood Sunday!
Monday night; a ‘cashing in’ a few vacation days; sorta wishing the Norbertine house at Algoma didn’t have WiFi, or that I had more self-discipline to ‘cut the cord’, and just get away...be away, after days which have challenged us all, here at Resurrection, in the Diocese of Green Bay and at Saint Norbert Abbey.
Along with some extra sleep, and a good bike ride into Algoma, to visit the graves of some priests whom I admire very much in the parish cemetery, the one advantage of WiFi is that I could reach out to Bishop Bob, by e-mail early this morning, to let him know of the great love and affection which has been expressed for him, from so many of us through the weekend masses.
As one woman put it (and I totally agree): “I love him more now than before, for being honest and coming forward with this this; he didn’t have to.” Of course, knowing Bishop Bob, his integrity and goodness, from ‘inside’ he did have to do this, in order to be the man, the Christian, the Good Shepherd that he is.
He’s in a good place, with good people, though struggling with a clear agenda after 52 years for running from one thing to another. There’s some ‘darkness’ he faces; we pray for him in that. And when I told him I had a few days off, he said: “Tim, nature heals; so does silence.” Yes, for him, me, and for all of us, if we allow...especially the silence.
I also tagged base with one of the victim/survivors (survivor is really more accurate for him) of the 1970’s abuse. This person’s perspective surprised me, as he indicated that he had forgiven; it’s in the past; why bring it up again? Whether you agree with that or not, please remember that every person has a right to their perspective.
And I spoke with the perpetrator in a very honest conversation; a much different person now than he was back then. And aware of how sin can take a person over (so we all have to be cautious). “There but for the grace of God...”
These various perspectives help me to process all of this – I hope with an integrated result.
I realize while I wish Bishop Bob didn’t have to go through all of this, that in order to be a loyal brother-priest and friend to him, I have to respect that he chose this path, for integrity. He identified publicly his mistake and its unintended though serious consequences. If I minimize that or ‘skate over’ it, I disrespect him and his goodness and honesty at this time.
I realize too, how little I know of what survivors of abuse need, and how much, I and we, as a Church, need to listen to them, in order to know.
As we make our way, respecting each other and continuing to pray and listen...
“God bless us...EVERY one”!
From Italian writer, Carlo Carretto (+1988), via Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI, through the kindness of 2 parishioners, regarding these days in the Church...allowing ourselves a “love/hate relationship” with the Church, as Norbertine Father John Bostwick would say...
“How much I must criticize you, my Church; and yet how much I love you!
How you have made me suffer much; and yet I owe so much to you.
I should like to see you destroyed; and yet I need your presence.
You have given me much scandal; and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.
Never in this world have I seen anything more obscuring, more compromised, more false; and yet never in this world have I touched anything more pure, more generous, and more beautiful.
Many times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face; and yet how often I have prayed that I might die in your sure arms!
No, I cannot be free of you, for I am one with you, even though not completely you.
Then, too – where would I go?
To build another Church?
But I cannot build another without the same defects, for they are my own defects I bear within me.
And again, if I build one, it will be my Church, and no longer Christ’s.
No, I am old enough to know that I am no better than others.
I shall not leave this Church, founded on so frail a rock, because I should be founding another one on an even frailer rock: myself.
And then, what do rocks matter?
What matters is Christ’s promise; what matters is the cement that binds the rocks into one: the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit alone can build the Church with stones as ill-hewn as we.”
The Church - “God bless us...EVERY one”!
People of the Resurrection...
After a restful week alone, “up Nort ‘der hey”, and not being called for jury duty (this time around), and a week of regular medical testing, I’m settled back into the routine (if there ever is one) of parish life. Just some scattered things today – more focused beginning next week, I promise!
Vacation – literally meaning to ‘vacate’ or ‘empty out’. I realize how essential it is after 7 days’ solitude at Morgan Lake. Two nights with 11 hours sleep was great; sitting on the dock, the porch or in the canoe - watching, maybe thinking….or maybe not, with simple food, an extra drink as the sun went down, or getting up in the middle of the night to watch the stars - with no artificial light – how refreshing, and healing!
So was my regular routine of seeking out a confessor up there; this time, a Polish immigrant, in Iron Mountain, in his 4th year of following a ‘legendary pastor’. His attentiveness, understanding, the sacrament itself and some fraternal conversation and advice were all gift; so was the “Mom & Pop” hot dog wagon I found on the way out of town! If you haven’t, please, take it as an obligation, to get some time away, off the clock. You’ll be glad you did!
Preaching ‘sweet spot’ – I’ve tried as many spots as I can think of in our church room. There’s no spot that everybody liked, though some fared better than others in the feedback.
At any rate, I’m just gonna pick one that makes sense to me – on the ground floor, to the south. When I first stepped away from the pulpit as a deacon at St. Ailbe, Chicago, one woman said to me: “Brother Timothy! It was so beautiful that you came down and stood on the same floor we put our feet on – at our level!” 32 years later, that sticks with me as an important feature.
It also reminds me of St Augustine’s words: “With you, I am a Christian; for you, I am a priest.” I really cherish being your ‘brother’ by Baptism; that’s what I mean to express by preaching from the same floor you put your feet on – no stage or pulpit or elevation. We’re all in this together.
It may not be to everyone’s preference; but I hope understanding that I’ve made a search of it, and have a rationale behind it, will make it “OK” for you. Thanks!
We have filled both of our open staff positions. At this point I don’t have enough background to share the specifics with you; that will be next week. Please join me in thanking God, and our new staff members, for this gift, this grace.
And please be open to them, as ‘a year of transitions’ continues at Resurrection. It’s not easy; but such growing pains, labor pains foretell new life in the Lord Jesus, Whom we love so much!
And together in Him –
“God will bless us...EVERY one”!