March 15, 2008 – Keeping This Week TRULY Holy

Doesn’t it seem like Lent was just beginning, and now here we are at Holy Week?  They say that time goes faster as you get older, and I am a believer!  I hope to see you for at least some of the Holy Week services and activities that are taking place this week.  Visit our website, www.maryhoc.org, for a full schedule of all of the happenings this coming week.  In particular, I hope to see you at the community Holy Week service on Tuesday evening at 7:00PM here in our church.  I haven’t been to as many of these in the past as I would like, but I am clearing my calendar for this one.  Bonnie and the Sodality are providing refreshments following the service in the cafeteria.  Let’s have a great St. Mary’s showing!

One piece of advice for Holy Week – particularly Easter:  If your schedule permits, please try to attend the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday Evening.  With the change in our Mass schedule from last year, the 9:00AM Mass on Easter Sunday is sure to break all of the fire codes!  The Easter Vigil Mass is some longer and it starts later (8:00PM), but the rituals that take place and scripture that is read truly usher in the Easter Season and new life in Christ.  Just my humble piece of advice, but don’t say you weren’t warned (ha, ha)!

In the midst of what should be a time of prayer, reflection and and celebration, it was saddening to see that the newspapers and TV newscasts were once again having to report on the situation with the hierarchy of our Diocese.  As you have probably read or seen, a group of about half of the active diocesan priests met on Wednesday to discuss conflicts and lack of trust with our Bishop, Edward Braxton.  The result of the meeting was a statement requesting that the Bishop resign his position.  The statement said that these priests are acting as “advocates for all of the people of God in the Diocese of Belleville, whom we are privileged to know, love and serve.”  I, of course, was not at the meeting, and so my thoughts on the motivation for this statement by this group of priests would only be speculation.  I can only comment on what I do know:

As a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, I have attended several meetings with the Bishop.  I have also been in contact with him on a couple of other occasions.  I have found him for the most part to be cordial, and I think it would be unfair to say that he is “mean-spirited” in any way.  He is a man who deeply loves his church and his faith.  That being said, there has been periodic frustration in his leadership style.  He has given the impression that the opinions of those who he is supposed to consult with is not valued.  Our prior bishop, now Archbishop Wilton Gregory, took the advice of his consultors to heart, particularly the Diocesan Pastoral Council.  He considered lay people in the pews to be “soldiers in the field”, and the people to whom he ultimately had to answer to.  Bishop Braxton clearly takes a different approach, following Canon Law to the fullest degree, and being much more reserved in consulting with us.

I am certainly understanding of the priests’ frustration.  Our clergy are under a great amount of stress as it is, with all of them pastoring in multiple parishes and performing multiple tasks.  To not have a Bishop who offers his full support of their ministry and who is many times unavailable for consultation is disheartening.  My only disappointment is that I fear this will take away from some of the spirit and prayerfulness of Holy Week, and that it will will give those Catholics who are already frustrated and questioning their faith one more reason to stay away from our celebrations.  As we do gather this week, let us pray that a swift resolution to our conflicts can be found.  Let us also pray for our clergy that God provide them strength and support.  Finally, let us pray that we not lose our focus on what this week is about, and on what our ultimate mission is: to spread the message of the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Most likely, this will be my final blog entry before Easter.  Next Saturday, I’m sure there will be many preparations going on for the feast the next day (have you ever noticed that no matter what the holiday, the food always comes to the forefront?).  I wish you a Blessed Holy Week and a Happy Easter.  May the Risen Lord guide you in all that you do.  Thanks once again for reading the blog and for supporting our website.

Peace.

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