March 2, 2012 – We Are Good People

First and foremost our prayers go out to the victims of the tornadoes this past week, particularly those who lost their lives in Harrisburg, all who lost their homes and possessions, and to the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Parish in Ridgway who lost their church building.  I’m sure you have seen many images of the storm on the news over the last few days, but here is a link to a video of an interview with Fr. Steven Beatty, who is the Pastor at Ridgway as well as the other three parishes in Gallatin County:

Having been through a tornado myself about six years ago, I can somewhat relate to what the folks are going through, though fortunately we did not lose our home and no one was hurt.  But I can only imagine what it would be like to see what many would consider their “second home”, the place where they were baptized, confirmed or married, the place that even though it was an old building stood as a source of strength, be brought to the ground.  Fortunately the surrounding parishes have a good relationship in working together, so in the short term the pastoral needs of the people will be taken care of.  The long term, however, brings other questions.  In the midst of dwindling clergy and a restructuring process, I would be surprised if the church would be rebuilt, which would be a blow to the parishioners as well as the community, but that decision remains to be seen.  Keep an eye on the website for information on how we will be asked to help the folks in that area, and again our prayers are certainly needed and appreciated.

This past Saturday I accompanied our Confirmation class to Our Lady of the Snows for their retreat.  I joked at the communion service the other night that spending the hours of 7:00AM to 8:30PM with a group of 7th/8th graders was an ideal penance for Lent, but seriously it was a great experience.  There were over 600 kids present for the event, coming from as far away as Indiana.  The day included music, presentations from Tammy Evard, a youth minister from Colorado who also works in prison ministry (she gave some great talks), and in the afternoon there were “breakout” sessions which were led by various youth ministers.  And of course there was time for lunch, wandering the gift shop and to let off some energy at the playground.  I posted photos from the day on our Facebook page.  There were a couple of moments that really stood out to me.  For the last event of the day we attended Mass.  The celebrant relayed a story at the end of Mass that fit in well with Lent: A few months back the priest said he was filling in at another parish, and the deacon who assisted with Mass accidentally read the wrong Gospel reading.  The priest of course had prepared a homily based on the Gospel of the day which did not match what the deacon read, so he told the congregation that the homily he had prepared did not apply to the Gospel which was read, so instead all he did was to tell the people that they were good people – they were good Christians, good Catholics, good people of service to God, and that there was not one bad person in the room.  Following Mass when the priest was greeting everyone, he noticed someone probably in their late teens hanging around, and he knew he wanted to say something to him.  After the other people left, the young man came up to the priest and told him that he had attended this church his whole life, and that this was the first time that anyone told him that he was a good person.

The gospel that was read at the communion service this past Wednesday has Jesus telling the crowd that they are an evil generation, and that they would be condemned.  I think that sometimes we consider Lent to be a “punishment”, that the fact that we are asked to sacrifice and do works of charity is to make up for the stuff we have done wrong.  But the point of Father’s story is that God doesn’t look at us as bad people – we are made in His image after all.  What Lent provides us is the opportunity to become even better people, to get our priorities back where they should be.  I know its an opportunity I need to take advantage of.

The other story I wanted to share from the retreat happened in one of the “breakout” sessions.  The kids sat in groups and were given a large sheet of paper.  On one side of the paper they were to list problems or challenges people their age were facing today, and on the other side they were to list solutions to the problems.  The gist of the activity was to perhaps say one of the gifts or fruits of the Holy Spirit as a solution, but one of the groups (not from St. Mary’s) had one of their problems listed as sin, and the solution provided was “Dr. Phil.”  The kids laughed of course, but I think it spoke to a real challenge people of faith are dealing with.  Kids, and adults also, are finding their own kind of “religion” in the secular world, whether it be a talk show host, or a famous person blabbing some off the wall garbage, etc.  They are losing out on true religion.  This is one reason there has been such a strong reaction to what our administration has mandated in forcing religious institutions to violate their consciences by providing free birth control in their health care plans.  If we continue to lose hold of our religious freedom, the chances of us bringing these people back to the faith and the chances of future generations grasping the message of Christianity are greatly decreased.  There are two excellent articles I posted on our Facebook page that I’d like to direct you to as an update to what is going on as far as trying to overturn this mandate:

I think it is clear from these articles that this battle is not over – that the Bishops are prepared to dig in and do whatever is necessary to prevent this from happening.  We as Catholics owe it to them and to ourselves to continue to stand up for what the church teaches and to protect our rights afforded to us by God and by our constitution

I’ve blabbed long enough.  Thanks again for reading.  Have a great week.  Peace.

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