Fr. Daniel Gifford
BEING WHO HE SAYS WE ARE
Dear St. Louis Parishioners,
Last Sunday, I had the unfortunate responsibility of addressing with you all the horrific scandal involving priests and bishops in the East Coast, which is a deep wound in the Body of Christ, which affects us all. While there was no question of the need to address it, and my heart was stirred with a kind of zeal at the hope of possibly being an instrument of healing, nonetheless… it made me sick. No priest should have to speak to his parish about his brother priests abusing his people (including the most vulnerable, no less) and bishops compounding the problem by failing to deal with it in an appropriate manner. And yet, as I consider that, still more becomes clear. No parent should have to speak to their children about such atrocities. No Catholic striving humbly to be a bold and positive witness to God’s Church in the world should have to answer for this before their friends, family, coworkers and neighbors. And that is why there is (at least) one more thing I still need to say… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Like God’s people throughout the generations, I recognize that responding to God’s call upon my own life makes me a part of something bigger than myself. This has many implications, including bearing the crown of thorns with Christ, the crown of shame. I am sorry for the sins of my brothers. I am sorry for the hurt that we all experience on account of the betrayal and failures of men called by God to be healers, shepherds and spiritual fathers. I am so sorry. I am sorry for the hurt that anyone has experienced due to the actions of any priest, myself included. We are all sinners. We all fall far, far short of the glory of God. Most of us are doing our best to serve God and His Church faithfully, generously, courageously, and selflessly. Still, we fail. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my own sinfulness. I’m sorry for the ways in which I fail to love as Christ loves. And I’m sorry for the hurt that this brings to the Body of Christ. When I look upon the image of Saint Peter (front cover) in the Western wall of Harkrader Hall, I see the keys that he holds in his hands and I am reminded of the great responsibility entrusted to me. I do not simply speak of the responsibilities of carrying out the daily tasks of parish life. First and foremost, I speak of the responsibility to be a man of integrity, to strive each day to be who God made me to be. From a secular perspective, we might be inclined to define integrity as being who we say we are. And this is not a bad start. As Christians, I think we are called to something more. We are called to be who God says we are. In the Gospel, we see He calls us His friends. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (among other places), we can see He calls us members of His Body, His beloved children, members of the household of God, fellow citizens with the holy ones, children of light and even light itself. May we all strive to live out this new identity each day. We have seen the damage it does when members of the Body of Christ fail to live out this identity. But, we also can bear witness to people in our lives who have shown us the incredible power of God that is manifest when members of the Body of Christ do live out this identity boldly, humbly, and faithfully in the world. My brothers and sisters, in these incredibly painful times, please do not forget the power that you have be light in the world, to be instruments of healing, who help to change the face of the larger body of which we are a part. Your witness of humility, integrity, truth and love in the world can be the light that shines anew upon the Body of Christ and enables someone deeply hurting to see that beneath that shameful crown of thorns is the King of Love, our Shepherd, our Savior, our Wounded Healer, our Lord and our God. Someone in your life, who will likely neither hear nor read my words, may desperately need to see Him. Be the light that enables them to see beyond the wounds. Go be who He says you are.
OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS:
Formation Night on Integrity of Heart - Tues., Aug. 28, 6:30-8 PM
“St. Louis Live!” Talk Show with Parishioner Testimonies - Wed., Sept. 5, 6-8 PM
Parish Picnic, Activity Fair, & Fall Kickoff - Sun., Sept. 16, 11:30 AM
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!